Dr. Heidi Horsley interviews Dr. Grace Christ about sudden loss vs. anticipated loss for the Association for Death Education and Counseling. Both professors at the Columbia University School of Social Work, the two Drs. know each other—and their work—quite well. Dr. Christ also works with the New York Fire Department and is the director of the Social Work Hospice and Palliative Care Network. She’s the author of two books about grief and counseling. As Dr. Horsley’s mentor, they’ve worked together since the 9/11 tragedy. Working with families who experience anticipated loss is very different than working with sudden loss.

An expected loss and sudden loss can both be catastrophic and traumatizing. What are their similarities and differences as it relates to helping families through their grief? Expected loss often gives an opportunity for preparation. This preparation is key, especially if you can use it to prepare children. Kids do best with carefully dosed information over a time span, since this lets them integrate the loss into their lives. You can make the most of the time and utilize the experience.

When the Worst Happens

Studies show that, in children, the highest levels of stress and anxiety are before an expected loss. Those are normal responses, although later a grief process will take over. Still, removing the trauma is critical since it’s an added burden. However, with sudden traumatic death, you don’t get time to plan. Dr. Christ says you don’t get that relief when someone dies because they haven’t been planning for it. Kids will more often act out afterward.

It takes longer and it’s a more complex loss when a death is sudden. It can take children a long time to process. Whatever loss you or your child is facing, remember that professional help can be a great tool.

 

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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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