Sunday, September 7, 2014

What Grieving People Need to Know

Dr. Heidi Horsley, a licensed psychologist and social worker, who is executive director of the Open to Hope Foundation and assistant professor Columbia University School of Social Work in NYC, gives her professional perspective on four of the most common questions asked by those grieving a loss.

How long should grief last?
“Everyone is on their own personal grief journey. I don’t believe in putting a time frame around grief. The journey of a hundred miles starts with a single step. If you take that next step, you will eventually find your way out of the darkness and back into the light.”

Can you give some examples of healthy ways to process grief?
“It is important to have support when you are grieving and to look towards others who are further along in their journey. Take care of yourself, by getting enough water, eating healthy, getting enough sleep and exercising. Be kind to yourself and love yourself, you’ve been through a lot. Don’t beat yourself up mentally if you have a day where you don’t feel like or are unable to get out of bed.”

What benefit can be achieved by seeking professional support?
“Losing a loved one is extremely difficult, and often society tends to minimize the impact of losing a family member. As a grief therapist, and as someone who has lost a brother, I normalize what my clients who have suffered a loss are going through. I offer support and guidance, and give clients tools that may help them eventually find hope again. I don’t expect my clients to get over the person who died; instead, I help them to incorporate their loved one into their lives in new and different ways. As a professional, I can also let the client know if I am concerned about something they are doing, particularly if they are engaging in dangerous or harmful behavior.”

What is the most important thing a grieving person can do to help themselves?
“According to the research, gratitude is the fastest way to feel better. Easier said than done, since after suffering a great loss, it is often difficult to find anything to be grateful for. Find gratitude in the little things in life, such as the sun, friends, and memories. You are who you are today because you knew them, they changed your life in profound ways and left you a better person. The best way to honor your loved one is to pay tribute to them by living your life to the fullest with gratitude.”

At you can read many stories and get many perspectives of grief and loss in addition to listening to the web radio program featuring other grief experts who discuss many aspects of bereavement with a main focus on the death of a child and its effects on the family.

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