Sharing her faith and religious feelings has helped a Mormon mother in California to heal following the death of a child.
Jenny Hess grew up in an LDS home. She knows the gospel. She reads her scriptures. She has studied the doctrine and gained a strong testimony.
But Hess was unprepared for the grief that would consume her following the tragic events of New Year's Day 2008.
The family was enjoying themselves on a snowy hill in Provo, Utah, when Jenny's husband, Kirk, and 4-year-old son Russell were involved in a sledding accident. Kirk walked away, but Russell wasn't breathing. He died a short time later.
"Stunned" and "shocked" were among the words Hess used to describe her reaction.
"We were beyond belief or emotion. One minute we were planning our trip home and the next minute we were trying to figure out how to plan a funeral," Hess said. "There was a time when I couldn't even talk about it."
While at times she felt heavenly comfort and confidence in the gospel plan of salvation, Jenny struggled with her son's death. For an extended period of time she suffered from depression and post traumatic stress disorder. It was hard to dispel the anger and despair, she said.
"During that first awful year I spent a lot of times in frank conversation with my Heavenly Father. I let him know at times how angry I was with him, and I was surprised to still feel his love so strongly for me. I told him how sad I was, how lonely I was for Russell. I told Heavenly Father how much it hurt, and how hard it was for me to smile," she wrote.
Eventually, the Orange County mother found added solace and peace in reading the scriptures and writing Russell's biography, along with recording some of her own feelings. Then came unexpected opportunities to share her faith and experiences with others.
Hess was one of many selected to share her story on Mormon.org as part of an ad campaign to tell about the lives of everyday Mormons living across the country.
Hess said the filming process was a fantastic experience and the response has been positive. She has been touched by the kindness of people, especially from other faiths who have reached out and said they would pray for her. Many are impressed because the Hess family is not bitter toward God.
As she continues to share her story with others, Hess feels her heart is healing.
"It's been helpful to hear how other people have gone through terrible experiences and survived. Eventually everyone falls on hard times. We can all relate," said Hess, who is still busy raising four children. "Heavenly Father allows things to happen for us to learn and be stronger. I have been grateful for that. However we can make his death matter in a special way, and show people there is a plan for eternal families, I am grateful for that."
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