The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) was a buoy for Carole Hilton, who discovered the program just a few days after her husband died. He was an active member in the Navy, and when the officer arrived at Hilton’s doorstep to deliver the news, within the paperwork was a TAPS brochure. Hilton talked with the Open to Hope Executive Director, Dr. Heidi Horsley, during the 2015 Association for Death Education and Counseling conference about what TAPS means to her.

Nobody plans on becoming a young widow or ever having that title bestowed upon them. However, Hilton says that simply knowing there was such an organization out there made a huge difference for her. Now, Hilton works with widows—some very young—and says even though everyone “knows” there’s a risk in combat that you could lose a loved one, nobody ever really believes it’s going to happen to them.

A Tap of Hope

“If a tragedy does happen, there are people there who are a safety net for them,” says Hilton. Dr. Horsley agrees that such a network is critical. It’s important to remind people that it’s one day at a time, and if there are other widows and widowers out there who have “made it,” you can, too. “If you’ve lost hope, lean on mine, lean on Carol’s,” says Dr. Horsley.

TAPS is available around the clock, with a toll free number: 800-959-TAPS. A live person is always available to talk with widows and widowers through the grieving process. However, Hilton also wants to point out that TAPS isn’t just for “new” widows and widowers. No matter how recent or long ago your loss, everyone needs support from time to time. Depending on a reliable organization that understands can be the safety net you need when grief starts to seem overwhelming.

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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