The recent National Alliance for Grieving Children conference brought together Dr. Heidi Horsley and Diana Wright of TAPS Youth Programs. She’s been a volunteer for five years, and came on staff as a programs coordinator. She first learned about TAPS in 2007, and learned how incredible the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors is for bereaved military members and their families. She started volunteering and found a path of healing after her son died in the military. It took six months after his death before she started actively looking for grief support. Both of Wright’s children have died, and this has given her the opportunity to be a part of other’s grief journey and to connect with children.

For Wright, it’s all about the connections. Connecting with kids, other parents, and peers is critical. Everyone identifies hope in their own way, so she can’t say what will work for anyone else. However, for her, reaching out and connecting was the key. You might need to be the proactive one, since many people find the support system they thought they would have disappears after a tragic loss.

Finding “Your People”

Your best support group might not always look like you imagine. It can be made up of people who you’ve never met before. It might be in an intimate group setting, at a grief camp, or through TAPS. Keep searching until you find the right match, and Wright says you’ll know it when you see it. She instantly felt heard and welcomed at TAPS, and it became her go-to support network.

TAPS offers a variety of programs geared towards military families. It’s a unique type of loss that few others experience. Although when someone serves in the military there’s always the idea that death can occur, nobody really believes it unless they experience it.

 

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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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