Dr. Heidi Horsley sits down with Khris Ford, the founder of My Healing Place, to talk about the use of expressive arts to help children in the grief process. She founded the non-profit in Austin, Texas, when she realized there was a disparity that desperately needed filling. My Healing Place works with children ages three through eighteen who are facing a loss. Significant and traumatic losses are her specialty, and she works in both group settings and individually. “We use art, we use music, we use movement, we use sound,” she says. These can all help children draw from other parts of the brain—beyond the cognitive—because sometimes using your words to heal from grief just isn’t feasible.

Expressive arts help children deal with their grief via a method that doesn’t necessarily require talking. Adults can also benefit from this. So much of what’s experienced in a loss isn’t experienced in the cognitive part of the brain. Instead, it’s experienced in the sensory part of the brain—and healing from that perspective can be a great help. Plus, children are already so physical in their grief. They want and need to move. Using physical senses can offer a great release.

Who Can Work with Children and Grief?

Working with children in grief requires comfort within yourself first. If you can’t sit down, draw, move, and use sound when processing your own grief, children will pick up on that. We also must trust in the process of expressive arts. Children know what they need, even at a young age. They also know how to get there, but they’ll need some help and guidance.

Don’t get impatient, urges Ford. You might hear verbal shifts more easily, but expressive arts can take a little longer.

 

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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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