Zig Ziglar pens ‘Confessions’ on grief after daughter’s d

DALLAS (BP)--He has written a dozen books that have sold more than 5 million copies. Shared the platform with three U.S. presidents and congressmen, generals and renowned scholars. Appeared on "60 Minutes," "The Today Show," "20/20" and "Hour of Power."

But when Zig Ziglar talks about the death of his oldest daughter, Suzan, his voice cracks with emotion and shrinks to a mere whisper.

The night of her death he struggled to sleep. Twice he climbed out of bed to pray and read his Bible, only to find no solace. At 3 a.m. he went downstairs and put a Bill Gaither video in the VCR.

As he listened to the soothing gospel music, the acclaimed motivational speaker finally found peace and rest. But after Ziglar arose later that morning and went for a walk, the tears returned.

"The whole walk I was praying and crying," he said. "As I got close to home the Lord just made his presence so real. He said, 'It's OK. I'm all you're going to need. Just keep walking, keep praying, keep crying.'"

The experience was both humbling and comforting, Ziglar said. That day also marked the beginning of his latest book, "Confessions of a Grieving Christian."

To be released in September by Thomas Nelson Publishers, it chronicles his valley of pain after his daughter's death on May 13, 1995. It is written in journal form, although the manuscript has been edited to tie various themes together.

Writing it was especially poignant, Ziglar said, since his 1978 best-seller, "Confessions of a Happy Christian," was created specifically for the oldest of his four children.

At the time Suzan had not accepted the Lord. Soon after its release, she read it and told him, "It's so exciting. I've never seen so much happiness jump off the pages of a book." About two weeks later she told him she had accepted Christ as her Savior.

Although she suffered from a hardening of the lungs for about five years, the end of her life at age 46 came unexpectedly, Ziglar said. Suzan left behind a husband, Chad, and two daughters, ages 15 and 12.

After her funeral, Ziglar’s pastor, Jack Graham of Dallas' Prestonwood Baptist Church, suggested the new book and its title. Writing his thoughts on grief and other reactions proved helpful in working through the process.

Still, he is not finished grieving the loss of his daughter. Thus, writing the book proved to be the toughest thing he has ever done in his life.

"The last few months were extremely difficult," Ziglar said. "I was completely drained when I got through. And yet I had a sense of peace and even some exhilaration, which seems to be a direct contradiction."

Ziglar hopes readers of his 13th book will find hope and a strengthening of their faith that will make a difference in their lives.

While he can't understand how a non-Christian could read it and not accept Christ, he realizes that isn't likely to happen every time.

"But I believe everybody who reads the book will be encouraged," he said. "And those who are Christians will walk more closely with the Lord and receive continuous hope and encouragement."

Ziglar has already begun compiling material for a second book on grief. In researching the subject, he said he hasn't found much material that provides positive direction for grief-stricken people. His new book touches the parent-child relationship, he said. But he said grief follows numerous losses, such as after a fire, natural disaster, accident, divorce, debilitating illness or career setback.

"In my opinion, grief is something you don't get over," said Ziglar, whose busy schedule includes teaching a Sunday school class at Prestonwood. "You're constantly working through it. I know three years later I'm certainly not through with my grief."

However, several things help him avoid wallowing in self-pity, he said:

-- the sense of responsibility his mother taught him. There have been times when he was tempted to give up, but he kept going because of responsibilities to his family and God.

-- the long list of tasks he believes God has for him, including teaching, speaking and writing. In addition to books and motivational materials, he pens a daily newspaper column, "Something to Smile About."

-- the blessing of good health. At 71, his health scientifically measures better than at age 45, the year he became a Christian.

-- the knowledge that Suzan is in a better place. Ziglar recalled a trip to Washington about six weeks after her death. As he and his wife, Jean, went to breakfast, he wondered aloud where Suzie was at that moment.

"Immediately I said, 'Shucks, I know where she is, she's with the Lord. And I know exactly what she's doing; she's praising him.’ The thought occurred to me that while I thought I knew where the rest of my children were, I really didn't.

"As I say in the book, if I was given a choice of taking her back, without giving it a thought, I'd say, 'Absolutely not,'" Ziglar said.

"It would be selfishness personified because she's so much better off now than when she was with us. Her mother and I, to the best of our ability, taught her to live. She taught us how to die."