Does everything in our lives happen the way it does for a specific reason?

An enlightened perspective on death and loss.What are the patterns of interconnectedness between our Souls?

The following is excerpted from Embracing Death:  A New Look at Grief, Gratitude and God

By Terri Daniel,  with Danny Mandell – Copyright  2010 –


Family Ties:

In keeping with the idea of soul mates and soul families, this chapter delves more deeply into pre-birth contracts, volunteer agreements and the ways in which everything works interdependently by looking at how our life plans are packaged into scenarios that teach us specific lessons on earth.

I’ve used several examples from my own life, and quote my guides rather extensively here, because they’ve answered my questions with such clarity when I’ve asked about why certain situations happened the way they did.

I’d like to start by sharing some stories from a children’s grief recovery camp where I volunteered for two summers.

The weekend camp is run by our local hospice and is offered free of charge to children in the community who’ve experienced the death of a loved one. Volunteers are specially trained to be compassionate listeners for the children, because many of the kids never had the chance to talk openly about their experiences.

Many of those experiences were incomprehensibly dreadful.

A surprisingly large percentage of the kids had experienced the suicide of a parent, and because of the family’s shame, horror and denial, were discouraged from asking questions or talking about the event. One eight year-old told me that when his mother died mysteriously, nobody in his family would give him any information about what happened.  Being an inquisitive and assertive child, he went door-to-door in his neighborhood asking people if they could tell him what happened to his mother.

I don’t know how he eventually figured out that it was a suicide, but thankfully, someone in his family was wise enough to send him to our camp, where he got some much-needed support.

Some of the deaths I’ve heard about at camp are less controversial, such as car wrecks or illnesses, but in every situation, the children benefit tremendously from spending time with other kids who’ve had similar experiences. They also respond beautifully to the rituals and processes we do throughout the weekend to help them deal with their grief.

On Saturday afternoon we set up an arts & crafts area so the kids can make “memory boats” out of large pieces of bark from the local trees (donated by the local loggers). They decorate the bark boats with moss, twigs, flowers, feathers and scraps of paper on which they write messages to their loved ones.

On Sunday morning we go to the river and set the little boats adrift as a visual expression of releasing and letting go. Some of the kids run alongside the river following their boats as far as they can, and others simply stand still, watching the boats disappear around the bend.

This, and other rituals like it, gives the kids an outlet for expressing their pain by creating physical objects, movements and symbols that bring their feelings from a wordless, lonely world into tangible physical reality.

Another boy I met — I’ll call him Jacob — was 11 years old when he first came to camp, even though his mother’s suicide had occurred six years earlier.

Jacob was exceptionally bright and surprisingly open about his experiences. He told me that he wanted to be a grief counselor when he grew up, and that he’d already become involved as a peer counselor in a grief recovery group organized by his school.

As Jacob and I bonded over the weekend, he revealed bits and pieces of his story.

When he was five years old, he slept on a cot in his mother’s bedroom. One night while sleeping, he heard a loud noise that woke him up. He looked across the dark room to where his mother slept in her bed and thought it was odd that she had ketchup on her head, but he didn’t think much of it and soon went back to sleep.

When he woke up in the morning he discovered that she’d shot herself in the head.

After he told me this story, I went into the woods, where I wailed and cried for ten minutes before I could return to camp with some semblance of composure.

I could not in a thousand lifetimes understand why a mother would do such a thing to a child.

I realized that my own grief experiences were a walk in the park compared to this.

What was lesson here? What kind of agreement did the souls of Jacob and his mother have?

It isn’t just an agreement between Jacob and his mother. It is an agreement between a large soul group of which these two were members, and also touches the many souls Jacob will work with as a grief counselor in the future.

The mother had been tormented for many lifetimes and this was not her first suicide. Jacob has been her friend, lover, father, mother and caregiver through many incarnations, and has felt responsible for her.

Her gift to him with this suicide, as difficult as it may be to see this event as a gift, was to release him from being so deeply enmeshed in the caregiver role with her so that he could carry the caregiving energy forward as a teacher and counselor for others.

