Dr. Heidi Horsley talks with Kaela Vance at the National Alliance for Grieving Children conference. Vance is getting ready to work with an organization, as well as build her own organization, in Columbus, Ohio that help kids cope with loss. When she was seven years old, her mom died of ovarian cancer. As the eldest of three siblings, that loss inspired her to do this work. Dr. Horsley relates, having been inspired by her brother’s death. As a grieving child, Vance recommends that parents look for a program to help children heal.

Vance joined Stepping Stones, which offered day camps and ongoing support. She still has some of the art pieces she completed there. Also, she had a supportive family. Expressing herself through art was critical for her, and it is for many children who might not have the speech or communication capability to grieve in more traditional ways. A life of service is what many bereaved seek out as adults, and it can be a lifelong tool for healing while also doing good for others.

Peer Support

Children can especially benefit from peer support programs like Stepping Stones. There are many more programs today than when Vance was a child, but there’s still a strong need—especially in rural or underserved communities. That’s why she’s committed to creating her own non-profit organization and hopes to give back. Giving others a gift she feels so thankful to have helps her grief to come full circle and honor her mother.

There are many bereaved children who turn into adults, like Vance, with a passion for helping others. Keep an eye out for Vance’s next moves, and expect more support in Columbus as she finds her place within the bereaved support community.



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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