021: Heidi Nielson Packard’s Grief Journey Losing her Sister to Cancer

971989_10151632708288794_860465601_nNatasha Helfer Parker interviews Heidi Nielson Packard originally from Mesa, AZ, who currently lives in Georgia.  She is from a large, faithful Mormon family, went to BYU-Provo where she met her husband and now has 4 children.  She is currently in school finishing up her BA in History, looking forward to applying to graduate school next year and working towards her PhD.

Heidi speaks of her experience of losing her sister Charity, who was 2 years older than her, to a rare form of cancer while they were both in their 20’s.  The podcast explores the different conclusions members can come to as they go through the grieving processes looked at through the lens of Mormonism – recognizing that different people will find varying answers comforting – or not.  The hope is to validate the different responses to faith, God, religion and spirituality which can occur after tragic occurrences.  Heidi shares how her own faith and religious sensibilities were affected by her sister’s death.

Many thanks to The Lower Lights for the beautiful bumper music and to James Estrada of Oak Street Audio for audio production of this podcast.



5 comments for “021: Heidi Nielson Packard’s Grief Journey Losing her Sister to Cancer

  1. Dorien Nielson
    June 17, 2013 at 4:09 pm

    I have pages of comments I could make…but will say I VERY MUCH agree with many of your thoughts. My (44 yr old) husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer in March. Cancer changes everything. I cannot believe in a God that finds lost car keys and won’t step in to cure cancer (if He could). I like the idea of a “comforting” God vs. a God that intervenes for only some of us. (seemingly). So many thoughts….

  2. Gwennaëlle
    June 18, 2013 at 10:58 am

    Same as Dorien they are tones of things I could tell but I will try to keep it down to one single comment.
    It feels to me like you lost faith in a Santa-Claus-like god and got on the path of who a Heavenly Father could be.

    I have not had the same experience as you have had and I can’t compare our lives.
    But what surprises me, and I will talk about it with my therapist, is that I find some common behavior between you and I and I just can’t get over it. I have come to think that It is normal to behave the way I do but hearing you being able to make it a past thing makes me wonder about what I “don’t get”.

  3. Steve in Millcreek
    July 4, 2013 at 6:18 pm

    Most of us become complacent about life and its parts. Things like cancer and vehicle crashes dot our lives to shake us up, causing us to reflect on parallel paths given others. I can always find someone whose life is more ideal than mine and another whose life is worse. This I know: No matter how hard things become, they could always be worse. Scripture speaks interestingly in saying: The Lord giveth and taketh away; blessed is the name of the Lord.

  4. Tanya
    August 22, 2013 at 11:06 am

    I love this! I think that it is so easy to get caught in the Mormon culture that it is so easy to put aside our own agency. I know that as an adult that I have had to step back and remember that developing my relationship with my Heavenly Father is important to me rather than being a Mormon. I think that to really strive in the Mormon culture that we need to remember to exercise our agency so that we are shaping our own lives and not being influenced by a community of others. Do you think that it helped you to see things clearly when you moved outside of a predominately Mormon community? Thank you for your honesty!

  5. Corrina
    September 16, 2013 at 9:51 pm

    I related to much of what Heidi said. My dad passed away from cancer when I was 19. Although I would say there is a very strong emotional connection w/ me and my siblings and my parents, we never had frank conversations about his potential death. I wish my parents would’ve just taken the time my dad had left and created more family memories–like go on a big family vacation or something. Instead, we just kept our heads down plodding forward with hope and faith, as if he would be around for years to come.

    Also, one of my biggest regrets is not dropping out of college the semester my dad died. I was at BYU and went home (back east) for a long weekend when he was on hospice care. Of course, we didn’t know how long he was going to hang on, but I wish I would’ve just dropped out of school and been there when he passed. It still pains me to think of the last time I said goodbye to him, b/c I had to just pretend it was like I was just leaving (like, “See you later, Dad!”) and would see him again at the end of the semester or something. When in reality, my heart was breaking. I’m so mad that I didn’t stay. He was a professor, and so I know he didn’t want me to stop my academic life for him. But in retrospect, I should’ve done it. I’m very saddened and still grieve that I wasn’t there when he died. Likewise, my older sister was on her mission, and he didn’t want her to come home (she wasn’t even able to be at his funeral, b/c she was abroad), and I know she has a similar regret as mine.

    Just yesterday I taught my 14-15 year old Sunday School class the Sermon on Mount. We talked about mourning with those who mourn and what it really means. Just listening to and asking specific questions and crying with the person who is mourning can be so healing.

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