Each week, spiritual teacher Deepak Chopra responds to Oprah.com users' questions with enlightening advice to help them live their best lives.
Q: When I was a very young child, I started asking myself questions like: "Who am I?" "What is a soul?" "Do I have one?" "What happens when we die?" Although I was educated in a Catholic school, I could not find answers that would really satisfy me. Instead, I got frustrated over time.
Some years ago, I started searching for books and have read almost all your books and have transformed myself. I went from a state of "wanting to believe" to "knowing." I started meditating twice a day (morning and night), and I became calmer, more tolerant with others and happier because I now know that we are beings of light and that our real power comes from within.
However, last year in November, I lost my brother Francisco, who was 42. He died in a accident at work. In fact, he was a hero because he died saving a colleague's life. It was and has been very difficult because I miss him very much, but I know that his soul is now at home, and I feel at peace.
My problem is my dad, who is 72, and whom I love dearly. Francisco was his beloved son and also his soul mate, so he is very angry with life, with God, and feels absolutely miserable. Although he is a very intelligent man, and I've been trying to help him accept the facts as they are, he is very skeptical and suffers very much. Could you please share your immense wisdom and give me some ideas of how I can help my father? Thank you very much.
— Joaquina R., Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal
I am inspired by your candor and faithfulness to everyone in this situation—yourself, your father and your departed brother. But I'm afraid that we must begin with realities. I must assume that your father was also brought up as a Catholic, in which case he faces two possibilities: either his faith isn't bringing solace or else he left the faith some time in the past.
My sense with almost everyone who leaves their religion is that they think of that step as progress. They feel a sense of freedom and maturity in giving up organized religion. But somehow this sense of progress is not matched with a new spiritual vision. This leaves such people, more often than not, bitter and bereft when a crisis befalls them. I don't mean any crisis, but the kind that religion addresses by assuring the faithful in advance that a set of answers applies to them: God is merciful, the departed are in heaven, tests of faith occur for a reason that only the Almighty can fathom.
Your father is adrift. The old answers don't work, and he hasn't found new answers. Or to be candid, he has found new answers, but they are empty, skeptical, bitter and devoid of soul or spirit. I can only sympathize, because when you give up on the old answers, new ones don't come automatically. They require seeking, and your father doesn't want to seek. Not now, at least, when his hurt is too painful and he can barely handle it.
If I were you, I would comfort him emotionally and stop challenging him spiritually. You aren't doing any good, and by making him feel that you are apart from him, he can suffer doubly—it's not fair to deprive him of two children. You aren't doing that, but inside he feels that you are. Your job now is to comfort and bond with him. Time will bring an end to the most acute pain he is feeling. At a certain point he may be inspired to seek new answers because of this crisis. But that is his decision, to be made as his own spirit dictates.
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Deepak Chopra is the author of more than 50 books on health, success, relationships and spirituality, including his current best-seller, Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul, and The Ultimate Happiness Prescription, which are available now. You can listen to his show on Saturdays every week on SiriusXM Channels 102 and 155.
Published on February 10, 2010