The Executive Director of the Open to Hope Foundation, Dr. Heidi Horsley, talks to Bridget Park about losing a brother. Sibling loss is often a disenfranchised one. Park recommends leaning on your family and letting others love you and just be there for you. It’s tempting to push people away because you don’t want them to feel sorry for you. Being there for one another is critical. Parents worry when a teen doesn’t talk after losing their sibling. Parents think teens should talk, but Park says in her experience she was trying not to upset her parents. They don’t want to trigger emotion or pain for their parents, so they may reach out to friends.

Involving a counselor can be a great help. Teens will go out of their way not to hurt their parents. They’re trying to be good kids, which is why they don’t grieve in front of their parents. There are many things that can help a sibling, starting with support. There’s no way to recover from something so tragic alone. Your parents can play a big role. They lost a child, but still have a living child and need to carry on with their lives. Teens shouldn’t be made to feel like a burden.

Sticking Together

As a family, you can honor your lost loved one but should also prioritize moving forward as a unit. The surviving children need to live their life to the fullest. It’s also critical to carry on your brother or sister’s legacy—which is what they would want. Park urges teens to reach out and get support.

She lives by the motto that pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. Take it one day at a time, and know that some days will be tough.

 

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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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