At the National Alliance for Grieving Children conference, Dr. Gloria Horsley connects with Makiko Matsumoto from Tokyo, Japan. Last year, she went to The Dougy Center in Portland and decided to start a similar grief support group in Japan. So far, the efforts have been great. However, it’s difficult to communicate with the members and to find children who may benefit. There’s no such thing as “grieving children” in Japan, which makes it difficult to talk about grief and loss. Children may not want to talk about grief because they don’t want to worry their parents.

Matsumoto’s goal is to reach out to children and let them know they’re okay, that they can cry, and to provide a safe space. Like many Asian cultures, the Japanese don’t talk about death openly and therefore the grief process is kept a secret. In some older generations, talking about death can be considered bad luck. This has led to many obstacles when it comes to grief healing.

Spreading the Word

The Dougy Center is considered the gold standard amongst grief centers in the US, and is an excellent model for the Japanese. However, without clients and children, there can’t be any success. Matsumoto is looking for ways to encourage parents to bring their children to the center. It takes a lot of outreach and education, but it’s slowly being embraced. Being the first in anything is difficult, especially when it has to do with grief and loss.

Still, she’s confident that in time her community will come to know the benefits of bereavement work. Working with professionals, upping marketing efforts, and of course having passion for the project is critical. Grief journeys are unique, as are cultures.


Dr. Gloria and Dr. Heidi Horsley

Dr. Gloria Horsley and Dr. Heidi Horsley are a mother/daughter team and internationally recognized grief experts. They are the founders of The Open to Hope Foundation and the hosts of The Open to Hope Show. In addition, Dr. Gloria is a board member for The Compassionate Friends and Dr. Heidi is an adjunct professor at Columbia University and has a private practice in manhattan. Their message is that others have made it through the grief journey and so can you, if you do not yet have hope lean on theirs.

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