Dawn's Reviews > Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back

Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo
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's review
Mar 09, 2012

it was ok
bookshelves: read-in-2012, other

I'm not sure how I feel about this book. When I lost my son last year, I got a lot of the "he's in heaven now, and you'll be with him again some day" comments. And I wanted to believe, I really did.. But I've always had a problem with faith. It would be so much easier for me to accept losing him, if I could truly have faith in him being safe and happy in a better place. But it's a hard thing to believe... Try though I might.

Several people in a Compassionate Friends support meeting recommended this book to me, and said it might help me find some faith.. Might make it a little easier for me really believe that my son is in a better place. So I read it.. And I'm not sure what I feel.

First of all, I'm not quite sure that this is a book that a parent who lost a young child should read. It tells the story of a family that almost loses a young child, and that alone triggered a lot of emotions. Longing for my son.. Sadness at his loss.. And jealousy. Because this family almost lost a son, while I did lose my son.

There's a line near the end, that really upset me...

Speaking of Colton’s experience in heaven, people have said to us, “Your family is so blessed!” In the sense that we’ve had a glimpse through the veil that separates earth from eternity, they’re right. But I also think, Blessed? We watched our son almost die.

I read this and I think... Yes, you are blessed. You watched your son almost die. But you have him with you now, he's growing up and is healthy and happy. You are blessed beyond belief.

While it did give me a lot to ponder.. It also did wonders for the guilt I feel because of my loss and the circumstances surrounding it. And I mean that in a not so good way.. It goes on and on about how they prayed and prayed, and God granted them their wish, God let them keep their son. I didn't pray, because I had no faith, I didn't believe, or at the least I didn't care. I saw no need to, I didn't know he could be taken from me. Is my son gone because of my lack of prayer? Because of my lack of belief? Because I didn't appreciate his mortality? If I had prayed the right prayer, could I have saved him? Was I not a good enough person to save him? I know these questions are silly in a way. Scratch that, I know they are silly in every way. But reading this story brought the questions repeatedly into my mind, it wasn't something I could help.

And the questions, of course, don't stop there.. Beyond those questions, were the questions that those questions inevitably led to. If the answer to those questions is yes... And it's my fault because I lacked faith.. The question isn't "Why me?" it's "Why my son?" Why did he have to be punished for my wrongs and for my lack of faith? But like I said... These sort of thoughts aren't new to me. These are questions I deal with every day, and eventually hope to work through. Reading this story just amplified them for a short period of time.

For that reason, I definitely wouldn't recommend this book to anyone who has lost a young child and is still dealing with the grief and guilt associated with that loss. Beyond that.. I need time to think about this story, to process it, discuss it, research it. I want to believe.. I want to make the right choices so I can be with my son again one day, if that's a possibility. But to make the right choices, and to believe.. I have to do it right. I have to find real faith, not conditional faith (faith based on the condition that I'll get to be with my son). It's not something that can happen over night.. But I hope one day to find peace.

With that, I'll end this review. It's been a revealing one, and I'm hesitant to post it. But... It's a part of who I am now. I have to embrace it or hide it.. And I won't hide Lucas.
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Reading Progress

March 9, 2012 – Started Reading
March 9, 2012 – Shelved
March 9, 2012 –
March 9, 2012 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-31)

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message 31: by Stephen (new)

Stephen Dawn...thank you for sharing this. As a father, I can't imagine enduring what you have but I really admire your strength. This was very moving and I absolutely love the last five words of your review.

message 30: by Chris (new)

Chris ♥ you much, Dawn.

message 29: by [deleted user] (new)

I hope you do find peace, in whatever form it comes.

*hug* :)

message 28: by Becky (new)

Becky ♥ you.


message 27: by Jim (new)

Jim Excellent review, Dawn. You nailed it when you said, "I read this and I think... Yes, you are blessed. You watched your son almost die. But you have him with you now, he's growing up and is healthy and happy. You are blessed beyond belief."

That's so true. I've spent too many weeks in critical care units with my kids &, while it is horrible, they made it. The impossibly bleak horror that I felt when I first saw my son with his chest crushed - to have it never end? I can't imagine.

message 26: by Jackie (new)

Jackie Ala wrote: "I hope you do find peace, in whatever form it comes.

*hug* :)"

^ Ditto this sentiment.

*lots of love and hugs*

message 25: by Kathy (new)

Kathy *Hugs* Dawn! Wish I could do more.

message 24: by Tori (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tori I can only imagine how hard it would be to read this having gone through that. But i'm glad you gave your perspective for those that have. I'm sure they appreciate your review.

