At the National Alliance for Grieving Children conference, Dr. Heidi Horsley interviews Therese Oettl, who’s studying for a master’s degree in European Outdoor Studies. She studies with a group of 18 people throughout England, Norway, and Germany. The group is looking at how Outward Bound and other outdoor programs help people grieve. There’s a variety of these programs in the US, but few in Germany and Europe. She’s here to discover what’s working, how to initiate the programs, and why they’re important. Dr. Horsley has personal experience with Outward Bound, having gone on the program for a month in Colorado after her brother died in a car crash.

For Oettl, she’s found that nature is a very good companion for the bereaved. It’s neutral, so you can take any feeling you have to nature. It takes you as you are, which is something that you can’t find in people. You can yell, kick, cry, and scream in nature and it’s okay. There’s no judgment here, and you’re surrounded by others in grief who know what you’re going through.

Finding Home

The many outdoor bereavement camps and adventures are indicative of their popularity. There’s something for everyone, whether you need a weekend outing or weeks-long in the wilderness. Plus, there’s no certain ability level or experience required. Everything you need is provided for you, and learning outdoor skills can help distract you—which is much needed for many who are steeped in grief.

Oettl hopes to find avenues for starting such camps in Germany and in Europe. She’s looking at ways to translate American programs to fit the needs of the European community, and there are also diverse landscapes throughout Europe that would be a perfect setting for these camps. Like many in the bereavement field, she’s looking at what works elsewhere for inspiration.

 

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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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