In this lifetime Jacob is working through learning that he cannot change the plan of another soul.Are we all really interconnected, spiritually? Even strangers?

He has done this dance with his mother’s soul many times. They have decided together that she would end this cycle in a dramatic way, though he is now also a caregiver to his father, friends and family members and continues to work with the caregiver energy.

What he will learn here is a final understanding that he is not in charge or responsible for another’s choices.

This is a lesson his soul has chosen. There is no easy or painless way to learn this lesson.


My  Metaphysical  Family  Tree:

Although I believe in reincarnation (a curriculum of cosmic learning would not be possible without it), I’ve never been as interested in the details of my past lives as some people are.

I know dozens of mediums, channelers and psychics who do past life readings for their clients, complete with intimate details of relationships, causes of death, locations, periods in history and even names. While these details are interesting, they’re not always necessary, because all that matters is the energy we’re working with from one lifetime to the next.

So for Jacob to work with the energy of caregiving, he would incarnate in a number of different scenarios to bring that energy forward.

In ancient Egypt he might have worked in the healing arts as part of his training as a caregiver. And in 20th century England he might have been a female prostitute, which would give him the experience of female powerlessness and despair. You can see how these experiences would fit into the work he’s doing in this lifetime with his mother.

To best illustrate this, I’m going to share an intimate piece of my personal history, because it reveals how deep the patterns of interconnectedness between souls can be. Most of this information was channeled via Danny and my other guides, so the best way I can express it is to use their words exactly as I received them.

But in order to understand this, it’s necessary to give you some background information. When I was a young woman I had three unplanned pregnancies.

I terminated the first two, and the third was a life threatening ectopic pregnancy that resulted in the removal of one of my fallopian tubes. Since I was certain that I never wanted children and didn’t want another unwanted pregnancy, I asked the doctor to “tie” the remaining tube while he was doing the surgery to remove the damaged one.

Fast forward a decade or so and I have now married Jim, a stable, devoted man who wanted children more than anything in the world.

We spent a couple of years trying various fertilization technologies that all failed, and eventually we ended up adopting Danny.

Danny’s birth mother was a lovely young woman named Erika, and Erika’s mother — Danny’s biological grandmother — was Paula, who died when Danny was two years old (and now appears frequently in my meditations).

Four years later Jim and I divorced, and a few years after that Danny was diagnosed with the disease that ended his physical life. The disease was genetic. Although we were divorced, Jim stayed quite close to us and was an attentive, supportive father before Danny’s illness.

But after Danny got sick, Jim slowly faded from Danny’s life, feeling that caregiving and the emotional burden of a dying child was too much for him to bear.

I was curious about why Jim would write a disabled, dying child into his life plan and then choose not to receive the lessons offered in that scenario.

Of course I was quickly corrected by my guides about my interpretation of this. Jim received the exact lessons his soul needed for its current evolutionary status, and his curriculum tied in perfectly to everybody else’s.

If Jim had stayed involved in Danny’s life, the pieces in the kaleidoscope would have shifted into a different pattern.

The pattern we had to work with was designed precisely to further the growth of our collective souls. My guides have explained to me that Jim, Erika, Paula and the other players in this story were part of an agreement to bring Danny in as my son, which was part of a plan to usher me toward my current work as a spiritual teacher.

This plan was also designed to move Danny forward as a healer in the higher realms, which is the work he has chosen, and is an inextricable part of my work.

Danny’s relationship with Jim was also part of this work, because the experience of abandonment is now part of Danny’s knowledge base, which he uses to help others.

The focus of Danny’s work as a teacher in Heaven is to help people see Heaven through human relationships. A network of family ties that includes past lives and pre-birth agreements gives a whole new meaning to the concept of six degrees of separation. Because the branches are so far- reaching and the roots go so deep, and because soul groups ultimately include everybody in the universe, it’s impossible to trace a complete family tree.

The bottom line is that we’re all in this together.

We’re all connected.

