Adult sibling loss is a common disenfranchised loss. Dr. Heidi Horsley interviews Dr. Kay Fowler at an Association for Death Education and Counseling (ADEC) conference. Dr. Fowler is the editor of the ADEC Forum, and she lost three adult sisters in a 15 year period. The deaths of Jenny, Ann, and Mary Grace have largely impacted Dr. Fowler’s life and work.  Mary Grace died of a heart attack at 44, and Dr. Fowler just couldn’t process it. There was no language or way to make sense of the situation. She felt invisible, with all the focus on her mother and her sister’s husband. However, she had lost a person she’d known and loved her entire life.

The two shared memories nobody else had. Mary Grace took Dr. Fowler’s sense of immortality, and left her as the eldest and most responsible, but also with a host of memories. Jenny was ten years younger than Dr. Fowler, and was almost like a daughter to her. When she died, she left four young children and it was as if the color left the world. Dr. Fowler had no time to grieve because the children were in need, while simultaneously Ann was dying of cancer.

Big Losses

Ann was Dr. Fowler’s closest friend. They got married at the same time, had children at the same time, went to graduate school at the same time, and she was a cognitive psychologist with dementia who died a slow and painful death. When she died, everything crumbled. Dr. Fowler had lost a big part of herself, but couldn’t find a way to grieve.

Dr. Horsley lost her brother in college, and empathizes. They both agree that their grief wasn’t acknowledged enough. The focus is on parents, spouses, and children, where it needs to be—and siblings get lost in that.

 

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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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