The biggest challenge in my life has been processing the pain resulting from the death of my youngest son, Brandon. Yet just a short time after that day, on January 10, 2004 I was able to say that I’d moved forward in a healthy and constructive way. I now lead a fulfilling life and have recaptured joy—something that initially seemed impossible. I still miss Brandon’s physical presence, and will occasionally shed tears at unexpected moments, yet on the whole I’m upbeat and am able to focus on the positives in life.
I would say that my son’s passing affected me in several ways. First, I now fully appreciate everything and everyone in my life and don’t take them for granted. I also found a greater sense of purpose, discovering that I could truly make a difference in the lives of other people. Also, I now think about almost everything in spiritual terms—contemplating the potential implications of my words and actions, considering whether I’ll be helping or hurting in each situation. My spirituality is now more experiential and less theoretical.
After Brandon’s death I began a search for answers to some deep questions about life, death, and life-after-death, resulting in the publication of my first book, Soul Shift: Finding Where the Dead Go. Growing up, my father was both a Minister and a Psychic—a seemingly unusual combination by most people’s standards. My father felt his abilities were God given—facilitated by the same force as many of miracle stories in scripture. This made sense to me. I saw his abilities in my daily life and knew they were both real and positive.
Brandon’s passing motivated me to retrace the path blazed by my father, who had died in 1992. The first breakthrough came via my uncle, who was endowed with similar abilities as my father. Just two days after Brandon’s death, my uncle called to explain that my deceased father had visited him during a meditation and passed along pertinent information. My uncle shared that my father was with Brandon at the time of my son’s death “to meet him” and to “help him adjust.” He also shared a message from Brandon, relayed by my father, stating that “We were the best parents he ever could have had.” Supplementing the feel good messages was a detailed explanation of Brandon’s cause of death—which had not yet been determined by medical officials. Passing along the rest of my father’s message, my uncle said that Brandon died due to a lack of oxygen in his bloodstream that caused his heart to fail. Just a few days later I spoke to the Physician who performed the autopsy on my son’s body. She explained that Brandon’s death resulted from a severe asthma attack which caused his blood oxygen levels to fall to a point where he suffered cardiac arrest. The autopsy results matched the information furnished by my uncle.
Subsequent to the interaction with my uncle, I met Allison Dubois—subject of the hit network show, Medium. In my session with Allison, I received many specific and validating messages about things she had no means of knowing. This gave me confidence that I had truly connected with my father and son. A short time later, I participated in a University experiment focused on investigating “survival of consciousness,” taped for a Discovery Channel feature. A clip of this experiment can be seen via a link on my website www.markirelandauthor.com and is located on the “media” page.
These sessions and others, supplemented by intense direct personal experiences, brought a deep sense of solace and confirmation about my son’s well-being in a realm beyond this physical existence.
Today, I continue to enjoy a connection with my son Brandon—as does my wife Susie and my older son Steven. There are times when I sense his presence and feel something akin to an electrical charge flowing through me, which is accompanied by a loving sensation that can produce joyful tears. This connection can occur during meditation, while I’m writing, playing my guitar, or while I’m just sitting quietly thinking about him.
Ultimately I’ve found that the best way to heal is to help others heal and I’ve had many opportunities to do just that. My wife and I have met a number of other families who have had a child die and we drop everything when this contact is made. We strive to help these people by listening as they share feelings and stories about their children. We become friends and offer a place of refuge where they can talk freely, as they know we’re able to relate to their circumstances. We also share our personal experiences and the reasons why we are confident in the continuity of life and consciousness after physical death.
Along these lines, I recently I co-founded an organization called “Helping Parents Heal” to meet the needs of bereaved parents. Our mission statement reads as follows:
Helping Parents Heal is a non-profit organization dedicated to assisting parents who have lost children, giving them support and resources to aid in the healing process. We go a step beyond other groups by allowing the open discussion of spiritual experiences and evidence for the afterlife, in a non-dogmatic way. Affiliate groups are expected to welcome everyone regardless of religious (or non-religious) background and allow for open dialog.
After just six months, the new organization has fifteen affiliate groups that conduct meetings in cities across the country. We presently have locations in Arizona, California, Florida, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Rhode Island, Texas, Virginia, Washington D.C., and West Virginia. I’m hopeful that this organization will continue to grow and flourish, providing a valuable resource to bereaved parents. For those people who would like to know more please visit our website www.helpingparentsheal.info