Angela Melvin is with Valerie’s House, a non-profit organization in the Naples area of southwest Florida. She’s the founder, and Valerie was her mother who was killed in a car accident 25 years ago. There were no services at that time, and very few now. She knows exactly what it’s like to be a grieving child, and is now committed to making sure no other child is in a similar situation. She recommends helping children cherish the memory of their loved one. Children shouldn’t be ashamed or like they’ll upset their surviving parent if they bring up the loss.

Adults need to help children by creating avenues where memories can come alive. Children need to be able to talk about their loved one as they wish. Those stories should bring up happiness and joyful memories. Avoiding the painful side of these memories takes time, and it’s a conscious effort that kids can tackle with their peers or with the adults in their lives.

Support in Small Towns

Dr. Heidi Horsley asks about access to resources, and it’s surprising how few support groups there are in smaller or rural towns. Even in today’s digital era, there are few in-person options for support. Online resources can be great, but they don’t resonate with everybody. Valerie’s House is an example of a much needed support group in a region that has limited access—especially for children.

Children often grieve in different ways than parents, and it can be challenging for adults to gauge if and when kids are grieving. This can cause a disparity, and make adults push children to talk or grieve in a certain way. The goal of Valerie’s House is to provide a safe, welcoming space for children and families where all types of grief methods are supported.

 

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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.

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