Recently retired clinical psychologist Mary Jane Gandour spoke with Dr. Heidi Horsley at the 2015 Association of Death Education and Counseling conference. Currently, Dr. Gandour is writing a memoir about the grief process. “My daughter Amy died at the age of 14” of leukemia, and that’s just one of many family deaths in the past recent years for Gandour’s family. “She had been diagnosed when she was six, so she managed to live over eight years.” Dr. Gandour’s other daughter, Molly, recently debuted a documentary on the family’s grief, which Dr. Horsley commends as very courageous.

“Molly appeared to be doing so well after her sister died, and she grieved in ways that seemed appropriate for kids,” says Dr. Gandour. However, years later at 26, Molly told her mother that the entire family had a lot of work to do in order to grieve successfully. The family spent six weeks together interviewing one another daily, attending therapy, visiting the facility where Amy was treated and genuinely engaging in an intensive therapeutic process—which Molly filmed.

A Family Affair

For Molly, filming was key to grieving. Now, Dr. Gandour is pursuing her own unique means of grieving via writing and creating her memoir. She says that finding hope after losing Amy wasn’t easy. “Our daughter loved all of us and we loved her…we had a lot of support from our families, from friends,” she says. “Some of what we did is what families do: You get back into routines. We had a lot of rituals that we did. We certainly remembered Amy on all of the holidays.” However, many people wanted to talk about Amy more, and Dr. Gandour said that simply wasn’t achieved often enough.

Finding your own way to grieve is paramount, and it can take years to discover. However, it’s not too late. Whether it’s film, writing or another strategy, working with a therapist can help you streamline your own process.



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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