Those of you who’ve read my previous book may remember how I met a guide named Arlen during a meditation. I was told that he serves as a teacher to Danny in Heaven and has been incarnated with both Danny and me in several lifetimes. I never had any details about those lifetimes because I never felt the need to ask, but one day those details came to me quite by surprise via this unexpected dialog with Danny about our family ties:

ME: Was that you in my pregnancies? Were you trying to come through and I rejected you?losses in life may be exquisitely orchestrated to help your soul learn the lessons it has requested..

DANNY: Yes, but I didn’t come through then because it wasn’t the right time for my birth. The termination of those pregnancies and the ectopic pregnancy that resulted in sterilization created physical and emotional conditions that eventually led you to adoption.

And through adoption we were able to get the genetic defect that caused my illness.

Those events were necessary to create the right circumstances for our life plan, and those circumstances were a result of the pregnancies.

The genetic code from my birth mother Erika produced my illness and my death, which was a huge growth step for all of us. Adoption also brought Erika’s mother Paula into our lives, who has been a spirit guide to you for many lifetimes. Everything needed to be in place for this phase of our work to begin, so the pregnancies were necessary to create the right circumstances.

It is that way in every life. Everything happens the way it does for a very specific reason.

ME: Why is Paula one of my guides? I feel her presence all the time.

DANNY: Ah, beautiful Paula, she is a source of goddess/mother energy to both of us. In fact, she has been just that, our mother, in past lives.

I am giving you a vision right now of all of us in an ancient, sun-baked land. It is Rome, where you are a daughter to Paula and I am your little brother. Arlen is also there, and he is a constant presence in our life, always in our house, but he is not Paula’s husband. Paula’s husband, our father, has died. Arlen tends the land, like a caretaker. He has always been a caretaker for our family, much like he is now from the higher realms.

We lived in comfort, not really wealth, but certainly in the upper classes. Paula’s husband left her wealth and property. We lived in peace, and there was music, art and joy in our lives.

Arlen was our teacher, but because he was poor, like a slave or a serf, he could not be recognized as a teacher (most great teachers create a life of poverty). His wealth comes from the soul, and he is loved by many people.

You and I often played in the garden with him, which is why you first saw him in your meditations up in a tree picking fruit. This is actually a past life memory of Arlen in a tree, working. This is how your soul remembers him from this particular incarnation. Paula lived a good life and died an old woman. There was a lot of peace and comfort in this lifetime.

ME: I’m getting the sense that Arlen went away after a while. He died?

DANNY: He died in an accident in a field. He fell out of a tree.

ME: C’mon, you’re kidding me! Is that a joke?

DANNY: You don’t believe that do you? You think you’re making it up rather than hearing it from me. This is an excellent exercise in channeling. Why did you see him in a tree in your first vision? Why would it not be possible that all this ties together? His death left a huge impression on you. You were a young girl. You were in love with him, but he was older. It was a little girl crush. It many ways this affected your lifelong pattern of loss with men.

ME: He is my original father figure?

DANNY: Yes, and your first love. Remember, our father had died. So you lost him, then Arlen. You were 12 when Arlen died. You and I were like any typical brother and sister, playing in the garden dirt, teasing each other. You followed Arlen around everywhere, like a puppy. He taught you about gardening and land, which is why you love it so much now.

ME: What happened to you? I’m getting the impression that you went away too. To a war or something. I lost you too?

DANNY: I did go to war for a short time, and traveled far away. I was a man, and this is what men did. I went off to earn a living, sometimes as a solider, sometimes a laborer, a jack of all trades, always traveling. I became enamored of the other cultures I visited and stayed to study wherever I went. I became a teacher, much like Arlen. He guided me from Heaven.

ME: So I was left all alone?

DANNY: You weren’t alone. You had Paula. You took care of her until she died. This is part of the reason she takes care of you now.

ME: And then she died too! My big loss story!

DANNY: Yes, it is your big loss story. This is why you are teaching people to cope with grief and loss now.