Cassie I wish I could tell you about the peace that my family and I have found from God. My cousins lost their ten year old son to an unknown and incurable disease. Their faith, well our faith really (because we believe the same way and have the same faith) helped them get through it. I'm so sorry for your loss. I know for me losing my cousin was bad enough, but I cant imagine losing a child. I wish I could tell you about Jesus and how He gave us the peace to know that my cousin is in heaven and how we can see him someday if we simply believe on Him. I know you have to find this on your own, and that it might just sound like I'm trying to force something on you. I'm not, really I promise I'm not. I just wish I could tell you.

Jasmine I'm sorry about your child. It's okay to be hesitant. It's not easy to believe in God or heaven. But like everything else in life, practice makes perfect. It won't come naturally, but maybe skimming through the book every once in while will help if you want to try believing.

message 21: by CJC (new) - rated it 1 star

CJC I am so sorry you lost your son. I cannot imagine. No it isn't because you didn't pray! What an awful idea that some are saved because they or others begged enough. I can't believe that's true it is too horrific.

message 20: by Matt (new) - rated it 1 star

Matt I am very sorry for your loss, as the other commenters say. I'm glad you see through the veil of bullcrap that this book is trying to feed you. The logical fallacies within religion are legion and they lead only to pain and suffering for those who already suffer. How? With the very questions you began asking yourself. "Why me?" and books like this reply "Because you deserved it! You didn't think like we did so you got what was coming!" It's abhorrent, but it's a commonality with religion throughout human history (as I should know, as I study history).

Do not let this book or any other cloud your thoughts. Your son died for the same reason as everyone else: because all things die. Atoms, people, stars, planets, plants, everything. It isn't your fault, it isn't some imaginary and utterly monstrous god's fault, etc. This is simply something that occurs.

I'm deeply saddened that someone shoved this tripe down your throat and worsened your pain with it. I hope you are able to find the strength to live your life as best you can after losing your son. All the best.

Jasmine If you were really sorry, you wouldn't say such insulting things right after you said it. She didn't say she completely rejected the thought of religion, and if you were religious, which quite obviously you're not, you'd know that it causes both suffering and happiness. Nothing in the world causes only suffering. There is nothing in the world that doesn't have a bright side. Try looking from the inside instead of the outside. I'm religious, and from my point of view, a belief in a higher being sometimes eases my suffering.

I'm not saying you should automatically become religious because of what I just said, but try not to be so close-minded about it.

Emily Thank you for your post. I am so sorry you lost your child. I cannot imagine it. God does not punish us for our lack of faith by taking loved ones. People of faith loose loved ones too, even children. A friend of mine was a Methodist minister. He lost his sister after many had prayed for a cure. He always found it tough when people said, because of prayer I (or my relative/friend) was cured. What about those that weren't, he would say. That doesn't mean that God isn't real and that he doesn't care. I know it is hard for you and I hope that you find some answers to give you peace.

TNixx I also want to thank you for your post. I am also in the midst of my grief after losing my infant son. When I read this book I couldn’t help to wonder if maybe I had said more prayer that maybe just maybe he would have made it. I feel mixed emotions about this book and absolutely agree with everything that you have noted. It's hard to understand why some children make it and other little ones don't. Big HUGS from one grieving parent to another.

message 16: by Dawn (new) - rated it 2 stars

Dawn Terri wrote: "I also want to thank you for your post. I am also in the midst of my grief after losing my infant son. When I read this book I couldn’t help to wonder if maybe I had said more prayer that maybe j..."

I'm so sorry for your loss. If there's any way I can help, or if you need someone to talk to who understands a little of what you are feeling, feel free to send me a message.

Heather Dawn, I could not have said this any better. I felt a lot of the same feelings you have said. Like you I lost my son a year ago.

Shelli Bless you in your journey, Dawn. Thank you for sharing your feelings.

message 13: by Julie (new) - added it

Julie Reinert I've never read this book and I've never lost anyone close to me so I can only imagine what you went and are going through. Can I suggest you read One Thousand Gifts? She lost her baby sister and talks about all of those questions and how she found peace. Really a great book.

message 12: by Gary (new) - rated it 4 stars

Gary Hill I am so sorry for your loss. I hurt with you. I believe with all my heart that heaven is real and I will pray that someday you will also. Again, I am very sorry.

terry & Cathy Stenger I am so sorry for your loss. I can hear the pain in your words. I also suddenly lost my daughter when she was 13. I choose to believe what is written in God's word and it brings great peace. Guilt is a natural response to all of us imperfect people who think we can control so much. I pray you will find peace and comfort as you grieve.

Cindy Faith is believing in things which are unseen but true. I know that I will see my loved ones again someday and that gives me immeasurable peace. I truly hope that you can find the rest you seek. I know I have found it in a loving savior.

