Q&A: Questions and Answers


Answers are intended for help and perspective, not as pronouncements of Church doctrine.

My mother died last year. Everybody says that the gospel will comfort me, but I don’t feel comforted. Sometimes I even get mad at my mom, as if she had left me on purpose. When people say the Lord needed her on the other side, it makes me furious. How could he need her more than I do? Sometimes I get mad at God, too. Where do I find peace?

New Era:

Most people feel a sense of terrible loss upon the death of a close loved one. It is especially hard when that loss comes so early in life. What you are feeling is very real and very hard to bear—and entirely normal.

Experts tell us that many people who lose someone dear go through a similar grieving process. This process takes time. Of course, this process and the time needed to complete it vary a good deal from person to person.

The first stage is often characterized by shock and denial—“No! Not my mother! She can’t be gone! This can’t be happening to me!”

This may be followed by anger—a frequent reaction to hurt or pain—“It makes me angry that God allowed my mother to die!” Some of what you have said in your question suggests that you may be in this stage of the grieving process.

Other steps include bargaining—“If only I could have my mother back! I would help her and always be kind and loving to her.”—and depression—“She’s really gone. I don’t see how I can live without her.”

Later, there comes acceptance (and the gospel makes a crucial difference here)—“Families really are eternal. Death is only one stage in life. The gospel tells me that she can still be near.”

It is entirely normal for you to feel as you feel now. In fact, this step in the process may be necessary for you. In due course you’ll arrive at acceptance. The anger will subside. All the other steps will be past. Finally, all that will remain will be a calm, sweet, peaceful feeling of comfort, which comes from the Comforter, or the Holy Ghost.

Incidentally, we needn’t assume that people who die are always “needed more on the other side than here.” President Spencer W. Kimball stated in his book Faith Precedes the Miracle: “Did the Lord cause the man to suffer a heart attack? Was the death of the missionary untimely? Answer, if you can. I cannot, for though I know God has a major role in our lives, I do not know how much he causes to happen and how much he merely permits” (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1972, p. 96).

President Joseph Fielding Smith said, “Nearly every day we read of innocent persons dying in automobile accidents, by drowning in some stream or lake, or in some other danger, death has overtaken them, and it was no fault of their own. We are all subject to the various vicissitudes and conditions in life which confront us which could not be foreseen. It would be contrary to sound thinking to assume that the Lord has decreed that these individuals had been called home by such accidents or calamities. …

“No one in reason would deny the right of our Eternal Father to call an individual home should he will it. … He may call any person ‘home’ at any time he chooses … but we cannot in truth declare that all the righteous dead were ‘called home’ by divine decree” (Answers to Gospel Questions, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1960, pp. 47–48).

Now, what can be done to help you? First, it would really help if you share your feelings with someone older and wiser—your father, a grandparent, your bishop. It’s okay to weep when you hurt. Sharing of the pain doesn’t make it go away—but it makes it easier to live with.

After that, a priesthood blessing might help. Ask your father or your home teacher or some other trusted priesthood leader to lay worthy hands upon your head and deliver the message or words of comfort which your Heavenly Father has for you.

Then you need to find good things to fill your time. Get involved in service to others. Read the scriptures. (Many have found comfort in D&C 121:1–7 and in the Sermon on the Mount in Matt. 5:1–7:29) Read the chapter “Tragedy or Destiny?” in President Kimball’s Faith Precedes the Miracle (pp. 95–106). Work hard at getting good grades. The more involved and active you are, the sooner you will get through the grieving process.

Something else may comfort you: You know already that you will see your mother again someday. As time passes and as your testimony grows, that conviction will grow ever stronger. She is not gone. Her spirit lives now, and through the atonement of Christ she will live forever.

Most importantly, you need to kneel in fervent prayer to Father in Heaven and place yourself in his hands. Then put your confidence in him and say, “I’ve got a burden I’ve been carrying, and I’m tired of having it weigh me down, and I’m too tired to carry it alone. Would you please help me?”

He will. He really will.

“Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:4).

Readers:

I understand exactly what it feels like not to feel peace. When I was ten years old my father died. Everyone told me that Heavenly Father would comfort me through the trial, but for the first few months I felt only pain and anger, not comfort.

One night, in the midst of all this hurt, I had a dream about my father which helped me to understand what had happened and to feel at peace with myself. I know that my dad is doing a great work helping people on the other side. I also know that you must look deep within yourself to find true peace in order to live a happy and peaceful life.

Bente Heiselt, 16 Powell, Ohio

I know where you be coming from. My mother died when I was eight. I was bitter, and I hated everything that had anything to do with the Church. I especially hated God for taking my mother from me and my family.

For the longest time I just went through the motions of Church activity, and then when I was 17 my Laurel adviser gave a lesson on families being forever. That lesson really made an impression on me. After that I started praying and reading my scriptures. I finally got some answers that were real to me. I also talked to my bishop. He helped me understand what I was reading and receiving in my prayers.