You teach people to look at loss with new eyes.  How could you teach this if you hadn’t spent lifetimes learning to see it differently? That is your true gift. You are teaching people how to understand death and loss with a more enlightened perspective. It is that simple.

ME: So now what? Am I going to have these intense losses over and over again in this lifetime?

DANNY: You will have the same losses that all people have, because it is important for you to understand their losses in order to help them. The difference is that you will see the losses differently. They will not traumatize you like they do others. And you will be able to help others find a new way to understand these experiences.

Part of your plan for this incarnation was to receive Divine input. You prayed for this since you were a teenager, and every event in your life has supported that prayer. In order to know God, your heart had to be open, and in order for it to open, you had to know God.

It’s a cosmic Catch 22.

Pain contributes to the flexibility of the heart, and without it you would not recognize the jeweled lessons you are receiving. You have asked to work closely with the guides, and in order to do this, your heart must be flexible.

This is a true commitment to God, because it is painful to have an open heart, as you have learned. But it is also the most direct route to receiving from the Divine.

how can we begin to understand the multitude of ways in which we are all intricately connected?

I was utterly surprised to receive this much information about a past life without even asking for it, and I marveled at how much sense it made.

It’s true that I can never look at anything the same way again, not just as a result of Danny’s death, but as a result of the amazing perspective I’ve been given in regard to all the losses I’ve had through my various lifetimes. The learning curve is obvious.

The story I just told about this past life with Danny involved soul family members who incarnated together frequently.


By contrast, I now want to share a story about how a group of strangers can also serve each other’s growth.

In this case, these strangers became a vital part of my work as a metaphysical grief counselor. It’s a great example of how deep our soul connections and patterns of perfection can go.

One day my friend Harold — a man in his 80s — gifted me with an old book called Invisible Helpers, which he’d unearthed while cleaning out his attic. Harold knows my spiritual proclivities, and knew the book was meant for me. It was published by the Theosophical Society in 1912 (they’re big on after-death communication) and written by C. W. Leadbeater.

I read most of it with great interest, and then added it to the pile of unfinished books on my bedside table with a bookmark at the end of chapter nine. Around this time I got a postcard in the mail from the General Motors Corporation informing me of a recall on a part of the car I’d recently purchased. I had to bring the car to a dealership in the next town to have the part replaced, so I asked my friend Kelsey to meet me there and drive me home after I dropped off my car.

After turning my car over the mechanics and the dealership, Kelsey called my cell phone to tell me she was running late, so I went to the reception area to wait for her.

In the reception area was a television tuned to a local news channel, and I entered the room just in time to see a news segment about a 5 year-old boy who’d hit his head on a rock while playing in a rock quarry with his older brother.

I was mesmerized by the story and felt intense pain for the family, especially for the brother who would probably struggle with guilt for the rest of his life.

I said a silent prayer to my guides, especially to Danny, asking them to stand with this family and help them.  They instantly gave me an image of the boy arriving in Heaven, and I heard Danny say, “He is a member of our soul family. Don’t worry. We’ve got him.”

Can we even have soul agreements with perfect strangers in this lifetime?

A couple of important points to note here:

  • I do not have local TV channels on my cable system, and as long as I’ve lived in this area I’ve never seen the local news.
  • I would not have seen that report if I hadn’t gone to the car dealership that day and if Kelsey had been on time.
  • There was clearly a reason for me to see that story.


For the next few days all I could think about was those two brothers. I felt the dead boy’s presence around me constantly, and I even made some calls to people in our community who knew the family, and offered to help in any way I could. I was assured that the family had a strong church network and had all the spiritual help they needed.

I knew there was nothing I could do — in the physical world — to help them.

A few nights later I lay in my bed unable to sleep, feeling agitated and obsessed about this family. I noticed The Invisible Helpers on the bedside table and thought that reading might help put me to sleep. I opened the book to where I’d left the bookmark at the end of Chapter nine and turned the page to the beginning of Chapter 10.

The name of the chapter was The Two Brothers.

