Yie Foung is a former Designated Requestor at Live On New York, and currently works closely with donor families. She spoke with Dr. Heidi Horsley, the Executive Director of the Open to Hope Foundation, during the Association for Death Education and Counseling conference. “A lot of my work is working with bereaved families,” she explains. She helps them commit to the recipient, as well as to connect with services and programs to support their own journey in this process. She works with donor’s families who are experiencing the process of solid tissue as well as organ donations.

She’s committed to making sure that the donor’s gift of life is respected. The other half of her job is to make sure that bereaved families continue receiving support as long as necessary. Dr. Horsley has experience with donor families, too, and points out that many times the only light families see during bereavement is that their loves one’s donation was able to save so many lives.

The Gift of Life

“Families don’t get a choice of losing their loved one,” Foung says. However, they do have some choice in how they make more meaning from that loss. While there are ways to request having your organs/tissues donated in death, in many cases it’s ultimately the decision of your family. That’s why open, honest conversations about your wishes—as well as having those wishes easily accessible in writing—is so important.

Studies show that families who can make meaning out of their loss experience a healthier bereavement period. These families are joining a large community of “Donor families.” Foung is a registered donor, and says that although it’s tough to talk about loss in the Chinese culture, it was important for her to talk about her wishes.


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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