A leader in the field of grief and loss, Dr. Lynne Ann DeSpelder talks with Dr. Heidi Horsley about using art to help heal from grief. Dr. DeSpelder is also a professor of psychology, counselor, and author of The Last Dance: Encountering Death and Dying (now in its eighth edition). When someone dies, think about what you used to do before—and what you do now. Often, what you did was pretty normal. Dr. DeSpelder recalls a young mother who lost her baby. Before Justin’s death, she used to make clay artwork and sell it at a boutique. Dr. DeSpelder told her to go back to making sculptures, and she did, naming them “Anguish of Loss.”

This was the catalyst on this young mother’s journey. For Julie, she had to put her artist aside to let the grieving mother work with the sculptures. You must give in to the grieving part of you, and find a way to create. If you write music, it’s not about the technical skills you can bring to it. It’s about what comes out. Art is cathartic, no matter what the medium.

Creativity for Grief

Whether it’s listening to music, journaling, drawing, or painting, using art however feels right to you can be a great resource for healing. Some people create boxes brimming with memory pieces. They can contain treasures from the relationship. Stones, notes, cards, and more are often included. You don’t have to be “an artist” in order to benefit from art therapy. You simply need to allow yourself to create.

Art is a natural way to heal. You don’t have to be a writer or a musician, but you do need to find a voice for your grief. It’s not always your mouth.

 

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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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