As part of the #PRINCEofPEACE campaign, I had an opportunity to sit down with Heidi Swapp and hear about her own journey of personal peace. For more information about the #PRINCEofPEACE, please go to mormon.org.
Many LDS youth leaders deal with situations that involve teen suicide, which is why I took the opportunity to talk to Heidi and learn from her.
Meet Heidi Swapp, wife, mother of 5, scrapbooker, storyteller and crafter. Her oldest is 19 and her youngest is 9. She served a mission in Portugal. Scrapbooking became her passion when her kids were little. She started teaching classes which led to articles, books and finally her own line of creative supplies for scrapbooking. You can find her website at heidiswapp.com.
Meet Cory, Heidi’s second son. Heidi describes him as:
- deeply compassionate
- a lover of goofy animal t-shirts
- a rugby player
- a hockey player
- loving nature, hiking and fishing
- loved snowboarding
In 9th grade, Cory started to struggle. His grades dropped. Teachers, counselors and doctors were all telling Heidi that he was suffering from anxiety and depression, but that it was typical behavior for a teenage boy.
He started to improve his sophomore year, but it didn’t last. After a series of events, Cory was finally diagnosed with severe depression. He was finally in counseling with his parents. Things started to look up again.
After several ups and downs and everyone doing all they could to help Cory, he took his life the summer of 2015.
Heidi shared some of her feelings at that time. Here they are in her own words.
“I had no idea that this was even what I was dealing with.”
“I cannot believe that he was in that place. That’s a bad place.”
‘When I walked in to the hospital, I knew I would need to plan a funeral. And that’s probably the worst realization that you can have. I was just mortified! And I had to make the call to my husband, who had only an hour before I had called him and told him that I thought we were gonna be okay. And obviously, I was in a lot of shock.”
“I remember standing by Cory (in his hospital bed) and watching the sun come up and the Spirit said to me ‘A loving Heavenly Father allowed Cory to come home.'”
“I knew immediately that my Heavenly Father knew exactly what I was feeling, but He also knew what Cory was feeling and what Cory needed.”
‘I have felt Heaven around me close, carrying me.”
“How do I tell this story? How do you spin this? What do you tell? Where do you start?”
“Suicide leaves you with a million questions.”
“We connect through stories.”
So Heidi decided to share her story with the world. In doing that she found peace.
As much as she doesn’t like the experience, Heidi has found many reasons to be grateful.
“It has been a typhoon of learning and I’m super-grateful for it.”
“There are blessings that are equal to our trials, if you’re willing to see them. If you’re bitter and angry, you won’t be able to see them.
“I was very thankful that I was able to share my story and be supported through it.”
When Heidi started shared her story, people responded with overwhelming compassion.
“When I told my story and I shared my sadness and my devastation there was this crazy-huge outpouring of love and connection and support and reassurance and I had no idea.”
People shared their own experiences through email and messages on social media and they helped Heidi understand what had happened with Cory.
“By sharing, by being open, I allowed people to help me.”
“In that situation you don’t know what you need. So it doesn’t do any good to any good for someone to say ‘what do you need’.”
The service that was done for Heidi and her family were not things she’d asked for. People tapped into their own natural ability to anticipate what they needed and did it. She said that people seemed to reflect on their own trials and what helped them.
“One of the gifts of our trials is that we get compassion.”
Her brother took her phone and answered every text, phone call and email, so that Heidi didn’t have to.
Her sister-in-law took her little kids. She took them to a movie and brought them ice cream and malts. Heidi pointed out that she was probably very upset and put her own hurt feelings aside to help.
Heidi’s friend brought over simple, healthy foods. They were foods that Heidi could stand to eat at a time when she felt she could hardly do so. She said the food just showed up in her fridge and freezer with instructions.
Right after Cory passed away, they had a trip planned. When they came back, someone had cleaned her house and bought food for them.
A neighbor who understood how hard it would be for Heidi to continue caring for her family came and collected all of their dirty laundry and washed it.
The Word of God
Heidi’s favorite verse that has carried her through this trial is:
“Let your hearts be comforted, for all things shall work together for good for them that walk uprightly.”
She shared her thoughts on what this scripture means to her.
“It doesn’t say all the things that you do perfectly right. It doesn’t say all the things you’re in control of this is really all things. Even the things that go wrong. Even the things that you didn’t plan or you didn’t like. And for me, I need to trust that what happened will combine as good for me, for my family, for Cory. That’s a promise that I need right now.”
“I believe that from the greatest trials come the greatest understanding and blessings and that is a very sustaining promise to me.”
Heidi’s story is a beautiful example of personal peace. How has Jesus Christ been your prince of peace? Share your thoughts in the comments.