The chapter was about two brothers who lived in 1897 Scotland — Walter and Lancelot. They were out riding horses together when Lancelot fell off his horse, hit his head on a rock and died. Walter was destroyed by grief and guilt, wouldn’t eat or leave his bed, and his parents thought he was dying of a broken heart.

In this story, the spirit of Lancelot stood by Walter’s side the whole time, but Walter was too grief stricken and emotional to see it. So Lancelot asked his guides to help him manifest a visual image of himself for Walter to see, so that Walter would be comforted and assured that Lancelot was not really gone.

I knew this story had come to me on this particular day for a reason. It didn’t come last week or last month when I’d started reading the book. It came today, after a week of agonizing about the boy who died in the rock quarry. But, why? What was the connection? How was this boy part of my soul family?


“The magnificent timing of these events — the boy’s death, your trip to the car dealership and the reading of Chapter 10 in the book — is part of a powerful teaching your soul has requested. You have felt confident about offering healing and guidance to parents who’ve lost a child to illness, but have felt inadequate to help parents who’ve experienced a child’s sudden, seemingly preventable death.

You have asked, from the depth of your soul, for teaching tools to help you address this topic with confidence, and we — your invisible helpers — led you to this experience to help expand your understanding.

“You would not have heard the news if you’d not taken your car to the service center that day. You might have been in the bathroom or out talking to the mechanic while that news segment aired, or Kelsey might have been on time. A series of Divine directional signals fell into alignment to make it possible for the requested tools to arrive.

“Everybody involved, from the boy and his family to Kelsey and the man who gave you the book, were part of this plan. On a soul level we are all connected this deeply, though on the earth plane we may appear to be strangers.

“There are no coincidences, and timing is always perfect. If you’d read the story about Walter and Lancelot prior to hearing about the boy’s death in the rock quarry, it would have been just an interesting story, and your soul would not have touched into it in the same way. So it was necessary to put the book aside for a few weeks, see the news report, and then pick up the book again to see the story about the two brothers in Scotland. This is how all human events are guided. This is how patterns of perfection work. Today was an exercise in these patterns for you.

“As you know, every death transforms the people who are attached to that transitioning soul, and in this case, you and I have a connection to the soul of the boy for teaching purposes. He is part of your story because his death will have a profound impact on a new direction you take with your teaching.

“You are thinking about how to help the guilt-filled brother. You think you can pray for his protection from guilt and suffering or for his comfort or peace. But you know that you can’t protect him from that, because a struggle with guilt is part of his lesson plan. Certainly you can pray that someone will have comfort, but how will they access that comfort? How will it reach them? Will they be open to receiving it?

“The only prayer that has any effect is a prayer that asks for an opening to higher guidance.

“In the story of Walter and Lancelot, the only way to comfort poor Walter was to give him a vision of his dead brother. In other words, to open a conduit to the Divine. Asking for that opening is the only intervention you can request for another person. The most powerful prayer for the grieving brother is one that asks that the guides and helpers will be allowed access to his consciousness so he can receive their support.”

 There are no such things as coincidences - and timing is always perfect.That summer at the hospice grief camp for children, I met a beautiful, melancholy girl about 13 years old.

We worked together on some craft projects and also shared some time doing outdoor activities before she told me her story.

She told me that her 5 year-old brother had died only three months earlier by hitting his head while playing in a rock quarry.

Yes, it was the same boy, and in addition to the sister, the older brother was at camp that year too, though I never had the opportunity to meet him and I never knew until that day that there was a sister.

I wondered if I should tell her the story of my seeing the news report at the car dealership, reading that chapter and receiving information from my guides, but I decided against it. In hospice work, we’re trained to avoid discussing metaphysical topics with bereaved families (a policy that I don’t fully support, as you’ll see in Chapter 8).

Instead, I held her and cried with her, saying a silent prayer that she would one day take a very deep breath and release her pain to Heaven, where guidance, comfort, joy and wisdom could be found.

The following was excerpted from Embracing Death:  A New Look at Grief, Gratitude and God; by Terri Daniel, with Danny Mandell – Copyright  2010 –


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