Dr. Jill Harrington is a social worker, clinician and researcher at the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress who specializes in grief after losing a young adult. “Some in the military and some in the civilian world,” explains Dr. Harrington, who chatted with Dr. Heidi Horsley during the Association for Death Education and Counseling conference in spring 2015. Losing a young adult is a unique situation, she explains. Losing a young adult means the survivors have lost the past, present and all the potential for the future. It’s unlike losing a young child, who has a limited past, or an elder.

Dr. Harrington knows such losses well, having lost the father of her child a few years ago. This year, her daughter is graduating from high school and it’s these types of events where you always assumed your parenting partner would be there. One of the best ways to handle future losses is to anticipate them and come up with strategies for coping. Death has a ripple effect, and years later there are other losses that can trigger the emotions from the primary, actual death.

Family Planning

Asking, “Am I a parent anymore?” “Do I have a sister anymore?” are common stumbling blocks when you lose a young adult. Defining your role, and the role of your passed loved one, can be part of the healing process. Many role changes come along with losing someone. You lose both a person and social relationships, and it’s important that survivors recognize that. Helping to understand future losses is critical in grief counseling.

Some tips for handling loss include just connecting and establishing a support network. This network can include family and friends, or a more structured support group with or without a counselor. “Grief has an address book,” Dr. Harrington says, and it’s common to end relationships with some people after a loss. Now it’s time to re-define your network, which can consist of the inclusion and exclusion of key people.

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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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