The Grief Support Coordinator for Forest Lawn, Galen Goben, spoke with Dr. Heidi Horsley of the Open to Hope Foundation during the 2015 Association for Death Education and Counseling conference about having faith after a death. Forest Lawn is an organization in California that helps people plan ahead for death, including full funeral, crematorium and cemetery services. He’s also an ordained minister of the Christian Church of the Disciples of Christ and says that one of the best ways to heal after a loss is learning how to “live with the pain.” However, you also have to learn that there is love and hope on the other side of that pain, and that’s where it can get challenging.

Goben often reminds people that they have been in painful situations before and survived, and even thrived. The previous situations may not have been quite this painful, but it’s a good gauge of how healing is possible. However, he points out that faith in the healing process can be a great help to many people, while for others it can “be a stumbling block.” However, for those who find comfort in the idea that their loved one is with God or otherwise lives on, working with a faith-based supporter or support group can be a big help.

Finding Faith after a Loss

No matter what a person’s faith or belief, the idea of being reunited with a loved one again serves as great comfort. “Their idea of heaven” can be the major buoy they hold onto after a loss, says Goben. No matter what a person’s belief system is, Dr. Horsley agrees that those grieving want to know their loved one is safe and at peace.

Particularly with violent deaths, those in grief can find comfort and reassurance in their faith that—now—their loved one is in a safe place. That’s what Goben helps families to focus on during difficult times.

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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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