WelCom News
A newspaper for the Wellington and Palmerston North Catholic Dioceses

Grief and the Men and Women in Prison

WelCom July 2017: Seasons for Growth is an education programme that explores the effects of change, loss and grief. The programme recognises change often hurts and can be confusing, frustrating or threatening. It also recognises we need support in understanding and coping with the effects of change and loss. The programme is facilitated in the Archdiocese by Catholic Social Services. Senior Catholic Prison Chaplain, Veronica Casey, describes how the programme assists people in prison.

Many people in prison have experienced vast amounts of grief that have, for the most part, gone unacknowledged. They carry the pain with them into more and more dysfunctional lifestyles turning to alcohol, drugs and other risk taking and addictive behaviours to cover the pain.

Unresolved grief is compounded when another loss occurs. Many will not speak about their experience to anyone. This can be for any number of reasons including embarrassment, fear of judgement, making ourselves vulnerable, no-one will understand, no-one cares…

Unresolved grief stays with us and affects every dimension – emotional, spiritual, relational etc – of our lives, and can impact on the choices we make.

Somehow, we have to deal with the pain…sadly, this is often through drink, drugs, withdrawal, anger, which exacerbates the grief we are holding on to, and in turn can affect our future.

Our experience of working with people in prison over the years has taught us that often, these men and women have felt they had no choice, they had no power over their lives. Seasons for Growth gives them a voice, it encourages the making of good, positive, life-giving choices for the future.

This unsolicited comment from a Seasons for Growth participant expresses clearly the value of the programme, with trust, story and forgiveness being the most frequent responses.

“I came into this course having suffered a very recent loss; that
was the end of the long-term relationship with my partner. Grief was the overwhelming feeling I was holding within myself. So for me a course that would enable me to deal with grief or loss couldn’t
have come at a better time. Being able to come into a group where everyone is in some way or form dealing with grief or loss is great. It meant I was able to compare what I was going through to what they were. And no matter that there are feelings that followed, often they were similar to one another. I was not alone. Going through the different seasons and transitions has helped me to accept what has happened to stop holding resentment and my inner monsters at bay instead to use my energy to affirm and embrace my future and to empathise for my wrong doings of my past. This course has helped me through misunderstanding, hurt, resentment and hatred and given me powerful insight into grief and how best I can deal with it.”

“Every saint has a past: every sinner has a future.” – Oscar Wilde

Sr Veronica Casey is based at Burns Lodge Holy Cross Centre.

Share your Gifts

Being a Companion in the prison for the Seasons for Growth programme is a very rewarding and very Christian thing to do. We need people who can deliver this programme in Rimutaka and Arohata prisons. Training and support are provided. If you feel called to this Ministry or would like further information please contact Lesley Hooper, Director of Catholic Social Services on email l.hooper@wn-catholicsocialservices.org.nz or phone (04) 385-8642.