During the National Alliance for Grieving Children conference, Dr. Heidi Horsley talks with Brooke Griese of Judi’s House. As the Executive Director, she works with grieving children and families in Colorado. She co-founded the organization with her husband in 2002 in memory of his mother, Judi, who died of breast cancer when he was young. Children heal differently from adults, and don’t always have the best support systems. They need to connect with other kids, while having caring adults available on the sidelines.

Integrating loss into your life in a meaningful way is a challenge no matter what your age. Finding ways to cope with this loss is critical, and often children aren’t equipped with this knowledge or the right tools. There are many rituals built into Judi’s House, because kids love predictability and rituals. Care and symbolism are pillars of Judi’s House. The Pathfinders Programs help to memorialize those who died while setting traditions. One tradition is to add a stone to the group after the session and say something about the person.

Meeting Needs

Judi’s husband was 12 when his mother died. He found himself as a quarterback in the NFL years later, and knew he wanted to find a way to support other kids in grief. To help them know they aren’t alone was the goal of Judi’s House. Loss is normal, but it doesn’t seem that way as a child. He knew he could create a space and a place for kids to connect—along with their caregivers. It’s a family issue, and everyone is grappling with the loss.

Everyone needs ways to adjust after a loss, and caregivers need their own support system to help kids in grief. Another important note is that data show grief support works. There’s a large scale research initiative built into Judi’s House.


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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