Families are forever.

Tina Miller, 19 Danbury, Connecticut

What you are feeling is normal. It’s a part of the grieving process. My father died three years ago when I was 15. I still get angry and saddened because of the times he has not been and will not be here on earth to see me grow and do wonderful and important things.

The thing that has become the most important to me is the gospel. It helps to ease the heartaches of death. I’ve also found praying to Heavenly Father a real strength. He can become a good friend and listener. He can be there 24 hours a day.

It always helps (I’ve found) to talk to a listening friend about your parent. The more you talk about your mother and remember her, the easier it will become to get through the grieving process. I am so grateful for those good friends I was able to talk to.

If you keep all your feelings bottled up inside (and I know it’s hard to let them out), you will take longer and may never get through your grief and anger.

If you remember that Heavenly Father really does love you, you will be able to make it through the challenges you face right now. I also found that the closer I drew to the Church, the more peace I found, just as you will.

Laura Wright, 18 Dallas, Texas

Christ himself wept before he raised Lazarus from the dead. Mary and Martha were weeping due to their great loss. When Christ arrived, he wept with them. Why did he do this? Because he loved them so much that he literally felt their pain.

It is the same in your case. The Lord knows your pain and shared in it.

Might I suggest that you find comfort in comforting. If your mother is anything like mine, I think she’d want you to find and help those who are in the most pain, whether it be physical or emotional.

Adam Harris, 17 Thornton, Colorado

I know what it’s like. My mother died when I was six. I had three brothers and a sister all younger.

What really helped me was to get a close friend and talk about my mother and what I felt.

You will also find peace when you go into your room, lock the door, and have a good hard cry. I’ve done it millions of times, and it truly helps.

Ava Kearney, 12 Wake Forest, North Carolina

The peace that you want takes time. It won’t happen overnight. My mother died about five years ago of cancer. It isn’t easy to lose someone we love. I only wish that I had communicated with my dad and my brothers and sisters and told them how I felt. Instead I tried to hide it. Because of my stubbornness, it only got worse when my dad remarried and we moved to a new town. I was heartbroken because all my memories of my mom weren’t around anymore. I blamed my Heavenly Father for doing this to me and making my life miserable.

My first year of high school I had no mom, and then I had to make new friends in a new school. I now feel peace within because I decided to let go of all my past hurts and look toward the future. Yes, I still have my days when I wonder why, but Heavenly Father has the whole eternal perspective of life, and we only have a narrow view.

I hope that you will keep communications with your family open. Let them know how you’re feeling.

Please stay close to your Heavenly Father. He loves all of us, and he will comfort you when you’re really down. I can testify to that.

Mary Beth Bentley, 18 Danville, California

I am no longer a teenager. But I understand. My mother died when I was 15. That was 20 years ago. I have experienced all the feelings you have—the anger (at my mom and Heavenly Father), the frustration, the loneliness, the shock. All of these feelings are very real.

When my mom died, we did not talk about it. I think it took me years to work through her death because of that. Hopefully, your family can talk about your feelings and losses. Your mother still exists; that doesn’t end with death. Your mother is simply living somewhere else. She loves you very much.

If your family can’t talk about your mom, you need to find someone who can. I don’t think that necessarily means your best friend. Very few people have experienced the loss of a parent. Although they may be well meaning they may not connect with your feelings. You have already discovered that. Pray to Heavenly Father so that he can help you find a support group, a counselor, or a friend who will listen to you. You need to feel sad in order to understand your mother’s death and be happy again.

Something that helped me very much (although I didn’t realize it until years later) was staying close to the gospel, praying, and keeping the commandments. I allowed myself to be angry at Heavenly Father. I said so in my prayers. I think he probably expected that and allowed me to work through my feelings. In looking back, I can see that Heavenly Father surrounded me with his love. He protected me from myself and my grief.

You will always miss your mom. And finding peace might take a long time. For me, it took years. But I promise you that if you desire it, it will come. I decided that I owed that to my mom and myself. When you’re at peace you feel watched over and warm.

I may never understand why my mother died when she did. But it doesn’t matter anymore. It’s okay. I wish you success.

Stephanie Ransom, 35 West Valley City, Utah

Although you have lost your mother physically, you have not lost her spiritually, and you never will. She will always be with you in your heart. Whether you realize it or not, God is helping you tremendously. The Lord loves you like you love your mother. Remember that when he allows us to suffer something it may be for our benefit. Your mother is in a better place now. She is in great peace.

She is still with you. She has not abandoned you, for you will be together again.

What you are feeling is perfectly normal. It will take time to rid yourself of resentment and bitterness. In the meantime, hang in there. You may want to turn to a close relative or friend when you really get down. You are a child of God! The Lord loves you as does your family.

Jennifer Crow, 14 Forsyth, Missouri

[photo] Photography by Craig J. Moyer