Hope in Times of Violence: Loved Ones are Closer Than We Think

Pick up the paper or turn on the TV, and we hear of another mass shooting. It seems as if some Americans are steeped in rage, and we look on in horror. What can we do? How can we help? Our initial reaction may be to pray for those in mourning and hope that  it never happens to our family and friends. As a nation, we fly our flags at half staff, and we grieve together. But we all experience grief differently.

I recently spoke at a meeting for people learning to deal with grief and loss and people shared stories of what they believed were signs they had received from loved ones who were trying to comfort them from beyond. There was the man who talked of his wife visiting him every night as he was ready to drop off to sleep. Sometimes it was dreamlike, but other times, he said, he could actually feel the bed dip down as she sat on it. He said they simply talked about his day or concerns he had.

A woman told the group about her son’s love for red chiles and said that since his death she was seeing these red chiles in unexpected places. Another talked about her devastation after her son died by suicide. She says at the funeral service she looked up and for just a moment, saw him sitting in the rafters, swinging his legs and smiling down at her.

Finally, after a half a dozen similar stories, a man who had been sitting quietly started to talk. “We’ve heard five or six stories tonight from people who have received signs from beyond, and I suspect there are many more because I have one that I’ve never talked about.” He went on to explain that after his wife died he was devastated, and unable to get past his grief. It was there day and night, and he couldn’t function. He even sought counseling in an attempt to move forward. And then, one day, he woke up and found that he felt happy for the first time since her death, for no reason that he could fathom. His sense of grief was gone. It occurred to him that the reason he suddenly felt better was that he sensed that his wife was there with him.

“I can’t explain how I knew, because I couldn’t see her or hear her. Not with my ears. But I felt  her there and it was enough.”

Not long afterward, he received the news that their daughter was seriously ill, and he was very afraid for her. He didn’t know if he could handle another loss. Worst of all, his wife suddenly gone again. He could no longer feel her presence.

“I thought, ‘Why now? Why when I need you the most do you leave me alone again?'”

Before he had a chance to slip back into depression, though, his daughter came to him with a look of wonder on her face. “Dad!” she said. “You’ll never believe it. Mom is visiting me!” His daughter’s experience was a little different because she had moments when she could actually see her mother, and talk to her. The man was at peace again because he knew that his wife hadn’t deserted him. She was going where she was needed most.

Why Not Me? Why Do Some Receive Messages and Others Do Not?

It’s impossible to say why some people have these experiences and the comfort they bring, while others do not. But that doesn’t make them any less real. There are some things we simply can’t understand, and some things we just have to wait for. I fall back on scripture:

No eye has ever seen or no ear has ever heard or no mind has ever thought of the wonderful things God has made ready for those who love him. – 1 Corinthians 2:9 NIV

The one lesson I’ve learned from the hundreds of stories I’ve heard is that our deceased loved ones…and heaven…are closer than we think and give us hope, even in the midst of violence. If you have a story of hope in a time of grief, I encourage you to share it. It may just bring comfort to those in mourning.

Monica Hannan is a three-time Emmy-Award- winning television anchor, talk show host and news manager at NBC affiliate, KFYR-TV, in Bismarck, ND. She has been in the broadcast industry for 35 years, and currently works as the Managing Editor at KFYR-TV, while hosting North Dakota Today in the mornings and co-anchoring The Evening Report at 6 p.m. Her latest book, Gift of Death- A Message of Comfort and Hope, tells of her father’s journey toward death, interlaced with personal, uplifting and amazing stories of people’s final moments on earth. She is also the author of The Dream Maker, which chronicles the life of God’s Child Project founder Patrick Atkinson; Nice and Fat, which she authored with health and fitness expert Renita Brannan; and she is the co-author of Dakota Daytrips and More Dakota Daytrips. Monica has published articles in numerous national and regional magazines, including Highlights for Children, Historic Traveler and RTNDA Communicator. She is married to Cliff Naylor and they have three children, ranging in age from 20 to 30.