Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Gateway We Call Death

It may not come as a huge surprise that I have been reading books about death and grief. My wonderful father passed away after a brief, unexpected illness on September 11, 2011 at the age of 65.

The past three months have been the most difficult of my life. As a result, I have sought professional grief counseling as well as personal study to help me better understand and deal with the complex set of emotions that come with losing a loved one.
I purchased The Gateway We Call Death by Elder Russell M. Nelson. Not only is Elder Nelson an Apostle in the LDS Church, but he is also a reknowned physician and surgeon. Elder Nelson visited my father twice in the hospital and spoke at his funeral. He is a humble, loving and caring man.

Reading this book helped me find peace, and gave me a better understanding of death as part of a greater plan of happiness. Elder Nelson taught me grieving is an expression of pure love for the person who has died, and gratitude for the gifts they have given you in this life. I recommend this book to anyone who has lost a family member or close friend.

A co-worker gave me the book The Birth We Call Death by Paul H. Dunn and Richard M. Eyre. This book is also written in the context of the LDS religion. A quote by Molinos that rang true with me:

"Thou art never at any time nearer to God than when under tribulation, which he permits for the purification and beautifying of the soul."

I believe few experiences in life are more humbling than watching a beloved family member fall critically ill and pass from their mortal existence. This tribulation has brought me closer to my Father in Heaven, and my Brother Jesus Christ. I can't say I'm grateful my dad died, but I'm indeed thankful for the many beautiful and spiritual experiences I had surrounding his death.

I've read two other books in recent weeks: The Orphaned Adult: Understanding and Coping with Grief and Change After the Death of our Parents by Alexander Levy; and, How to Survive the Loss of a Parent: A Guide For Adults by Lois F. Akner.

These books are written by professional therapists who counsel adults dealing with the grief of losing a parent. The books touched on similar points, but I found The Orphaned Adult more beneficial to my situation (even though my mother remains very much alive).

A common theme in both books is when a parent dies, the child loses the unconditional love found in most parent-child relationships. For most human beings, our parents give us a type of love and security that simply cannot be replaced...not by a sibling, spouse or child.

Another major issue addressed in these books is society's lack of understanding on how long and in what manner an adult child should grieve for a parent. After all, we have come to believe that the natural course of life is an adult child should bury their parent. But there are no set timelines for the grief process. Grief can be as unique as the individuals involved in the loss. As one author put it, "Grief must be transversed moment by moment."

I've learned more about death, grief, sorrow, love and compassion in the last three months than I ever knew in my other 41 years put together. I'm still learning from my father's death, and expect lessons from this experience will continue throughout my life.

If you or someone you know is grieving for a parent or loved one, you/they may find these books benefical in the healing process as I have.


Alice Wills Gold said...

I am impressed at how fast you have been able to read all those books. I am also impressed that you are going to the correct source to be healed of your pain: Jesus Christ suffered for your pain already, but he also made it possible for us to conquer all pain. I cannot imagine what you are going through. My thoughts and prayers have been with you and I have full faith that you will be able to find peace with this challenge. I am also impressed that you sought out counseling to help you understand and gain the perspective you need. I wish more people would do that. I will tell you something that I loved in our RS lesson yesterday. We were talking about how those who have already passed will be the ones to help put all the pieces together in the whole history of the world during the millennium. I imagine your dad is going through a very similar grief period on the other side, longing for his family, but I bet the work that he is doing (going around putting together all the pieces in the spirit world and preaching to all who will listen) is very exciting.

Jen said...

Thank you for posting about what you are going through. I've found in the LDS world we're almost not expected to grieve because of our belief in eternal families. But the loss is very real. And even when we know the person we've lost is in a better place, we still miss them. I hope that your loss becomes easier for you to bear.

Charlles Nunes . com said...

18 months ago, our youngest daughter passed away at the age of 9. As an LDS, and father of four, I had to move on, and decided to write a book in her tribute. It is called 'Simply Poliana - A History of Faith, Love and Hope'. She left a journal, and we included 50 pictures in the book. Though it is only in Portuguese by now, I hope you get the spirit in which it was written...

You can read it here:

Wishing you all the best,

Charlles Nunes, from

JP said...

On November 16, 2012 we lost our 28 year old daughter Jenavieve in an auto accident. we thought of her as indestructible and someone that would keep our family together when my wife and I are gone...However, the messages of love and her amazing Christ-like example came through to us in the countless folks that paid tribute to her life in Gilbert, AZ and Douglasville, GA. Through it all our faith sustained us. It is the hardest thing we have ever experienced and nevertheless we absolutely miss her...but like you and others are coming to realize that there are so many positive lessons we are learning. One is we will all be together again. We have some big shoes to fill and we are trying hard. We also know too she is in a better place doing His work and in time we will see here again. I love Elder Nelson's book and found peace too in the book entitled "The Message" by Vance Richardson. Once I am done with "God Who Weeps" I will move on to your book list. Peace be with you. Joe and Jackie Phillips

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