Dr. Wendy Lichtenthal is a researcher at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, and many of her interests focus on grieving. She spoke with Dr. Gloria Horsley during the Association for Death Education and Counseling 2015 conference about how parents can heal after losing a child. “We are doing an intervention development study… focusing on finding meaning after the loss of a child,” she explains. An almost impossible task is finding meaning in your own life as well as the life of your child, she says. Meaning Center Grief Therapy is currently being tested with feedback from bereaved parents.

Dr. Horsley points out that in American cultures, and many others, parents are encouraged to “move on.” However, that’s often not the best approach. Dr. Lichtenthals’ research helps parents hold on and continue making connections even after a child’s death. There’s a Living Legacy Project connected to the program that nurtures that link between child and parent. Many people may think too much connecting isn’t a good thing, but that connection is healthy and essential. Mindfulness exercises are one of the many approaches being tested in the research.

Connecting after Death

What helps is whatever’s meaningful to the parent. So far, the sessions have been largely split between men and women. Parents are welcomed into research sessions and are welcome to bring their partners (whether a co-parent or not). This is where healthy means of grieving and conversing are discussed. Men and women grieve differently, but Dr. Lichtenthal says that understanding how one another communicates is key to marriages surviving the loss of a child.

Regarding divorce after the loss of a child, Dr. Lichtenthal says it’s a myth. There certainly are challenges, but never think you’re at a high risk of a divorce due to death of a child. However, caring for relationships—especially after a tragedy—is paramount.



Gloria Horsley

Dr. Gloria Horsley is an internationally known grief expert, psychotherapist, and bereaved parent. She started "Open to Hope" to help the millions in the world with grief. She is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Clinical Nurse Specialist, and has worked in the field of family therapy for over 20 years. Dr. Horsley hosts the syndicated internet radio show, The Grief Blog which is one of the top ranked shows on Health Voice America. She serves the Compassionate Friends in a number of roles including as a Board of Directors, chapter leader, workshop facilitator, and frequently serves as media spokesperson. Dr. Horsley is often called on to present seminars throughout the country. She has made appearances on numerous television and radio programs including "The Today Show," "Montel Williams," and "Sallie Jessie Raphael." In addition, she has authored a number of articles and written several books including Teen Grief Relief with Dr. Heidi Horlsey, and The In-Law Survival Guide.

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