The Director of the Open to Hope Foundation, Dr. Heidi Horsley, interviews author Lynne Anne DeSpelder. A counselor and psychology professor, DeSpelder wrote The Last Dance: Encountering Death and Dying after years of studying the bereavement field. The book is now in its eighth edition. “The Last Dance” came from the idea that the warrior goes to the mountain to dance his last dance before death. At the core of the book, DeSpelder explores attitudes surrounding death, including language.

How do children process death, and how do adults handle it? The book also tackles terminal illnesses and survivors. The experience of loss and grief is unique to each situation. However, having knowledge helps tremendously. DeSpelder’s sister-in-law died young, and was fussy at the end of her life. She needed to have her makeup done by a specific person for the funeral. DeSpelder asked the funeral director how they would be contacted when it was time to do her makeup. He pushed back, saying he did a good job, and DeSpelder knew that the client should have their last wishes fulfilled.

Death Around the World

DeSpelder’s book has been published in numerous languages. In China, the publisher is based in Beijing. Typically, the Chinese are a closed culture when it comes to death and dying. It’s the very first translated book in the field of grief and dying. It’s being published on the anniversary of a major earthquake, and DeSpelder sees it as opening a crack in death discussions.

It’s important to remember that discussions about death and dying should happen well before a terminal illness or traumatic loss. It might not always be easy, but it will make tough times more comfortable in the future. Death is one of life’s few certainties, and we should all be talking about it.



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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