Young People Ask . . .
Why Did Daddy Have to Die?
EVERYONE was surprised when Al’s father, a man known for being strong and healthy, checked into a hospital. Even so, Al was confident that his dad would be back home soon. But his condition suddenly took a turn for the worse, and he died. “I refused to believe that someone so strong could be gone,” lamented Al.
Kim’s father was a loving Christian man. He had been hospitalized before for a chronic health problem, but he seemed to be getting better. Then one day he collapsed in the bathroom. “I knew he was dead the minute I saw him,” recalls Kim. “My mother and brother desperately tried to save him by an amateur form of CPR. I ran to my room and prayed: ‘Jehovah, don’t let this happen. Please let him live!’ But he never regained consciousness.”
Death is a harsh reality in this world. Says the Bible: “For everything there is an appointed time . . . a time for birth and a time to die.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 2) If you have been raised as a Christian, you know the Bible’s teachings on why people die, the condition of the dead, and the resurrection hope.*
However, you may be devastated by the loss of your parent. It is one of the most difficult experiences of a lifetime. It can make you feel abandoned and vulnerable. You are still growing, both physically and emotionally, and while you may have established a certain level of independence, in many ways you still need your parents.*
Not surprisingly, then, one survey revealed that a teenager’s number one fear is the loss of his or her parents. One youth admitted: “My parents are a real pain most of the time, but I still would hate it if anything happened to them. I worry about that.”—The Private Life of the American Teenager.
Little wonder, then, that if one of your parents has died, you may be emotionally stunned. Why, at least initially, you may feel so numb that you cannot even cry. This is not abnormal. When under great stress, the psalmist declared: “I have grown numb and become crushed to an extreme degree.” (Psalm 38:8) The book Death and Grief in the Family says: “A person who receives a deep slash wound or breaks a bone goes into physical shock. This shock is a kind of protective device that keeps the enormity of the pain from hitting [immediately]. Grief works in much the same way.” What may happen, though, when that initial shock wears off?
‘I Feel So Angry’
At Luke 8:52, we read that after the death of a little girl, “people were all weeping and beating themselves in grief.” Yes, when death strikes a loved one, it is only normal to feel an array of powerful emotions, including sadness, guilt, fear—even anger.
Why anger? Because our parents make us feel safe, secure. When one of them dies, it is natural to feel frightened and abandoned. Not that your parent left you on purpose. But death is our enemy. (1 Corinthians 15:26) When death claims a loved one, the loss is quite real and undeniably painful. Note how 18-year-old Wendy put it: “I felt alone in the world and afraid after my father’s death. So many times I wished that my father were with me so he could help me.” When you think about what you have lost—the love, the support, the instruction—you may understandably be angry.
Young Debbie, for example, was close to her uncle. After his death she wrote: “It just didn’t seem fair that anyone that good, so well loved, and who loved Jehovah so much should suffer and die as agonizingly as he did. Although I was raised as a Christian and know why people grow old and die and why good people suffer, I wasn’t prepared for the feelings of anger that came over me.”
Some even feel a measure of anger toward the departed parent. Admits young Victoria: “My grandfather died last year. I was so angry at him for dying, and then when the anger was gone, I was so sad.” Indeed, some have been tempted to direct their anger heavenward. “I’m mad at God,” confesses 14-year-old Terri, who lost her father to a sudden heart attack. “Why did my Dad have to die anyway, when I loved him and needed him so much?”
‘I Feel So Guilty Now’
Guilt is another common reaction to a parent’s death. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” says the Bible. (Romans 3:23) As a result, most teenagers clash with their parents from time to time. But when a parent dies, memories of those old conflicts and arguments can become a source of great distress.
It may help to remember that even people who love each other disagree strongly at times. “I loved my mother,” confesses young Elisa, “and I know she loved me, but for the few months before she got sick, we’d been having problems. I’d get angry with her—for things that seem meaningless now—but which were important to me then. Once, when I was very angry with her, I remember storming up into my room and secretly wishing she would die. When Mom got sick and suddenly died, there were all of these unresolved feelings we’d had for each other. I feel so guilty now.” Regardless of what you may have said or felt, you did not cause your parent’s death. It was not your fault.
The Pain of Grief
Even so, you may be feeling intense sadness and grief. Take comfort in knowing that men and women of faith in Bible times also experienced such feelings. When Joseph lost his beloved father in death, he “fell upon the face of his father and burst into tears over him and kissed him.” (Genesis 50:1) Also, Jesus Christ “gave way to tears” over the death of his friend Lazarus.—John 11:35.
Well, when one is mourning the death of a parent, it is natural to feel overwhelmed at times by sorrow. In trying to describe his distress, the psalmist compared himself with “one mourning for a mother. Saddened, I bowed down.” (Psalm 35:14) Overcome by sadness, you may even be “sleepless from grief.” (Psalm 119:28) You may stop eating or suddenly have difficulty concentrating in school. You may even become depressed.
Making matters worse, your surviving parent and siblings may be too swallowed up in their own sadness to be of much help and support to you. Recalls Kim: “After we buried my dad, we tried to return to our normal lives. Mom now became the head of the household. But there were times when she would break down right in the midst of our family Bible study. I could hear her crying at night, calling out my father’s name.”
The prophet Jeremiah once said: “A grief that is beyond curing has come up into me. My heart is ill.” (Jeremiah 8:18) You may also feel as if the pain will never go away. But note the words of the apostle Paul: “Blessed be . . . the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation.” (2 Corinthians 1:3, 4) God offers this comfort primarily through the pages of his written Word, the Bible. Furthermore, his spirit can move friends and family members to render needed help and support.
Do not allow misplaced anger to hold you back from seeking this divine comfort. Righteous Job made the mistake of blaming God for his painful losses. He bitterly declared: “I was living in peace, but God took me by the throat and battered me and crushed me.” (Job 16:12, 13, Today’s English Version) But Job was wrong. Satan, not God, was the source of Job’s troubles. Young Elihu had to remind Job that “God himself does not act wickedly, and the Almighty himself does not pervert judgment.” Job later made a full retraction of his rash statements.—Job 34:12; 42:6.
In a similar way, you may need someone to help you look at matters from a more balanced point of view. Recalls Kim: “An older Christian elder reminded us of the resurrection hope, sharing with us such scriptures as John 5:28, 29 and 1 Corinthians 15:20. He said: ‘Your father will be back, but you must remain faithful if you are to see him in Paradise.’ I’ll never forget that! He also said that death was not God’s purpose for man. I realized God had nothing to do with my father’s death.”
Reasoning on matters Scripturally did not instantly erase Kim’s pain, but it was a beginning. You too can begin to work your way through your pain and grief. Specifically how you can do so will be the subject of our next article in this series.
For further information, see the book You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
This discussion includes youths who have lost other relatives, such as grandparents, aunts, and uncles, with whom they enjoyed especially close relationships.
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Death of a parent can be one of life’s most difficult experiences