I was asleep in my bedroom one May morning when my older brother shook me awake and said, “Get up! They think Dad is dead.”
Those words and that situation are branded vividly into the far corners of my mind even though I was only eight when Dad died. The clear memory of that morning never leaves, and I’m glad it doesn’t. That’s part of the link between life and death.
When I sat on the front porch that spring day, I thought, If I live to be an old man, it’s going to seem like an eternity before I see Dad again. I was feeling sorry for myself, and I believe it was a normal reaction for anyone who loses a family member. As well as feeling very, very sad, I also felt cheated.
The week of Dad’s death and burial was hectic, traumatic, and totally different from anything else I had ever done. Life was a blurred and chaotic state. Existing schedules were thrown to the wind as life suddenly took a direction that seemed almost a reversal from previous paths and routes. Confusion entered my mind like it never had before.
For my family, the memories were far too painful after Dad died, so Mother sold our house and we moved to another city. She felt strongly that our lives would be happier in a different location where we could all look ahead instead of looking back. I think she felt that way because her immediate plan was to remain a widow the rest of her life. For me, the rest of my life was a long, long time to go.
As I thought and prayed about the move away from lifelong friends—a deeply traumatic experience for any young person—the Holy Ghost whispered to me, “Trust her. She is your mother. She will not lie to you or deceive you. Everything that she is doing is for your own good.”
As time passed, I longed for Dad on many occasions. Nevertheless, my life went on with joy, happiness, and pleasure. My grandfather—Dad’s father—spent much time with us, striving to be a father figure. The bishop often took us on father-and-son outings. Home teachers took us fishing and saw to other needs. School teachers showed great interest. Many adults gave of their time and talents so that we could experience those things that normally happen to young people.
Still, I longed for both parents to be in attendance when I was elected student-body vice president, when I scored three touchdowns in the first football game of my senior year, and when I graduated from high school.
None of this is ever meant to imply that Mother did not do a great job. But growing up with only one parent is a tough assignment. One parent can only do so much, and one is never as good as a team of two.
What I learned, though, is that when a parent dies, the world does not stop. There were days when I wished it would slow down so I could sort out the feelings of my heart. However, God will not ask more of us than what we are capable of giving. He will watch over us and protect us as we strive to do what’s right.
The hurt of burying one parent never goes away. The deep longing to be near them will never totally disappear. Dad’s comments to me during my childhood are so vivid that my memory signals that we will never be completely separated. As time goes by now, the storm clouds mostly pass like speeded-up, time-lapse photography. I quickly see that the sky is blue again.
That is the promise we each have, for God said, “Blessed is he that … is faithful in tribulation. … Ye cannot behold with your natural eyes, for the present time, the design of your God concerning those things which shall come hereafter, and the glory which shall follow. … For after much tribulation come the blessings. Wherefore the day cometh that ye shall be crowned with much glory; … Remember this, … that you may lay it to heart, and receive that which is to follow” (D&C 58:2–5).
When a Parent Dies
Grieving for a parent who has died can be a difficult process. Although different things work for different people, here are some suggestions for ways to find comfort after a loss in your family:
Search the scriptures. In addition to regular reading, look for scriptures with messages of peace and hope. For instance, before Christ died, he said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you” (John 14:27).
Reach out to others. That may seem like reverse logic, since you are the one who needs support, but your friends and loved ones may not know how to help you. By telling them what you need, you remain connected to the outside world, and you give them the opportunity to serve.
Be flexible. The death of a parent will likely bring changes in your everyday life. Set the example for other members in your family by pitching in and helping everyone make the transition.
Consider asking for priesthood blessings. If your father has passed away or is unable, ask your home teachers, bishop, or branch president to give you a blessing of comfort and guidance. If your father is able to give you a blessing, it may not only bring you the comfort you need, it may bring you and your dad closer together.
Be patient. Although the above techniques may help ease your pain, it is almost inevitable that there will be hard times ahead. Remember, although you’ll always miss your mom or dad, you won’t feel this bad forever.