The Executive Director of Ryan’s Place, Aileac Deegan, speaks with Dr. Gloria Horsley at the National Alliance for Grieving Children conference about grief support for children and how service can be a great tool. Located in Indiana, the organization helps children who’ve suffered a loss by providing support and a listening ear. There’s no need to overdo anything or force children to talk. Making things available, offering suggestions, and being present are often what children need most. It doesn’t matter what you say to children for the most part, you must simply let them know they’re safe and loved.

It’s common for adults to get caught up in words. For children, knowing they’re in a safe and predictable world is key. If you’re a caregiver who’s worried about a child who doesn’t seem to be grieving, give them time. Some children may want to talk, and others don’t. Everyone grieves differently, and children can be particularly unique on a case by case basis.

Grief for Kids

Some kids will be closed off for awhile, and that’s also normal. Don’t worry if a child shifts quickly from being sad to playing. Kids will re-visit grief and don’t stay sad all the time. Children do it in increments and sound bites. Taking a break is critical so they don’t get completely overwhelmed. Adults can be offended, but it’s actually a sign of great coping skills.

Ryan’s Place has a website with online resources for those outside of Indiana. It’s a center available to all who are helping kids find hope after loss. If you have any questions or want to reach Ryan’s Place, a team of professionals is standing at the ready. Know that you don’t have to do this alone, and that helping children grieve can be an arduous task.


Heidi Horsley

Dr. Heidi Horsley is an international grief expert, licensed psychologist, and social worker. She is the Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Open to Hope Foundation, one of the largest internet grief resources, with over 2 million yearly visitors. She hosts the award-winning Open to Hope cable television show and podcast. Dr. Heidi is an adjunct professor at Columbia University. She serves on the ​National Board of Directors for The Compassionate Friends, the largest peer to peer support organization in the world. She also serves on the National Advisory Board for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS). TAPS has served over 50,000 military families who have suffered a loss. In addition, she serves on the National Advisory Board for the Elisabeth Kubler-Ross Foundation, and the Children's Brain Tumor Foundation. Dr. Heidi is on the VIP section of Marquis Who's Who in America, Madison Who's Who, and Who's Who of American Women. Dr. Heidi has co-authored eight books, including; Spouse Loss; Fresh Grief; Inspirational Stories for Handling the Holidays After Loss; Inspirational Stories of Healing After Loss; Real Men Do Cry; A Quarterbacks Inspiring Story of Tackling Depression & Surviving Suicide; Teen Grief Relief: Parenting with Understanding Support and Guidance; and Signs and Hope From Heaven. She has appeared on the ABC television show 20/20, has been interviewed by numerous media outlets, and has been a guest on hundreds of radio shows as well as quoted in dozens of media publications, including the Metro World News, Washington Post, Time Magazine, Newsday, Money Magazine, and New York Daily News. Dr. Heidi is also the author of numerous articles and academic book chapters. Dr. Heidi gives keynotes, presentations, and workshops throughout the country, and teaches continuing education workshops for health care professionals on support following trauma and tragedy. For 10 yrs., Dr. Heidi worked as a co-investigator for the FDNY-Columbia University Family Guidance Program; a study which looked at traumatic loss in families of firefighters killed in the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks. Through this 9/11 study, Dr. Heidi provided ongoing intervention and follow-up to firefighter widows and their children, and facilitated groups for bereaved siblings. In addition, Dr. Heidi supervised the school social work staff at Harlem Democracy Charter Schools in NYC for four years. Dr. Heidi's early career included work in a variety of clinical settings, including; Manhattan Psychiatric Center, California Pacific Medical Center Psychiatry Dept., University of San Francisco Mental Health Clinic, St. Lukes-Roosevelt Hospital Psychiatry Dept., and Hope Haven Residential Treatment Center in New Orleans. Her doctoral dissertation was on the sudden death of a sibling. Her academic credentials include a doctorate in Psychology (PsyD) from the University of San Francisco; a Masters degree in social work (LMSW) from Columbia University, and a Masters degree in mental health counseling (MS) from Loyola University, in New Orleans. Dr. Heidi splits her time between NYC and Tucson AZ.

More Articles Written by Heidi