A doctoral student at the Chicago Professional School of Psychology, Brittany Trauthwein, spoke with Dr. Heidi Horsley at the 2015 Association for Death Education and Counseling (ADEC) conference about continuing bonds after a loss. Her dissertation is specifically on continuing those bonds after the death of a parent. Trauthwein began her research after connecting with ADEC one year after losing her father. She heard stories of people continuing bonds and relationships with their parents and loved ones, which piqued her interest. “I just immediately loved it and knew it was how I was going to go through my grief journey,” she says.

However, when she began digging and looking for research on the subject, she couldn’t find anything targeted at adult children ages 18-30. That’s how she selected the demographics for her research. “Continuing bonds means you want to keep the parent in your life in a meaningful relationship while still being able to move on,” she explains. These bonds don’t hold you back or keep you in the past. Rather, they help you to keep going forward.

An Unbreakable Bond

It’s not about being stuck in your grief, but rather it’s simply finding a new place for parents in your life. Personally, Trauthwein keeps her dad in her life by celebrating his life on his birthday. She talks to him on a daily basis, enjoys his favorite foods on special days and knows her father is reciprocating because he visits her in her dreams. Dr. Horsley agrees, noting that “Death does not end a relationship.” For Dr. Horsley, her brother is her guiding light, and she also enjoys his dream visits.

Death may end a life, but it doesn’t have to end bonds. Those can continue, albeit in new ways, but the person must be open to it and interpret connections (such as dreams) in a new way.




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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