With a background in pediatric psychology, Dr. Cori Bussolari now specializes in grief therapy within a private practice and also teaches at the University of San Francisco. She has extensive experience working with parents of dying children and parents of children who have already passed. Recently, she spoke with the Executive Director of the Open to Hope Foundation, Dr. Heidi Horsley, during the Association of Death Education and Counseling conference about strategies for coping with such losses. Dr. Horsley has known Dr. Bussolari for several years and notes that she’s such a positive person—though Dr. Bussolari had lost both of her parents by the time she was 19.
“I had a really close, close-knit connection of friends,” says Dr. Bussolari, and she credits that to her ability to cope and heal. “Having that support of people who really cared about me and rallied around me, that was the biggest thing,” she says. Unfortunately, not everyone has that kind of support system, and that’s the disparity Dr. Bussolari aims to fill with her practice today.
Building Your Support System
Dr. Bussolari recalls being a teenager and knowing that she wanted to be in a field where she could give back, and that also kept her motivated. Dr. Horsley agrees, pointing out that having support and being of service are classic pillars of coping mechanisms that many people in grief need. “When we start giving back, we start feeling so much better.” Plus, being around others in similar situations helps normalize a person’s environment.
It’s common for relationships to crumble after a death, and that’s very counterproductive. Family grief therapy can be critical to keep families and relationships intact. Processing loss happens differently for everyone. Dr. Bussolari regularly works with families and parents, particularly post-traumatic loss or after the diagnosis of a long-term terminal illness.