What’s Your Grief? is an organization founded and operated by Litea Williams and Eleanor Haley. “Practical, down to earth tools” is their specialty. They also do a lot of work in Baltimore City, working with the community and in particular with the homeless population. Williams and Haley spoke with Open to Hope’s Executive Director Dr. Heidi Horsley during the Association for Death Education and Counseling 2015 conference about their work and experience with grief therapy.

“We’ll be presenting here a little bit about grief below the poverty line,” explains Williams. When a person is homeless and also grieving, it introduces an entirely new dynamic that few people understand. Experiencing homelessness can lead to an entirely new subset of secondary losses, explains Haley. “Expanding our understanding of what loss is” remains critical, whether it’s loss of a home or loss of a job or loved one.

Redefining “Losing”

“It’s not just the loss of a person, but a loss of the future you thought you were going to have,” says Dr. Horsley. One of the best ways to heal and grieve is to make memories and bond with loved ones according to Williams. “Many people feel like they have to compartmentalize,” she explains, and while that can “work” in the short term, it’s not a feasible or healthy long-term strategy. “You can still have a relationship with the person you lost, and there is great value” in that.

There are ways to handle loss and still meet your needs for housing and financial security, but many times this is only feasible with the right support network post-loss. That’s the disparity Williams and Haley aim to address in their work.  “Death ends a life, not a relationship,” says Dr. Horsley, which is an encouraging mantra for those experiencing loss to bear in mind.

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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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