Darcey Fairchild: Nature-Based Grief Programs for Teens

At the conference for the National Alliance for Grieving Children, Dr. Heidi Horsley talked with Darcey Fairchild who works with TAPS, an organization which serves military families. She began her work just over two years ago in Montana. It was a means of incorporating her love for nature-based programming and her background in social work. Nature based programming can be very helpful for children in grief. As a native Montanan, Fairchild found peace in the natural world and uses it as a way to regulate her emotions. There’s something incredible about spending the day in front of a mountain or lake in Montana.

Children experience many things at bereavement camps, but the biggest is connecting with other kids who have gone through similar situations. She also knows that a big help is having fun, laughing, and having a safe space to do some honoring and remembering. However, connection is key. The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) has been key in helping military families heal and address their grief for several years.

Healing from Nature

Fairchild also works at the Tamarack Grief Support Center, where she manages camps and groups for the bereaved. Her specialty is working with kids and their families. Oftentimes, adults don’t know how to work with grieving children. There’s a disparity that can occur since adults think kids should grieve in a certain way (often like adult women). However, children heal in spurts and through play.

For Fairchild, using nature and especially Montana’s great beauty has played a critical role in healing. She’s found that it helps to put kids in a nurturing and beautiful environment. Here, play and grief go hand in hand. Nobody has to talk if they don’t want to, and children identify their own best healing methods.

 

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Heidi Horsley

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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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