While serving as the Area Mental Health Advisor in the Africa West Area, I learned that the average life expectancy of an African male was 57 years. Many of the African missionaries had only one parent, some were orphans. Several lost loved ones during their mission. In a five-day span, mission presidents asked me to call seven missionaries who had lost a family member. One lost a grandparent. Two lost sisters. Four lost their mother. Words of a prophet and the comforting influence of the Holy Ghost helped them during this difficult time.
President Russell M. Nelson has taught “Life does not begin with birth, nor does it end with death. Prior to our birth, we dwelled as spirit children with our Father in Heaven. There we eagerly anticipated the possibility of coming to earth and obtaining a physical body. Knowingly we wanted the risks of mortality, which would allow the exercise of agency and accountability. “This life [was to become] a probationary state; a time to prepare to meet God.” (Alma 12:24.) But we regarded the returning home as the best part of that long-awaited trip, just as we do now. Before embarking on any journey, we like to have some assurance of a round-trip ticket. Returning from earth to life in our heavenly home requires passage through—and not around—the doors of death. We were born to die, and we die to live. (See 2 Cor. 6:9.) As seedlings of God, we barely blossom on earth; we fully flower in heaven.” (Doors of Death, General Conference, April 1992).
Throughout our lifetime, we will lose loved ones. Family and friends will pass away. Some deaths will be anticipated because of age or illness. Some deaths will be sudden and unexpected due to accident, diseases, or other unforeseen circumstances.
President Nelson taught that “Irrespective of age, we mourn for those loved and lost. Mourning is one of the deepest expressions of pure love. It is a natural response in complete accord with divine commandment: “Thou shalt live together in love, insomuch that thou shalt weep for the loss of them that die.” (D&C 42:45.) Moreover, we can’t fully appreciate joyful reunions later without tearful separations now. The only way to take sorrow out of death is to take love out of life.”
Even with our knowledge and testimony of the plan of salvation, we often go through the five stages of grief including: 1) Denial, where it is difficult to accept that our loved one has actually passed away, 2) Anger, where we might be angry that they died now; we might be angry at ourselves for not being more kind and loving or for not having done something differently that might have kept them alive; or even angry at the Lord that He took them now; 3) Bargaining, where we try to make a bargain of any kind with the Lord that our loved one could still be with us; 4) Sadness/depression, where we miss them so much and feel so sad; and, finally 5) Acceptance, where we accept that our loved one has passed away and we start to move forward again in our lives.
Some ways to help resolve our grief include:
- Write down the good memories we had with our loved one.
- Write a talk we would give to celebrate that person’s life.
- Write a final letter of farewell to the person who has died.
- Create a gratitude list of the ways that person has touched our life.
- Create a memorial to honor that person. Example: draw a picture, write a poem, etc.
- Write what counsel or advice that person would give us as we move forward with our life.
President Nelson continued: “We need not look upon death as an enemy. With full understanding and preparation, faith supplants fear. Hope displaces despair. The Lord said, “Fear not even unto death; for in this world your joy is not full, but in me your joy is full.” (D&C 101:36.) He bestowed this gift: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27.)
President Nelson concluded: “With that assurance, brothers and sisters, love life! Cherish each moment as a blessing from God. (See Mosiah 2:21.) Live it well—even to your loftiest potential. Then the anticipation of death shall not hold you hostage. With the help of the Lord, your deeds and desires will qualify you to receive everlasting joy, glory, immortality, and eternal lives.”
May the Holy Ghost comfort us during those difficult times of loss with the memories of our time together and with the assurance that we will be reunited again.
[Note: The ideas and suggestions contained in these articles are not intended as a substitute for consultation with a qualified mental health professional. In addition, if you are experiencing thoughts of self-harm or suicide, please seek medical or mental health assistance immediately. In the U.S., call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Or use the Lifeline Chat at 988lifeline.org/chat/. Services are free and confidential.]