Groups ease chil­dren’s grief

Los­ing a fam­ily mem­ber can be tough at any age, but what if you’re just a kid? Ka­rina Abadia sat down with Jil­lian Alexander to talk about the re­wards of run­ning grief and loss peer sup­port groups.

Central Leader - - NEWS -

They might be fac­ing the death of some­one close to them, a fam­ily mem­ber go­ing to jail, or their par­ents get­ting di­vorced but the re­silience of chil­dren never ceases to amaze Jil­lian Alexander.

The Three Kings res­i­dent has been the co-or­di­na­tor of Sea­sons One­hunga, which runs peer sup­port groups for chil­dren and teens, for the past four years.

‘‘I have a pas­sion for mak­ing a dif­fer­ence,’’ she says.

‘‘I’d come from hav­ing some time over­seas and be­fore that I was a school coun­sel­lor.

‘‘I was look­ing for some­thing that aligned with my coun­selling skills.’’

The 58-year-old is re­spon­si­ble for run­ning some of the group ses­sions as well as pro­vid­ing on­go­ing train­ing to the vol­un­teers or ‘ com­pan­ions’ who work as pro­gramme fa­cil­i­ta­tors.

She also li­aises with school staff, so­cial work­ers, com­mu­nity mem­bers and other branch co­or­di­na­tors.

The two-month pro­gramme is held once a week at schools within the cen­tral area.

Groups are kept to five or six stu­dents of a sim­i­lar age who have all suf­fered sig­nif­i­cant grief or loss.

But they aren’t coun­selling ses­sions, Alexander says.

‘‘The idea is that chil­dren can learn to sup­port each other.

‘‘They have a place to talk about the is­sues and the of­ten com­plex feel­ings they have as a re­sult of the sit­u­a­tions they’re in.

‘‘We look at ways they can take care of them­selves and the safe peo­ple they can go to in the com­mu­nity. They are re­sourced in a way that they wouldn’t nec­es­sar­ily oth­er­wise be.’’

The ac­tiv­ity-based pro­gramme helps par­tic­i­pants open up, Alexander says.

‘‘You might take a Coke bot­tle and shake it. Then you’ll say: ‘ I’m go­ing to let this lid off now’.

‘‘The kids say: ‘ Oh no, don’t do that be­cause you’re go­ing to make a mess’.’’

‘‘You might let the lid off slowly and they can hear the bot­tle hiss or you’ll let it off in a hurry and it’ll go ev­ery­where and ev­ery­one will laugh.

‘‘Then you’ll say: ‘In what sit­u­a­tions are you like a Coke bot­tle?’

‘‘And you talk about strate­gies to help dif­fuse anger.’’

It’s ex­cit­ing see­ing young peo­ple grow through the process, Alexander says.

The pro­gramme is a back up for fam­i­lies, she says.

‘‘Of­ten fam­ily mem­bers are griev­ing them­selves or are too in­volved to know how to sup­port th­ese chil­dren.

‘‘That’s why they need an­other place to come.’’

Sourc­ing fund­ing is the big­gest chal­lenge to the role.

But it helps that the com­mu­nity is so sup­port­ive, she says.

‘‘The num­ber of adults you talk to who say: ‘I wish I had this when I was young. I lost my mum or my dad or my brother.

‘‘I could never talk about it and it’s af­fected me my whole life’.’’

Alexander is look­ing for new vol­un­teer com­pan­ions.

Email sea­son­sone­hunga@ for in­for­ma­tion.

Sea­sons One­hunga has been nom­i­nated for the Z En­ergy Royal Oak ‘Good in the Hood’ com­pe­ti­tion. You can help Sea­sons re­ceive a do­na­tion by cast­ing your vote in store be­fore May 31.


Sea­sons One­hunga co-or­di­na­tor Jil­lian Alexander.

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