How to prepare spiritually, emotionally for death of a loved one

In a short, five-year period of time, I not only lost my 3-year-old daughter, but also my father-in-law and my father. There is no way to ever be completely prepared for the death of a loved one, especially in the case of unexpected death. There are, however, some ways to strengthen yourself and your family:

  • Spend time with your loved one, live life with them while you have it.- Educate yourself about the process of the illness or other circumstances. This can be very helpful in knowing what to expect.
  • Don't get caught up in depression. Find a friend, counselor, bishop, anyone you can talk to and let it out. Don't let it destroy you or your loved one.
  • Take care of unfinished business. Clear the air with your loved one. Tell them you love them. Do not leave things hanging that may cause guilt or sorrow.
  • Stay by his/her side and be supportive. You will be comforted in the end, knowing that you were there and helpful. Love one another, it will be tough on all of you.
  • Spiritually prepare yourself and your family. By studying the scriptures, you learn more about the great plan and how much Heavenly Father loves you. Through prayer, you gain the faith that is needed to know that the Plan of Salvation is true.
  • Continue to build your testimony and attend the temple.
  • Remember that during these times, feelings get hurt, families argue. What do you want the outcome to be in the next five or 10 years? Is it worth those ill feelings and hurtful things? - Dawn Waggoner, Grand Prairie, Texas

What we did:

Strength for future

Thirty-five years ago, I watched my husband die. It was not unexpected, for his health had deteriorated.

Knowing the gospel gave the children and me strength to face the future alone, but it was hard. Now, in my 73rd year, I look forward to being reunited with my husband in the world of spirits. - Gwen P. Howe, Auckland, New Zealand

House in order

  • Keep your spiritual house in order. Pray and study scriptures. Go to the temple. Attend meetings regularly. Give service.
  • Take responsibility for your own life. Learn decision-making skills, women especially. Develop interests outside the home. Cultivate a hobby.
  • Learn to do those things you ordinarily leave to your spouse. Many women need to learn the ins and outs of family finances. Men need to do laundry, cook, do grocery shopping.
  • Make a wide circle of friends to whom you can turn for help. - (Ora) Nell C. Folkman, Walnut Creek, Calif.

Regular activities

  • Realize that death is a natural part of life.
  • Keep with regular living activities as much as possible. When my husband could no longer join us in the living room for evening prayers, the family knelt around his bed so he could lead us in prayer.
  • Use family home evening to talk about death and grieving. Let everyone know that sorrow and crying are a natural and necessary part of grief.
  • Don't avoid talk about death, especially with your loved one. Be available, but don't force it.
  • Make funeral plans ahead of time if possible when you can think clearly.
  • Include children in the funeral. They need to say goodbye, too.
  • Have your loved one record his/her testimony, if possible. My husband was able to do this and his testimony was a beautiful part of his funeral service.
  • Keep close to the Spirit by reading the scriptures together and listening to hymns. - Marilyn Oblad, Syracuse, N.Y.

Christ at the center

My husband was 33 years old when he was diagnosed as being terminally ill. We had three small children and realized we had quite an opportunity to teach them that families are, indeed, forever.

  • First, we made Christ the center of our lives. We prayed to Heavenly Father through Christ and deferred to the Savior in all things. This helped to establish Him firmly in our children's minds as the one to turn to in times of trouble and discouragement.
  • Second, we needed to establish in the children's minds that this was not a punishment, that it was not their fault. They are secure in the knowledge that Heavenly Father loves them at all times.
  • Third, we used the scriptures to reinforce that which we already knew. They became a guide for the years without our husband and father and a guide for the road ahead. - Arlene Calkins, Sandy, Utah

Rely on ward family

Our family had always prided itself on being strong and self-sufficient, but during our mother's illness we learned to rely on our ward family, our non-LDS friends, and especially our Father in Heaven. We called on our home teacher and other men in the ward for priesthood blessings, for our mother as well as ourselves. We asked some of the sisters to sit with our mother so that we could run errands or get something to eat. We asked our bishop for a ward fast on our mother's behalf. Many of our non-LDS friends offered prayers for our family.

Our mother passed away but my sister and I were at peace because we knew that she had gone to a better place. - Kellye Lee, Pensacola, Fla.

Talked about death

As my parents aged and grew more weak and tired, I realized that it would not be too long until they would leave this mortal existence. I was very open with my family. We talked about death in our family home evenings and how it was all part of the Plan of Salvation. I also held family meetings with my brothers and sisters a few months before the deaths of our parents. We made plans as a family and also brought up gospel discussions. This conditioned each of us for the hard times ahead and it also helped each of us appreciate and love each other more. - Steve Chadaz, Tremonton, Utah

Don't forget others

It is important to remember the children who are still living. Don't grieve so much for the lost child that you forget the pain of the others, and also help them go on with their lives. - Connie K. Houston, Redondo Beach, Calif.

How to checklist:

1 Rely on Lord; seek comfort in prayer, scripture study.

2 Educate yourself; learn about condition of loved one.

3 Pull close as family; maintain regular activities; spend time

4 Seek help from others; receive priesthood blessings

Write to us:

April 5 "How to help children benefit from general conference."

April 19 "How to break the habit of being late."

April 26 "How to organize your finances and the paying of bills."

May 3 "How to feed a family on a limited budget."

May 10 "How to cope with a compulsive disorder."

May 17 "How to be emotionally self-reliant."

May 24 "How to have an enjoyable family vacation."

May 31 "How to encourage reverence during Primary."

  • Also interested in letters on these topics: "How to help young people show respect for authority in school," "How to unleash the personal impact of scripture study in your life," "How to overcome obstacles to serving a mission as a retired couple."

Had any good experiences or practical success in any of the above subjects? Share them with our readers in about 100-150 words. Write the "How-to" editor, Church News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, Utah 84110, send fax to (801) 237-2121 or use internet E-mail: [email protected] Please include a name and phone number. Contributions may be edited or excerpted and will not be returned. Due to limited space, some contributions may not be used; those used should not be regarded as official Church doctrine or policy. Material must be received at least 12 days before publication date.

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