Heaven and the Afterlife
Since we were small children we’ve heard stories of heaven, the angels, and the afterlife that leave us with images of puffy clouds, angels, holy people, green pastures, and singing flowers. As humans, we are innately curious about the dying process and even more so about what happens to us after we die. When we lose someone dear to us, we can’t help but desire to know what happened, where they are, and that they are safe — wherever they may be.
- Where is my loved one?
- Will I see him/her again?
- Did he/she feel pain or suffer?
- Is he/she in hell?
- Do they regret their decision?
- What are they doing?
- Why? Why? Why?
When my son Eric chose to leave this world, my first question was “did he go to hell?” This came from an upbringing in the Catholic religion where, when I was younger, we were taught that ending one’s life was a mortal sin, and therefore, there was no hope of heaven. This ideation, that Eric was in hell, caused me such deep pain and panic that I honestly felt compelled to go find him — to make sure he was OK!
A friend suggested that I visit a Spiritual Director who helped me understand that we cannot understand or appreciate the unimaginable pain that a person must be in to take such an action. Therefore, we cannot judge a person driven to a choice we can never understand. In almost every case there is underlying cause whether it be addiction, mental illness, depression, that results in psychological distress or illness.
When we met with the priest we selected to perform Eric’s funeral services, he told us that Eric had already lived his hell here on earth, and that ‘the dimensions of God’s mercy are as far as the east from the west, and as high as the skies are above the earth’ (Psalm 103).
The Church still teaches that there is a hell, but leaves it to God to decide who should go there. Divine decisions are filtered through divine mercy. Therefore, tragedy at the end of this life is no sure sign of an eternal tragedy in the next. Some ideas in this article were taken from Father William J. Byron, S.J. from Catholic Digest. For the full article, visit www.catholicdigest.com.
As part of my journey, I also began to explore the concepts of modern science and spirituality and how they work together. I learned that grief is really a spiritual journey, one that lives in the heart. If often conflicts with the intellect and logical mind. I immersed myself in reading several Gregg Braden books on bridging the gap between science and spirituality in today’s world. My favorite book by Greg is “The Divine Matrix: Bridging Time, Space, Miracles, and Belief”. I recommend this book to anyone interested in discovering the new science of God and spirituality from a quantum physics perspective — mind, matter, and God.
Near Death Experiences (NDEs)
There are many stories of people who have had near-death experiences (NDEs). These NDEs have common elements: seeing dead friends and relatives, bright white light, tunnels, life reviews, and undiscovered places. Science is only beginning to integrate our spiritual belief systems into the very existence of matter. While we may not know for sure what happens after we die, there are many examples of people who believe they have come close to the afterlife. The sheer number of NDEs and the common elements between them, even for people with very different backgrounds, are very compelling.
When my son died, I was consumed with trying to understand what was happening with him. Of course, he didn’t have an NDE, but I was convinced that he was in heaven. I was given a book called “Imagine Heaven” by John Burke. John brilliantly discusses his research of thousands of NDEs from all wa
lks of life, all regions of the world, and all religions and belief systems. He paints a masterful view of heaven from a Christian perspective. After reading this book, I finally started to settle into peace and acceptance — in other words, I began to believe in Heaven and that my dear sweet boy was there.
NDEs are such a fascinating topic and there are many different points of view and resources. There is no one answer nor is there only one point of view of this subject. I encourage you to explore and discover the beliefs and perspectives that really resonate with you AND give you peace. My journey into this topic led me to open my heart to the possibility that I could communicate with my son from Heaven. That led me to my exploration of after-death communications (ADCs).
One of the foremost sources on NDEs is the International Association for Near-Death Studies (IANDS) whose “To build global understanding of near-death and near-death-like experiences through research, education, and support.” They have expert research and multiple videos, accounts, articles, and resources for people interested in learning how understanding NDEs will aid in understanding and living with grief.
After Death Communication (ADC)
About six weeks after the death of my son, I was contacted by a medium named Susan Grau who asked permission to talk with me about communications she was receiving from Eric. Of course, as a desperate, grieving mother, I consented. I was in a state of shock because so much of the detail she conveyed to me was so accurate and not possibly known to her by any normal means. I had been a skeptic of anyone’s ability to communicate with our lost loved ones, even though intuitively there had to be more than just living and dying. I became curious about eternal life and my exploration into that world gave me immense relief from my pain.
To be honest about this, the first reading I had was very upsetting. It was only six weeks after my loss, and it brought up so much pain and anguish that I left the conversation feeling very upset. But after a few days, I began to feel hopeful — I reached out to Susan for another reading. She asked me to bring all my questions to our session. I spent hours writing a lengthy list of questions, which in itself was very healing. It made me see that some of my questions were based on relieving my own fears, when I really wanted to focus on Eric. In other words, I wanted to know about Eric: where he was, what he was doing, why he did what he did. I wanted to be assured (time and time again) that he was OK. I did not want to make the session about me. In this second session, I came away with all my questions answered, and I felt relieved. The evidence received was accurate — I had no question in my mind that we were with Eric in that session.
I also went to see a Phoenix-based medium named Melinda Vail. I knew that after losing Eric, and after having had sessions where he was communicating with me, I could never go back to my old life. I had to find a way to channel my grief into good. I went to see Melinda for a life purpose coaching session. Again, Melinda gave me the answers I needed. She provided compassion, understanding, answers, evidence that Eric simply left this planet and that he is with me all the time.
After these experiences, I was further convinced that Eric is in Heaven.
One of the best resources for understanding ADCs is the Afterlife Research and Education Institute (AREI). AREI is a nonprofit service organization supporting afterlife researchers, developers, educators, and practitioners in their work in the study of the afterlife. One of their initiatives is to study the use of ADCs in counseling and psychotherapy in a way that aids in healing. You can access their website by clicking AREI.