At the National Alliance for Grieving Children, Dr. Heidi Horsley talks with Thom McLeod, a hospice chaplain in Ft. Lauderdale. He also facilitates a teen bereavement group in Davey, Florida. Working closely with teens puts McLeod in a unique position. He says teens can find hope after loss in many ways. The bereavement process is a normal process (if you’re lucky and live long enough to experience it). You need to find a new normal, and teens are going through so many changes already. They’re readjusting to loss while also moving from being a child to a young adult.

He recommends being normal and being yourself to a teen. If this is a family loss, don’t be afraid to grieve with your teen. Don’t be the strong person for them, because they’ll see how fake it is. Teens can easily see through facades. Normal teenage behaviors will still crop up, like rebellion and experimentation. They separate from their family to identify their own person.

Red Flags

Watch out for self damaging behaviors, drug abuse, and any behavior where teens threaten others. Those are major red flags. If they’re referencing the loss frequently, they probably need to work more on the grief/bereavement aspects of it. If they’re talking, they need to get help suggests McLeod. Teen support groups are a great option, because surrounding teens with those who empathize with them works well.

This doesn’t have to be immediately after the loss. It can happen and be necessary years later. What teens see here is that they’re not alone and that others are also grieving. Grief is a normal process, and letting teens work with others to find their new normal is critical. Moving on while acknowledging the loss is the goal.


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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