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

Young people learn about grief through literature

Sue Devereux

Four schools have agreed to trial a new programme which educates children in coping with loss, change, and challenge in their lives.

This programme is unique in that it becomes part of the school english curriculum – not adding to the workload of teachers but giving them the tools to teach emotional literacy within the context of learning to read and comprehend literature.

Called Literature for Life, this curriculum unit is the latest from Seasons for Growth, already established as a peer support programme in most of our schools. Seasons for Growth aims to educate and support children, young people and adults as they cope with major change, loss and grief in their lives.

The schools participating in the trial are Holy Cross, Miramar; St Joseph’s, Upper Hutt; Bishop Viard College, Porirua and St Catherine’s College, Kilbirnie.

Literature for Life is a whole class programme in which young people learn about the effects of change, loss and grief, and also develop a range of strategies which they can use when they need to. Through classroom exercises, students develop a language for talking about emotional or behavioural reactions to loss, change or challenge.


In their study of novels, poetry, and plays, students discover that the key characters are having to deal with change, loss or some major challenge. This becomes an excellent time for teachers to explore the theme of change and challenge, helping the students to be able to express the emotions and behaviours that are commonplace at this time. It also becomes a unique teaching time for helping students to develop a range of strategies for coping with major loss or change. Loss is part of life and everyone experiences grief. But coping styles can be learnt, and educating young people about loss and grief gives them skills for life that can support them through the challenges that will inevitably come.

Breakup a puzzle

Many young people are already dealing with quite significant upheaval and loss. Family break up is now a much more common occurrence than in the past. Approximately one third of children live without both their natural parents. Many have experienced multiple changes in their families, but studies show that around 70 percent struggle to understand the implications of their parents splitting up.

Seasons for Growth peer support programme, and Literature for Life teach young people how to understand and express their emotions, and help them to develop choices which will enhance their lives and allow them to become resilient adults.