Dr. Heidi Horsley interviews Dr. Betty Davies, a professor and senior scholar at the University of Victoria’s School of Nursing. Also a professor emeritus at the University of California, San Francisco, Dr. Davies wrote Shadows in the Sun: The Experiences of Sibling Bereavement in Childhood for her students, those who have lost a sibling themselves, or anyone in the bereavement field. A leader in the field of sibling bereavement, Dr. Davies says she thinks of this type of bereavement as happening in a larger context. Look at the bereaved child in the context of his school, family, community, culture, and the bigger community. “There are many levels,” she says.

Influenced by all these factors, how can you anticipate how children will react? There are four major responses: I hurt inside, I don’t understand, I don’t belong, and I’m not enough. These are the most common responses Dr. Davies has seen. “I hurt inside” is what we all feel when we grieve. However, the other three are key in children because they’re dependent upon the adults. “I don’t understand” Is when children can’t grasp what death is. It’s the responsibility of adults to teach them.

The Rocky Roads

“I don’t belong” happens when children are made to feel like they’re excluded regarding death or an illness. Finally, “I’m not enough” can happen when children think it should have been them who died. They can feel like their sibling was more important than them. Fortunately there many things adults can do to help children. Start by comforting them when they’re hurting and explaining when they’re not understanding. Include them, validate them, and reassure them.

Finding professional help can also be a great tool, especially if there are only grieving adults in the child’s life.

 

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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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