How to Make Peace With the Death of a Loved One

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Power of Positive Thinking" by Norman Vincent Peale. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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How do people make peace with the death of a loved one? How do you come to terms with the fact that they departed this world?

There is no greater heartache than the death of a loved one. A spiritual way to help live with this heartache is to gain an understanding of the deeper meaning of life and death.

Here is what Norman Vincent Peale has to say about coming to terms with the death of a loved one.

Dealing With a Death of a Loved One

When you carry with you the faith that all life is connected—and when you die, you merely continue your journey in another form—you gain a deep peace and comfort about the loss of a loved one.

For Peale, coming to the realization that there is no death—that “here” and “hereafter” are all part of one universe—brought him great comfort. This philosophy doesn’t take away the sadness that comes after the death of a loved one, but it will help lift and dissolve grief. Knowing deep down that you haven’t truly lost your loved one brings peace.

This philosophy is based on teachings from the Bible that say we’ve never seen or heard anything that can compare with the wonders God prepares for those who love and put their trust in him. 1 Corinthians 2:9 says: “The eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” 

This passage seems to promise that we’ll be reunited with lost loved ones and speaks to the idea that those who have died are still living on “the other side.”

Peale adamantly believed that life continues after death; dying is merely changing the form of our life experience. The idea of the soul living on beyond death is discussed in areas like parapsychology, precognition and telepathy. 

Peale feels that science will one day substantiate the idea of life after death, but the many people he has spoken with who have had near-death experiences, or who have recounted dying loved ones who seem to see people who have already died, offer all the evidence he needs. The experiences described to him have convinced him that our loved ones still exist, they aren’t far from us, and we’ll be reunited with them

When Thomas Edison was dying, his wife recalled him whispering, “It is beautiful over there.” He was a scientist and a very factual man. Other great minds have come to the same conclusion. American scholar William James said the brain is a medium of the soul’s existence. When we die, our new brain will be able to reach untapped areas of understanding. 

Euripides and Socrates both felt the next life would be on a much greater level. Socrates even said, “No evil can befall a good man in this life or next.”

A scientist named Natalie Kalmus shared a story about the death of her sister Eleanor that illustrates this idea. Her dying sister asked that Natalie not allow the doctors to give her pain medication because she wanted to be fully aware of every sensation as she approached death, very confident that she was entering eternal life. 

When she was close to death, she called out the names of those she saw—loved ones who had passed before her. One was a cousin who had died the previous week, and Eleanor didn’t even know this cousin had died.

Peale has heard numerous similar stories about this kind of phenomenon, leading him to believe that loved ones who are called out by name are actually seen by the dying person. Those people are present, perhaps in a different dimension or frequency cycle. 

Think of an electric fan. You can see all the blades when it’s off or on low speed. At high speed, however, the blades seem transparent. Perhaps a person entering into a higher frequency gets glimpses of a new reality.

Visiting Heaven?

People of many different faiths take comfort in the belief that Heaven is real and their loved ones are waiting for them there. Some people even claim to have seen it; that’s the case with Heaven is For Real, a book by pastor Todd Burpo, who relates his young son’s memories of a near-death experience. 

When Colton Burpo was just under four years old, he became extremely sick. The doctors concluded that there was nothing they could do to save him. That night, Todd’s congregation came together to pray for Colton; by the next day, he had almost completely recovered.

Colton told his father that he’d visited Heaven while he was in the hospital. Todd was initially skeptical, but Colton’s memories of that time were so vivid that the pastor came to believe that his son had indeed seen the afterlife. 

Some highlights of Colton’s memories were:

1) Attending a “school” where Jesus was the teacher.
2) Meeting his great-grandfather, whom he only knew as “Pop.” 
3) Meeting his sister who died in the womb—Colton’s parents are shocked, as they had indeed suffered a miscarriage in the past, but had never told him about it.
4) Seeing God’s throne, with Jesus’s throne to the right of it.
How to Make Peace With the Death of a Loved One

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Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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