Tonya Hi Dawn, I'm sorry for the loss of your son. I have never experienced the joy of having a child, nor the pain of losing one, so I can't imagine what you are going through.

I wish to answer the questions you asked if you would allow me. "Is my son gone because of my lack of prayer? The answer is no, we all have our limited time on Earth. I do not know why some are shorter than others. I just know it's not something we can control. Because of my lack of belief? No, when it rains whether we want it or not we all experience the same rain. Matthew 5:45 Because I didn't appreciate his mortality? No. The time would still come, it's not something we get to decide. If I had prayed the right prayer, could I have saved him? The answer is no. There is no "right" prayer to make the out come be what we want it to be. Faith is believing that no matter the out come God will be with us. Was I not a good enough person to save him?" I don't know a way to say this that doesn't cause more pain to a loving mother. As much as we love someone, we can't save them or prevent bad things from happening to them. Jesus Christ is the only one who can save.
Your questions are not silly, they are normal questions that every one asks. Is there something more I could have done that would change the out come? The answer is no. God does not conform to our ways, we conform to his ways. I hope this has shined some truth and light on some of the questions you are struggling with. Peace, Love and God Bless, Tonya

message 8: by Kristin (new)

Kristin Oh Dawn, I'm so sorry to hear about your son. Thank you for writing such a personal and moving review. You actually discuss a reason why I truly dislike most religion: the myopic and cruel "us vs. them" of the saved few among the damned remaining. Even as a child being raised Catholic, it struck me as mean and small--the action of a human and not a god. It makes me angry and hurt to think that someone else's prejudice (the Burpo father) could make you question your own experience and wonder at your actions, as if any but a psychotic god would choose followers who praised him/her over those who questioned. I am truly sorry for that and I wonder at the callousness of people who can believe those things.

Just in case you might be interested in another near death experience book, I've heard some people recommend this book, "Proof of Heaven", which is a neurosurgeon's story of his own near death experience after contracting E. coli meningitis at age 54. Though many are still credulous, some reviewers found the author to be relatively fair and open-minded; many seem impressed with the book. Though I don't usually read NDE books, from what I've seen, it looks kind of interesting. The author is Dr. Ebel Alexander.

Best to you. :)

message 7: by Karri (new)

Karri Dove Dawn, when my grand dad died I was a scared little girl about death and I can tell you I have wondered the same questions you have. One of my close friends lost her son in an accident around 2008, my ex was killed in a car accident in 2009 and my best friend died in 2010. I totally gave up on faith, religion and God. You just want to know why people are taken away like they are. I'm slowly coming back to having a little faith but I've never really been that religious. I do on the other hand want to believe we all go to Heaven if it exists or something like it. You do what makes you comfortable. I'm with you on this book even though I haven't read it. Why would God answer someone else's prayer better than any other person? I am so sorry for your loss. I hope you find peace and a book that helps you with what you are feeling. Take Care!

Patricia Tienken-boman So sorry Dawn!

message 5: by Wendy (new) - added it

Wendy In light of what we know about our eternal destiny, is it any wonder that whenever we face the bitter endings of life, they seem unacceptable to us? There seems to be something inside of us that resists endings.

Why is this? Because we are made of the stuff of eternity. We are eternal beings, children of the Almighty God, whose name is Endless and who promises eternal blessings without number. Endings are not our destiny.

Just a thought I wanted to share. I had a near death experience when I was 7 during a tonsilectomy. It was not nearly so elaborate, but very real. People who pray lose children every day and people who don't have children who pull through. I think it is definitely not that simple, and a God who loves us would not be so cruel as to only love those who pray.

Sorry for your loss! I lost my mother recently and I can't even begin to imagine what you went through!

Patricia I love this, what you wrote! Not what you went through! I don't know what I would do if I lost my son! And I wouldn't want to read this book if I had!
I heard someone once say, that death is not a matter of "how much you pray, or the lack of prayer." And that no one ever truly gets of losing someone they love!
I'm sorry you have to go through the grief, but I believe God loves his children, and that the children who die young are the better ones!

message 3: by Karen (new)

Karen Dawn, I totally agree with you. I lost two sons shortly after birth due to genetic issues. Your questions are not silly. I felt the same way. I prayed through my entire pregnancy with my second son and he studied. I often asked, did I do something wrong? Why was I not good enough for the miracle? Thank you for your thoughts. I will think harder before reading this book

message 2: by Karen (new)

Karen So sorry. I meant to say,he still died.

message 1: by Khushboo (new)

Khushboo *Hugs*
This is very moving and I m thankful that you chose to write this review. Faith should never be conditional.

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