I learned that losing a loved one, although incredibly painful, can be an opportunity for tremendous spiritual growth and joy as we come to truly understand our Father’s beautiful plan of happiness.
A few months ago, my roommate reached out to me in a time of need. Someone very close to her had passed away, and she was experiencing an entirely new kind of pain. She expressed to me that she felt numb, unable to fully understand the trauma that had happened. She found herself unable to eat or sleep or function normally, and she was constantly crying. Although we had been roommates for only a short time, she reached out to me because I, too, had experienced this pain firsthand.
As she described her feelings of numbness, I was reminded of a time when I had also felt numb to the rest of the world. Two years earlier, my 18-year-old brother, Spencer, had passed away from cancer. I felt that I would not be able to go on; everything around me felt unimportant and meaningless.
Although my pain is very personal, I am not the only one with an experience like this. In his October 2012 general conference address, “Because I Live, Ye Shall Live Also,” Elder Shayne M. Bowen of the Quorum of the Seventy describes his own devastating sorrow and loneliness brought on by the death of his baby son. My own feelings were echoed when he said, “Most of the time I felt as if I were in a bad dream and that I would soon wake up and this terrible nightmare would be over.” Despite his devastating story, his talk is one of hope and redemption—the same message I attempted to share with my friend as she sought my advice on how to deal with such extreme emotions.
I have distinct memories of the days directly following my brother’s death and people’s attempts to comfort me. One friend expressed that although both she and I believed in the Lord’s plan of salvation and the promise of the Resurrection, that knowledge didn’t fully take away the pain.
In such times of seemingly unbearable trial, we are tempted, like my friend, to question our faith in a loving Father in Heaven and to insist that, in spite of the truthfulness of the doctrine, it makes no real difference in how we suffer. But I promise you that it does.
Since my brother’s death, I have come to believe that the plan of salvation makes all the difference in dealing with the pain of the loss of a loved one. Although I still miss my brother and feel that my family is incomplete, the doctrine of the Resurrection has saved me. My years of scripture study and diligent prayer have given me the faith to endure my trials with a testimony built on a foundation in Christ.
My nonstop prayers to Heavenly Father became my redemption during this time. I prayed for peace, for comfort, and for a better understanding of the plan of salvation. I came to understand that the Lord needed my brother, too, and that his death was not the end. The more I prayed, the more I understood that, as Elder Bowen said, “the spirit world is real. The teachings of the prophets regarding life after death are true. This life is but a transitory step forward on our journey back to our Heavenly Father.”
Although my loss was and continues to be painful, I am tremendously grateful to Heavenly Father for the sweet spiritual truths he has taught me and for the strength he has given to me and my family. I know that if I am faithful, my family can be together forever because God’s plan of happiness is real.
Read Elder Bowen’s talk “Because I Live, Ye Shall Live Also.”
—Camden Hardy-Harrison, Mormon Insights
Find more insights
Watch this video about the plan of salvation.
Watch or read Elder L. Tom Perry’s 2008 general conference talk “The Gospel of Jesus Christ.”