The Open to Hope Foundation’s Dr. Heidi Horsley talks with Camille Gerace about the Children’s Grief Center of the Great Lakes Bay Region. This project is just one year old, but Gerace says that already they’ve seen so much growth in their clients. She says that when children are around their peers, they get the sense that they’re not alone. They connect, and when there’s a death your world turns upside down. Just seconds ago, the world was a different place. Being able to connect with someone who knows what they’re going through can give them a feeling of being whole.

This connection is critical for children. The Center is based on a peer support network. Seeing others who have survived and found hope again can help instill that hope in others. Younger children see adults who lost someone as a child, too. Seeing them grow up and be strong is inspiring. Children connect with fellow kids, the staff, volunteers, and faculty. If you love, you can grieve.

A Family Affair

Once a child has had a loss, there’s a group that can help with connectedness. Children can choose a variety of activities to help with healing and bereavement. There are stimulating conversation starters for home, and parents also have a group they can join. It’s an entire family strategy at the Center. Helping one another, at the center and at home, is paramount.

Adults can ask one another what’s worked and what hasn’t. There’s also a strong art focus at the Center. Kids often express themselves through play and art, which is why there’s such a focus on movement. When a new child arrives, as soon as they get close “the other kids suck them in,” says Gerace. This is a place for anyone in the Michigan area who’s experienced a loss.

 

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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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