it’s okay to be sad

I’m writing this to you because I heard you were sad. That makes my heart hurt for you because I’ve been there. I’ve been disappointed and cheated and lied to and lost someone who meant a lot to me and failed. But oddly enough, it makes me happy for you as well because every good thing that I am has come first because I was sad.

When I was in high school I got invited to a birthday party for a girl I hardly knew. I remember her walking up to me in choir class and handing me a handmade invitation and thinking she was nice, but I was busy. My mother, bless her heart for putting up with me and my intense ways, saw the invitation the next week and told me I would be going. I fought her. I didn’t want to make the time for someone I barely knew and with whom I didn’t foresee a deep friendship. But my mother persisted and told me that “you should always go to everything you’re invited to because it is good manners” and I could go downstairs and pick a gift from the gift box she had on hand and just make a short appearance.

I was incredibly annoyed as I tried to find the girl’s house. I was late. I wanted to just go home. Had enough time passed that my mom might just think I went without having to actually go…? After a frustrated snowy drive, cursing my mother for making me do something teenage-me didn’t want to do, I finally found it. It was small. Really small. Like smaller than our garage small. I walked up to the door and knocked, feeling nervous that maybe I was in the wrong place, when a smallish woman with teary eyes opened the door.

“Um…. I’m here for a birthday party….?” I was awkward. This was awkward.

“You’re here for the party?”

“Yeah…. is it not here…?” Let me in or let me go home. I was over this so long ago.

She opened the door and called the girl’s name. The tiny living room was covered in simple birthday decorations and a cake sat on a coffee table. She looked at me and shuffled the door closed.

“No one came but you.”

I never will forget the pit in my stomach and the pain I felt for this woman and her daughter as I stared at her waiting for the girl to come downstairs to greet me: her only birthday guest. She was upstairs in her room crying, and tried to laugh through obvious recent tears as she said, “Hi! Sorry, I’m lame and no one came. I knew they wouldn’t.” My heart broke, but not in a pity way. In a guilty way.

I invested that night. I invested in making no one but us matter and all the boys we prank called and the one gift she had that I brought her and how we were going to eat as much of that big cake as we could with forks in the middle of the floor just because we could, but really because there was no one else. There was no one else. I kept repeating my previous interactions with her at school and tried to see anyone else in them. I saw her alone before class. I saw her walk out the door alone. I talked to her one on one. Why did I not notice the ‘alone’ before? I felt sad. I felt sad for them, for the girl with no friends and the mom who cared for her daughter. I felt selfish and gross and a hypocrite for saying I cared about God’s children when really I only cared about me and my next thing and my important busy-person life. 15 year old me was sad. And I made a change.

Every time I develop to be a better person, it comes from first seeing or feeling pain. I know the above story is probably dumb to some people reading it thinking that this was her pain and not mine, but for whatever reason I felt it. I felt her pain and my own pain. I felt her pain with her and I feel like that was a huge blessing from God. Sometimes I think we get lucky and God gives us a taste of someone’s pain with them to develop us into what He needs. To create the empathy in us that will drive us to do more. When I feel sad, I want to fix it to feel joy. I search for happiness and try to create happiness in every situation I am able – for me and for others. Because I have seen and felt loneliness, both hers and my own at other times in my life, I try my hardest to invest in people around me and make it so no one else ever feels the pain for long. It’s okay to be sad, it’s beneficial to our souls to be sad, it’s necessary to be sad, but it’s not okay to stay sad.

I truly believe we were created to have joy as I was taught in the Bible and Book of Mormon – that men really “are that they might have joy” and that God wants to bless us with endless happiness. I also believe that we are to strive to become like God and since God knows and has felt everything, so must we.

In Alma, my favorite scriptures of the Savior talk about not just how Christ felt the pain of sin but how he felt the pain of it all:

10 And behold, he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers, she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God.

11 And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.

 12 And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.

I know that God needs us to feel pain so that we can feel the opposite in its full capacity. I know God needs us to feel pain so we can be filled with mercy and succor His children as Christ would if He were on the earth and had our opportunities. If we never felt pain would we honestly ever be willing to help ease others’ burdens?  The most taken care of I have ever been has been when I’m in places that are “poor” trying to take care of others. The countries I go to where people live on just a few dollars a day are the people who always invite me in, try to feed me, and give me endless tea and anything else they possibly can. There are many videos and accounts where it’s the homeless or the poor who are the most humble and generous. I’m so grateful for these people who have impacted my life and taught me what it means to be selfless.

I overcome my pain by attempting to aid other people in overcoming their own. I know that many people have bought the lie that they are not beautiful or talented or worth much. This video of world renowned Lindsey Stirling being overlooked in a subway station is worth a watch. The potential inside of you is incredible. It is. I know it. And I know that my best potential and attempts at happiness have come from overcoming pain and helping others do the same.

