Acknowledging my Pain–Getting me through it

A month after my daughter passed away, I found myself in church listening to a lesson about trials.
I was hoping to find some guidance and peace but instead found the opposite was happening:  I heard comment after comment about the need to rejoice in our trials and tribulations.

My husband could tell that I was getting agitated. I saw him ever so slightly shaking his head as if to say, “Just don’t say anything.”  My husband knows me well.  He knows that I have a hard time keeping my mouth shut sometimes.  When someone said the phrase, “buck up” in relation to our trials, I couldn’t hold back anymore.  I rose my hand and said, “Um, sorry but I’m not rejoicing that Laila is dead.”  There was an awkward silence.  Pretty much, I’m the queen of awkward.  I was mad and hurt–I felt that I was being told that since I was suffering and sad about the trial dealt to me that I was not a good saint.  I felt discouraged that in the midst of my deepest sorrow I was being told to “buck up.” 

The poor teacher didn’t really know what to say in response to my abrupt confession, so after a long pause he said, “Well, of course in situations such as yours…” and then he just went on with the remainder of the lesson testifying of the importance of being happy in the midst of our trails. 

If there is anything I’ve learned in the last year, it’s about the nature of suffering.  The teacher was absolutely right.  The gospel of Jesus Christ is one of happiness and joy.  Because of our beliefs and our knowledge, we have reason to rejoice.  As we come to understand the gospel, we develop an eternal perspective that allows us to gracefully achieve peace and hope in our trials.  But I believe the class missed something essential in that lesson:  The reality of life and mortality.  The reality is that life is hard, and sometimes it just downright stinks. 
The scriptures tell us that Christ was “amazed” and that his soul felt “exceedingly sorrowful” when he suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane.  In the Doctrine and Covenants Christ further describes his feelings about the process of completing the Atonement when he says he “tremble[d] because of pain” and suffered both body and spirit.  He admits that He had hoped He wouldn’t have had to complete the task.  If anyone understands pain and suffering, it is Christ.

Elder Holland reassures us when he says, “Only one who has taken the full brunt of such adversity could
ever be justified in telling us in such times to ‘be of good cheer.’  Such counsel is not a jaunty pep talk about
the power of positive thinking, though positive thinking is much needed in the world. No, Christ knows better than all others that the trials of life can be very deep and we are not shallow people if we struggle with them. But even as the Lord avoids sugary rhetoric, He rebukes faithlessness and He deplores pessimism. He expects us to believe!”

I have often found myself on my knees, tears streaming, as I pour my sorrow out to the Lord.  I have told Him, “This suffering is too much for me.  I don’t want this trial.  I don’t want to keep feeling this.  How can I go on?”
The first response isn’t one of rebuke for my lack of rejoicing.

It is a gentle, loving reassurance. 

The first words that fill my mind and my heart say, “I know.  It’s ok.  I love you.” 

Those words acknowledge my pain and tell me that He understands and that I am not doing something wrong for feeling the deep sorrow I feel.

It is only later, when I’m off my knees going about my day that I hear another, also quiet and loving response.  It may come while I wash the dishes “Take better care of your body;” or as I run errands, “Serve your neighbor;” perhaps when I give my children lunch, “Spend more time with your boys.”

I might be told to read my scriptures more or do my visiting teaching.

The direction is so personal and so loving and meant to help me feel more joy and peace in the midst of my trials.  But mostly, I remember that the first response was one of love and understanding.  That acknowledgment of my pain allows me to get up off of my knees and open my heart to the other response that will allow me to keep moving forward in faith.

And I know that it’s OK that I feel sad and I know that I’m not failing if I am not able to feel joy in the midst of my trails.  He acknowledges it and then gently helps me know how to rise above the sorrow.

About the Author: Adrianne is the mother of four children, three of which are still living, and the wife to a husband in the Air Force.  Since the death of her daughter she has found the process of creating something, even if it isn’t a very successful attempt, so important because it helps not only to keep her busy but also happy. You can read more about Laila and their story on Adrianne’s Blog

Painting By James Christensen
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  1. says

    I appreciate your sharing this very tender story and very sincere experience. I am currently reading a book, “The God Who Weeps” and it has helped me understand this vulnerability and pain that Christ experienced and many others in this way too mortal life. I pray the Lord will lift your burdens that you may feel peace. I feel to weep with your great loss.

  2. Stephenie says

    Thank you! You’ve written what my heart tells me and I’ve been working through on a personal level. It’s a secluded journey in a room full of people. It will “come to pass” as hardships do and then I can look back and rejoice in what I’ve learned even if I don’t appreciate the trial itself.

  3. Adrianne Richards says

    Stephenie, you said exactly what I feel about Laila dying. I won’t ever say I’m grateful Laila is gone or appreciate this trial itself, but I have already seen growth and can look back and rejoice in what I’ve learned so far. And I am grateful for that–that I’m learning and growing.

  4. TheAtomicMom says

    First a great big hug to you. I am so sorry for the loss of your daughter. I think sometimes we forget that it’s ok to mourn. Yes, there is joy in the gospel, but we are still human and being sad is part of that from time to time …. and THAT IS OK too! I think also, as latter-day saints we sometimes have been conditioned to think that not being happy in our trials is some sort of lack of faith or faults in our testimony, which is just not true. I would have been right there with you being akward in the lesson. Never be afraid to kindly correct in a church lesson. Anyway … I just appreciate this post and thank you for it.

  5. Adrianne says

    I think you are right–that we have been conditioned to think that being unhappy is a lack of faith or something. But I really believe that it is essential to feel the sorrow to better understand the joy. For instance, I always loved my boys but it wasn’t until I felt the deep sadness from losing one of my children that I really began to understand the love I have for my boys. I don’t want to miss a moment with them now. My joy in having them has increased a thousand times. I also liked your comment about kindly correcting in a church lesson. I believe that is partly why we are instructed to go to church. There is something wonderful about coming together as people from different backgrounds with various experiences. It allows us each to contribute and help one another grow and understand the Gospel together. These Sunday School teachers are (hopefully) doing their best to teach with the spirit and even if they are not always perfect in their delivery, I believe they are doing their best. I think it’s important to remember that they are not perfect but also not be rude in our comments when we feel they are wrong.

  6. bicoastal says

    I just happened by tonight & read your post. I am so sorry to read about your daughter’s death–I can’t imagine the sorrow and pain that would accompany such a trial. If I was beside you in Sunday School I would have turned to you and grimaced and we could have cried together.

    We have had a tiny tragedy in our family in the last year. Nothing (NOTHING) compared to yours, but devastating to us nevertheless. After living in one state (one one side of the country) for almost 20 years my husband lost his job and the only job he could find was on the other side of the country–literally 3000 miles away. I have felt as though a part of us–our happy lives, or deeply satisfying relationships–have died and my heart has hurt so badly. I’m a firm believer that we actually have to experience our emotions rather than brush them away, and I have been surprised by the attitude that some LDS friends have had–that I had better “get over this” or I was going to “be in trouble” for not being faithful enough. As if having enough faith would somehow prevent the pain of loss. Fortunately my experience has also been that Heavenly Father has plenty of time for me to grieve, and even that he is ok with my anger at Him.

  7. Adrianne says

    Thank you. Some times all that is needed is someone to cry with you. I am sorry to hear about your husband losing his job. My family moved around my entire life and it was never easy. But I am positive it would have been harder if we were in your situation–having to leave the friends and home you love after so many years. I hope this move will prove to be a wonderful experience in the end. I like your comment about Heavenly Father having plenty of time for you to grieve. I think feeling the sorrow is so essential to our progress and to our ability to understand our Heavenly Father.

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