Loretta Heffernan

Loretta Heffernan

Organisation: Diocese of Maitland Newcastle

Role description/s: Family Ministry Coordinator Myall Deanery

Year first trained in Seasons for Growth: 2010

Trained as a Seasons for Growth Companion in the Young People's Program and the Adult Program

Why did you decide to train in SfG?  I first knew of the program when my child was going to school nearly 20 years ago. I saw firsthand how Seasons assisted with educational strategies to cope with change, grief and loss. When the opportunity arose through working with Benita Tait at the Diocese of Maitland Newcastle I readily accepted.

How many groups have you companioned?  I have companioned children, young people and adults since being trained, I can’t recall the exact number of groups I have companioned.

Are there any highlights of companioning that you would like to share?   The feedback from children, young people, teachers and adults of how the Seasons program has helped them to gain a better understanding and coping strategies of change, grief and loss in their lives.  The relief many express when they realise/learn their grief reactions are normal.  

Have you any special stories about Seasons for Growth groups or program participants you would like to share?  A young person who had become isolated from family and friends since the death of a parent. When the group began the session on memories the young person was able to share the story of grief, loss and change in a safe and caring space. The feelings and emotions expressed were intense. During this time peer support was evident, the others in the group genuinely listened, cared for and valued the young person.

Do you have any advice for other Companions? Check the Companion portal for resources. Allocate enough time to prepare each session. Try to gather your seasonal resources and keep them in a “Seasons” box. Make sure activities are included in the sessions, they do assist with learning. Talk to those in your organisation about resourcing for the program and support people.  Debriefing and reflective practice also help. Trainers are available for guidance and support. Be mindful of your own life circumstances that might impact on the Companioning role. I try not to stop genuine conversation that is occurring in groups and adjust sessions accordingly.

What has been your biggest personal or professional learning from being involved with SfG?  Life is like the Seasons, grief, loss and change happen to everyone. Everyone has a story. What is helpful and unhelpful especially language. Being cared for, respected and valued leads to self-confidence, self-respect and self-esteem. Recognition is important in relationships.

Finally, what part of the program do you treasure or enjoy most and why?  I enjoy the Summer sessions especially when the children young people and adults reflect over the previous sessions and realise each of their stories are valuable and through their participation in the program have developed positive ways to move forward in life. The celebration is always special too.