Siblings & Parents: Branching Out to Heal

Dr. Heidi Horsley from the Family Guidance Program has been conducting workshops and discussions on sibling loss. Here is a recent article from issue 111 of TheLink newsletter of the FDNY-CSU.

SIBLINGS & PARENTS: Branching Out to Heal

Helping to create healing partnerships has been central to the CSU?s response to the attacks of 9/11. At recent events, both parents and siblings connected with experts who offered new strategies to help them look ahead to the future.

On the evening of July 13, it may have been brutally hot outside but inside the CSU space at 594 Broadway, 19 parents were pampered as they heard talks about nutrition, acupuncture, massage, and yoga and learned breathing exercises and a few gentle stretches before sitting down to an organic turkey dinner. While feeling good was a major theme of the evening?winners of massages raffled off experienced immediate stress and anxiety reduction?the event demonstrated the importance of the ongoing link between self care and a healthy heart and mind. ?We are very serious about coming up with new ways to connect parents with services to support them as they embark on the next phase of their journey,? says Dianne Kane, CSU Assistant Director. ?Losing a son is the worst thing that can happen to a parent. But over this past five years, the physical toll of the sadness and anger and the energy they consume, have created their own problems,??including stress-related i! llnesses.

?I learned great tips on how to take care of myself day by day and make life a little better,? said one mother who, like all attendees, gave the event high marks. ?We learned a lot of useful information to help us with this long lonely road we were left to travel,? said another.

Relieving the isolation felt by siblings was the driver behind four dinner seminars the CSU has hosted this past year, which were led by Heidi Horsley, Psy.D. ?Heidi herself lost a brother,? says Bonnie Gang, who helped organize and lead the events. ?That lends greater meaning to her suggestions of how siblings can maintain a bond with their brother through their relationships with the living.?

?It helped me that Heidi had also lost a sibling. I felt she could truly understand,? said one woman, who like many sometimes feels dismayed by the intense emotions that wash over her. Having their experience affirmed by a professional who?s been there, too, reassured everyone that as one attendee put it, ?all of the feelings I have that are hard to understand are universal,? as the informal discussions that continued over dinner also showed. With family members feeling pressure by the rest of the world to move on, siblings, many of whom believe the depth of their grief has never been fully acknowledged by others, feel mounting distress. The CSU aims to help them address this issue and find ways to move forward in life without leaving their brother behind.

If you have ideas about events or services for parents and siblings or questions about future programming, please email Bonnie (gangb@fdny.nyc.gov) and Dianne (kaned@fdny.nyc.gov).

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