Abiding Light

Discovering Hope After Sudden Death

When a loved one dies suddenly, young, or by suicide, families and friends are often left in shock-riddled grief. Shock and stigmas often isolate and stall healing. Even as grievers are yearning to connect with others.

Abiding Light is a four-generation testimony-rich resource for those grieving this kind of loss and for the community who supports them. It can be read alone or in a group as it serves as a companion to foster compassionate care and conversation through deep grief.

Simply through reading the personal stories within Abiding Light, empathy and sympathy -given space and time- can seed courage and deeper connect through patient conversation.



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If you are navigating an excruciating and unexpected loss, this book is for you. Heidi holds nothing back as she vulnerably shares her intimate journey of grief after losing a loved one to suicide. With perspectives given from multiple family members, her words are sure to aid as a resounding reminder that you are not alone as you grapple with how to move forward.

Rebekah Lyons

Author, "Rhythms of Renewal" and "You Are Free"

Suicide is always a stone unexpectedly dropped in a family’s life, creating ripples that linger long after. Heidi Paulec knows this firsthand. In her book, Abiding Light: In the Shadow of Your Absence, Heidi writes as a witness, chronicling with honesty and hope her family’s grief, and this includes her own. The scar of her beloved cousin’s suicide remains tender to this day, but she has seen glimpses of the good—as she writes, “grace amidst the grief.” Her words are a gift.

John Blase

Poet and author

A generation ago, Eric Clapton asked if there would be “Tears in Heaven.” Living with the unexpected death of his young son, the artful, poetic song captures the heartache of anyone who has lost someone who was dearly loved. The pain is profound because it cannot not be, and there are no cheap answers.

In this tender story of a family’s response to suicide, we listen to the generations who together mourn the death of great-grandson, grandson, son, brother, and cousin, each one deeply wounded, each one differently affected. The gifted guide through this pilgrimage of pain is Heidi Paulec, and this is her family’s story of great hope that became great heartache. A tender tale for the heartbroken, yes, but also for those who long for healing, for an honest hint of hope.

Steven Garber

Author, "The Seamless Life: Weaving Together Love and Learning, Worship and Work", Senior fellow for vocation and the common good, M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust

This is a book that both survivors and those who love those survivors will want to read. Kindness and self-kindness, an awareness of our common humanity, and mindfulness are needed now more than ever, not least in the face of suicide. Embodying a loving, connected presence to ourselves and others by the power of God’s Spirit is the only lasting way out of such an abyss. I am grateful to Heidi for helping us to see that the victory of the resurrected Christ is the true center of this story—indeed, “our hope is built on nothing less.”

Christopher John Donato

Director of communication at Trinity International University, Editor of Perspectives on the Sabbath, Former senior associate editor of Tabletalk Magazine

All I can say is Heidi has written something I couldn’t look away from, despite my trepidation about the subject matter. This book approaches the exquisite pain of suicide with such poignancy that I felt privileged, as if I’d been invited into the sacred family circle to know each member, and to know Jamie. I’m so thankful Heidi doesn’t waste a word on pious cliches but walks barefooted right into the shadowy experience of human shock and loss. Her storytelling rings deeply true, and because of that, so do her words of hope and light. I see this book as a compassionate portrait of familial love tied inevitably to our individual suffering.

Christa Wells


All of us will have to walk through “The Valley of the Shadow of Death.” Some will make that agonizing journey more than once in a lifetime. Using a unique, engaging format, Heidi Paulec recalls how the suicide of a young man and the chill of the shadow impacted her, his family, and relatives. You will gain insights in this book that will help you navigate your own journey, help you comfort people who are in the midst of the shadow, and perhaps insights that can save a life. Most important, you will see that even in the depths of the shadow there is the light of hope if you will lift your eyes to see it.

Ken Davis

Author and speaker

How does death by suicide affect a tight-knit family? Heidi’s personal reflections and oral histories from four generations of family bring light to places families so often keep shrouded in darkness. Her poignant writing helps not only to answer questions surrounding one family’s experience but shows us gospel hope is never buried, and even in tragedy, God is breathing new life in the stillness.

Lisa Appelo

Widow and single mom to 7 Speaker, Bible teacher, and writer at LisaAppelo.com, Author, "Countdown to Christmas: Unwrap the Real Christmas Story with Your Family in 15 Days"

Carrying grief is often a heavy work, a sharing work, a work my human pride would prefer be perfected behind closed doors in the dark. But as we hear the cries, enter the prayers, and raise banners of hope, we encourage and endure a faith building together.”

More than a memoir, Abiding Light: In the Shadow of Your Absence is an invitation to an intimate gathering where grief and hope dance in concentric circles of familiarity. Heidi Paulec thoughtfully writes about the depths of sorrow, the corridors of questioning, and the longing for answers that may never be found even as God redeems and restores. The stories in the book are cut like gemstones as family members spanning four generations reflect on the impact of suicide. There is no attempt to distill pain into a palatable problem to be quickly resolved. Rather, every page offers a refuge for those who, like Paulec, have learned that grief tenderly finds a place to call home in the collective hearts of all who have suffered loss.

Ronne Rock

Author, One Woman Can Change the World: Reclaiming Your God-Designed Influence and Impact Right Where You Are

When the deepest sorrows of life come our way, the voice of empathy and compassion is invaluable. For while no one can say they know precisely how we feel, or just exactly how such darkness is to be navigated, the knowledge that others have traveled a similar path before us can give courage and meaning in the midst of it.

Heidi’s voice, and the voices of her family members, provide just that kind of empathetic companionship. Their honest reflections, thoughtfully and artfully collected by Heidi, are evidence that human pain can be endured when walking alongside others we love. This work promises to be a gift to anyone who knows the searing pain of loss that makes no earthly sense, for it draws that reader’s attention to the presence of Christ in the midst of it, and the hope that is available to those who wait and watch for it.

Tracy Balzer

Author, Permission to Ponder: Contemplative Wisdom for the Spiritually Distracted, Director of Christian Formation, John Brown University


Heidi L. Paulec, an author and speaker with 15 years teaching experience, holds a BS from John Brown University, a Certificate of Distinction from RZIM Academy, and has contributed to Bible studies for B1 Studies of Brave Girls Gather and Sacred Holidays. She knows wounds, wandering, and wrestling serve as invitations to intimacy with God. Walking with Him, Heidi is learning to discover, remember, and share the beauty and wonder.

She and her family make their home in Cape Coral, Florida. She is a wife, a mom to three children, and an heir to sunrises and fresh air adventures.

Photo Credit: Karyna Jackson