Guest Post: Grieving and Growing

TreelineMMM note:  My daughter Emily keeps a private blog that only a few privileged people have access to. Yesterday she wrote something that I felt was so touching, so beautiful, that I asked her if I could share it with all of you. Even though it is deeply personal, she consented. It is a humbling and wonderful thing to watch your children morph into wise and amazing adults. I love her – you will too.

The older I get the more I realize that everyone has some little internal battle(s) they struggle with throughout their life, whether it’s on display or hidden. Strike that—by little I mean giant and hard and sometimes consuming and, even if miraculously defeated, can return if you’re not careful. Lack of self-worth, addiction, doubt, depression, the inability to be vulnerable, anxiety, fear, etc. etc. etc. These little slivers have the potential to become infected and really just kill this life of ours if we’re not careful.

I’ve been reading all of Brené Brown‘s books. (Sidenote: I LOVE Brené Brown because I feel like her ideas fit seamlessly into my gospel schema.) In Gifts of Imperfection and Daring Greatly, she preaches vulnerability and wholeheartedness and gives strategies for how to make that happen in every area of our lives. As I’ve been reading/listening to these books I’ve felt very validated—I’m great at opening my heart. I’m great at being raw. I’m great at emotional intimacy and empathy. Vulnerability is my JAM.

But I’ve also realized lately (more like re-realized, but this is the toughest one yet) that, when it comes to relationships (whether romantic or friendship) and losing things, I am TERRIBLE at recovery.

I think that my biggest sliver may be dealing with loss.

I’m reading Brown’s Rising Strong right now, and really I feel like it was written for me: “Yes, I agree with Tennyson, who wrote, ”Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.’ But heartbreak knocks the wind out of you, and the feelings of loss and longing can make getting out of bed a monumental task. Learning to trust and lean in to love again can feel impossible.” YES, BRENE! YOU GET ME! So now what?

I am doing everything I can think of and everything ever recommended to anyone to try to heal and move on. I am pouring out my soul in prayer and pondering in the temple and eating up the scriptures. I am throwing myself into work and releasing endorphins at the gym and meditating through yoga and inhaling crazy amounts of books and beginning new hobbies (cycling, here I come!).  I am spending time with friends and reconnecting with people and planning trips and saying yes to almost every invite. I’ve gone on some fun dates and some awful dates. I am journaling and reflecting and processing and recognizing why this break up was actually probably in my best interest. I feel moments of clarity and days of peace and optimism (which means I am healing) but then inevitably, some other feeling resurfaces and IT STILL HURTS SO MUCH.

The other day in the temple, I was reading Ether 12, which is a chapter on faith that I have loved for a long time. What I somehow didn’t realize though until this last reading was that faith is hard. While doubt is a huge, painful struggle for some, I’ve been blessed with the spiritual gift of faith as far as the believing part goes. But what is hard for me about faith? Going through all the crap associated with it and trusting that it is really for my benefit (or, I guess, a larger purpose). Having faith doesn’t mean that everything comes naturally! Yes, if we yoke ourselves to the Savior, our burden is light, but figuring out how to work that yoke can sometimes feel tricky. And the purpose of life isn’t just to have an easy-breezy time! The purpose is for us to have joy, but I’m discovering that joy also requires stretching and sorrow and sadness.

Yes, Alma and Amulek “caused the prison to tumble to the earth“—but they were already imprisoned before that happened. That must have sucked, and I’m sure at some point it would’ve been easy to wonder why the Lord didn’t just prevent their arrest in the first place. Yes, the “three disciples obtained a promise that they should not taste of death“—but that also means they are living thousands of years, which really seems miserable to me. It’s not like they’re just kickin’ it, living the good life. Can you imagine them being anything but productive? Yes, the brother of Jared saw God, but he also had to work his butt off and had to leave his original home and journey and build a boat and spiritually lead and provide for all these people, and that sounds HARD and draining and discouraging. But, boy, am I grateful that all these scriptural examples bucked up.

In his book The God Who Weeps (which I also read recently), Terryl Givens  eloquently elaborates on the “opposition in all things” idea: “In the Garden story, good and evil are found on the same tree, not in separate orchards. Good and evil give meaning and definition to each other. If God, like us, is susceptible to immense pain, He is, like us, the greater in His capacity for happiness. The presence of such pain serves the larger purpose of God’s master plan, which is to maximize the capacity for joy, or in other words, ‘to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.‘ He can no more foster those ends in the absence of suffering and evil than one could find the traction to run or the breath to sing in the vacuum of space. God does not instigate pain or suffering, but He can weave it into His purposes.”

and this (also Givens):

“God’s power rests not on totalizing omnipotence, but on His ability to alchemize suffering, tragedy, and loss into wisdom, understanding, and joy.” ALCHEMIZE. That is cool. My heart can be changed! I am not okay with just letting this whole thing scar over. I want a better heart! Not a damaged one. The good news that I keep reminding myself of is that I can become a new creature, like Mosiah 27—and the Spirit—tells me. My weak things can be made strong!

But all of this is in vain if I’m just limping along on my own.