Because I have felt lonely, I have truly felt appreciation and love for someone who reaches out to me in a time of need. Because I felt guilty, I’ve felt the beautiful feeling of being forgiven by both God and His children that I have wronged. Because I have felt tired and beaten down, I’ve felt the excitement and joy that comes from being lifted up. Because I’ve felt discouraged, I’ve been lucky enough to feel encouraged and cared about. Because I have felt alone, I’ve had times to learn to turn to God and Christ as a support and comfort. And because I’ve felt all that, I’ve been able to be inspired to do all that I can to help people out of their own darkness – to feel the joy I believe they truly deserve and God is seeking to give them.

I don’t know why I wrote this, per-se, or who it was for or if anyone even will read it. I created this not even finished website for the purpose of this post and who knows if I’ll ever use it again, but I want you to know that I’m sorry you’re sad. I am, because I know how devastating and immobilizing pain can be. But I promise there is light on the other side, even though it may be quite the journey to get there. And if you want someone to walk with you, let me know.

Be you, darlings.


Photo by my beautiful friend, Andrea Ovard, when we were in Nepal this Fall with HELP International.


9 Comments Add yours

  1. Mandi Mendenhall says:

    I always enjoy seeing the world in snippets through your eyes. Your passionate heart is such a blessing even if that blessing is heavy sometimes. I love you and I miss you my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This was really really lovely. Thank you for sharing.


  3. Pat Stevenson says:

    Suzanne, You lifted my soul as I read this beautiful message.


  4. Kathy Medlar says:

    Dear Suzanne…as I read your blog my heart was filled with a variety of emotions…love, sadness, joy, excitement…I have followed your journey through your FB postings and watched your growth…the selfless charity…the Christ-like model you present to the world. This blog is like whipped crream on top of the dessert. So YUMMY!!! I am anxiouly awaiting your next blog. I love you…Kathy


  5. Lindsey says:

    I LOVE this!! Thanks for sharing.


  6. Tiffany Ohs says:

    You are a truly a beautiful person!


  7. Chelsea Marsden says:

    This helped me more than I could ever explain in words. Thank you so much.


  8. Bethany says:

    Love this! I went into nursing because of sad times I went through. I can also say every good thing about me was developed starting with times I was sad.


  9. Susan Curtis says:

    I searched all day on FB to find the link to your “Jesus Hates My Jeans” article so I could share it, en masse, but I finally had to Google you. I feel like you are my new best friend that I haven’t met. (Do you want to come to my birthday party in October? In Hawaii?) I teach Primary and it is almost April and I am still in the process of bonding with the kids in my new class. Shy and prone to crying. One very ADHD Tigger-like little boy. One well-behaved little girl, the bishop’s daughter, on whom I try not to call too often, just because she is the only one in her chair. And there is a set of twin boys I watched all last year with dread, as they actually called someone just to sit with them in opening exercises and help keep them under control. I kept wondering if I could be so lucky as to be released before I had to try and teach a lesson and keep the two of them under control. Last week I had three extra kids in my class, and the twins were absent and I told one of my friends “I don’t think any of the kids in the class could tell you what the lesson was on. I couldn’t tell you what the lesson was on.”

    In my Easter lesson last week, I brought a bunch of Easter props to show what Easter ISN’T about. I started the lesson by having the kids talk about their Easter baskets and had them all pick something from the box, and then we talked about Easter not being about chocolate eggs and bunnies, etc. Then I had them put everything back in the box and I brought out my props about the real meaning of Easter, my picture of Jesus and my model of The Garden Tomb I picked up on my visit to Israel. When we acted out aspects of the Easter story, I called on the twins to be the guards in front of the tomb, talked about how tough and strong they were, had them show their muscles, etc. I could tell they were enjoying that. And they both fell very dramatically to the floor when smitten by the angels. I congratulated myself for finding an appropriate outlet for some of their energy.

    When class was over and it was time for everyone to go, they went over to my box of goodies. One picked up a chocolate bunny and the other a cellophane carrot full of orange M & Ms. I told them they had to put them back, that I didn’t have enough to give the whole class a treat, besides which I had given them each a small treat already, it being Easter and all. But there was something about their hopeful looks and their looks of disappointment when I told them they had to put them back, and I realized that when all the kids had talked about their Easter baskets, the two of them had been uncharacteristically quiet. So I told them to wait until the other kids all left, then I asked them if the Easter bunny had visited them and they both shook their heads. So I said, “That’s why he left these at my house for me to give to you.” In that moment, when I saw their faces light up, I knew I had taken ownership of these two curly-haired rambunctious identical twin boys that I tell apart each week by what they are wearing or which of them has a new scab. Being the storyteller that I am, I have created a fantasy where I return to Hawaii in my dotage and attend the old ward, and when the curly-haired bishop gets up to conduct and says his name, a light goes on. And then I tell him afterwards I was his Primary teacher. And he tells me I made a difference. It serves to give me a picture I can use to love them and keep trying to get through to them when my patience is spent and when it doesn’t feel like I am making a difference. So, too late to say “long story short” but thank you for your reminders to distill all the noise down to what is important. I saw a meme recently that I forgot to copy that said something about love being the answer and that if it didn’t work, try a larger dose. Thank you for the dose of love your writings have been to me today.


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