So, I’m trying my best to lean in and yoke myself to the Savior, so that maybe my back will be strengthened and my burdens won’t feel as heavy, or because maybe I need to experience that burden for a season. But I think what I’m realizing is that there is power in feeling pain—if I let it change me for good. I’m not sure exactly how it works yet, but I do know that this pain is currently alchemizing my heart. I do know that my heart is going to be beautiful and strong and have an even greater ability to love and rejoice. I do know that the Atonement is real, and for that, I can get up each day and find purpose and some peace and happiness, even though the bruises haven’t healed yet.

Emily McBride

Emily red rock


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  1. From a 17 year old who has struggled with grief for the last five months and wondered why she can’t just fully recover already, thank you. Your words have spoken truth. I’ve grown so much through this trial; I guess the Lord has a little bit more learning for me to do. And that’s perfectly okay. Until then, it is my job to have faith and trust in His plan for me. My heart will heal. Thank you for sharing, Emily.

  2. Thank you Emily. It is 1130pm sitting on my porch and felt a prompting to open your Dads blog. Perfect timing for me. May our Father in Heaven and our Savior bless you for your courage. I along with all those you shared with and touched are grateful.

  3. Ether 12 was the scripture I grabbed on to when I went through a traumatic break up too. It hurts. It sucks. Emily I’m glad you are grabbing insights as you deal with this pain. For me, I ended up deciding when I was ready, that I needed to press forward without thinking of him and I could with Heavenly Father’s help. I had a set back four weeks later but after that I was fine. With time, I forgot about him and realized when I ran into him later that I had changed a lot. He was not the person for me and in fact was kind of annoying. I was so blinded by my love for him that I didn’t see that. Now I better pick up the God That Weeps that’s been getting dusty on my bookshelf. Thanks for being willing to share your private pain with a wider audience.

  4. Wow….wise beyond her years and an excellent writer like her pa. I know someone, besides myself, who needs to read this. Thanks to your Emily for letting you share this with us.

  5. I appreciated this remarkable post. I feel like I really understand her comment about “figuring out how to work that yoke.” I have a very strong faith…it is not hard for me to believe. However, learning how to effectively exercise that faith — acting instead of being acted upon (Elder Bednar) requires my stretching. Thanks, Emily.

  6. Incredible post. She perfectly articulated the feelings and emotions associated with the healing process after a breakup. I wish I would have read that after my own hard breakup a few years back (an experience I still consider one of the hardest of my life) and will definitely save this in order to share with friends in the future. Thanks for sharing!!

  7. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought this was written by someone who left your mission (Phoenix) a little over a year ago.
    Good insights and a reminder that there are many facets of the gospel that are applicable in different ways at different points in our life

  8. Another thought on Alma and Amulek, not only were they imprisoned first(where they were stripped naked, and starved), but they also had to watch their wives, children and scriptures burn. This helps me realize that I have nothing that I should be complaining about.

  9. I LOVE the last two paragraphs. This post reminds me of a quote I wrote down from Elder Maxwell from the October 1997 conference: …in addition, there are also our customized trials such as experiencing illness, aloneness, persecution, betrayal, irony, poverty, false witness, unreciprocated love, et cetera. If endured well now, “all these things” can be for our good and can “greatly enlarge the soul”, including an enlarged capacity for joy. Meek suffering often does the excavating necessary for that enlarging! This last sentence runs through my mind frequently as I experience the difficult pains of life. Thanks so much for sharing!

  10. I think that when we love someone, we never stop loving them, so it’s a sadness that is carried when we lose them, not something that is really “gotten over.” But also, the relationships that I’ve lost showed me who I really was looking for, and I found him. I have built a life for 35 years with my eternal companion, and I’m thankful for what I learned in my previous relationships that made me ready for the eternal one. We truly found joy.

  11. Emily, you’ve given me a lot to think about. I’ve been carrying the heartbreak of a loss such as yours for years. Years! But I’ve never thought of healing in this way (mostly I’ve resigned myself to enduring the heartache for this life and hope for healing in the next). And I want to go back and re-read these scriptures with this perspective you’ve shared. Thank you and God bless you.

  12. Thank you for sharing and for helping me start my day with an increased appreciation and reverence for the Lord’s plan! Best wishes for your continued growth and healing 🙂

  13. I can’t begin to express how timely this post was for me as I’ve been weeping and praying all night and morning about how to handle a difficult situation with my abusive mother who decided yesterday to drop back into my life. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for sharing your daughter’s post here. I’m certain it is an answer to my fervent prayers.

    1. AuntSue
      What wisdom, in one so young. This is such a new concept for my soul. This is how we can get a new heart. We, with our Savior’s help, can actually use pain, suffering, striving and love to make a great change in our hearts. Alchemy, what a concept, turning the broken dross of our hearts into perfected gold.

  14. Thank you for sharing! My daughter has had an extremely rough year at school. These insights will be helpful as she continues to emerge from the pain and grow from the experience.

  15. Wow, Emily, THANK YOU so much for this amazing insight. I will be reading those books you quoted ASAP, as you have summarized my feelings for the past two years so succinctly in this blog post. Thank you.

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