Chapter 34: A Time To Mourn

Doing some hiking up Buckley Draw just south of Slate Canyon in Provo

The last year has been a hard one for me. I’ve come to the painful realization that my life in many ways is far from what I wanted. I always wanted to be faithful, but I’m a doubter. Always wanted to be connected, but in many ways I’m a loner.

The dream I sought for years was that I would get past my doubts and finally come to know the truth, come to know that God loves me and that he’s an active part of our lives. But instead of closer to that dream I’m farther away than ever.

My dream was to be firmly ensconced in a loving community, accepted for my contributions, loved in spite of my faults. But I no longer feel I belong where I’d built my life for so long.

My dream was to be married to a woman I loved with all my heart, to be surrounded by children in a home filled with love. But I’m a failure at relationships. I don’t know how to be close to people. Anyone who tries eventual gets pushed away or put at a distance.

My dream was to build a better relationship with my father. But he’s been dead almost three years, and my mom even longer.

A lot of the time I’m fine. I can make life work with its ambiguities and disappointments. But ultimately the pain of these broken dreams comes to the fore and I find myself casting about for an anchor to hold on to.

I’m in one of those times right now. I’ll pull through it. The crisis will recede sooner or later. But still these tensions will remain. I don’t know the long-term answer. I don’t know how to really make life work as a hypersensitive guy who’s struggled all his life, struggled to find a foundation, struggled to stay connected to the people that love him. I don’t know how to finally resolve all the memories, all of the past that I carry around inside of me, the tragedies that still ache for me years removed, for which there is no answer but mourning.

But I suppose that is the answer. Mourning.

How do you go about it? How can any mourning ever be sufficient? How can any tears ever make right entire lives of tragedy?

I don’t know.

But maybe that’s not what tears are for. They don’t make anything right. But they help us to accept that there is injustice in the world. And they help us to let go of the wrong.

Anyway, this is the latest chapter in my life story. It’s not the story I set out to tell. But I guess that’s because I’m not the omniscient narrator: I’m really just a character. And I guess it’s taken 34 chapters for the character development to really come to a head. What will the next chapter bring? I guess we’ll all just have to keep reading.

7 thoughts on “Chapter 34: A Time To Mourn

  1. Gabe

    Beautiful post Josh. As your friend and former roommate, I honestly do not see many of these flaws you mention. I don’t view you as hypersensitive, difficult to get close to, or a loner.

    I really enjoy reading your posts. They are incredibly thoughtful and well-written. I enjoyed the time we spent as roommates, and since then I’ve enjoyed reading posts and status updates. I’ve always viewed you as an intelligent, caring, funny, deep person.

    As for doubt. I’ve travelled an interesting faith journey this last year, preceded and somewhat catalyzed by our former roommate Nathaniel. It’s come with a mix of feelings. Liberation — a feeling of long-sought-after peace and relaxation from holding together difficult intellectual and moral cognitive dissonance. Sorrow — a true grieving process as much of the framework that undergirded all of my life died. Fear — a new discomfort that I no longer have an answer to everything. Happiness — the ability to accept others, including my doubting self, more fully and without prejudice.

    I’m not totally out of Mormonism. It will always be a part of me. We split our time between a United Church of Christ congregation that helps me focus on being Christlike and the Mormon ward where we have friends and roots. I don’t know where our journey will lead. But, one thing that I’ve found interesting to look back on in Mormonism, is the pressure to not only believe, but to know, and the unspoken shame of doubt. The highest premium is placed on something being true, rather than good. There is the notion that the most worthy adherents know the Church is true and know that the Book of Mormon is true.

    As I look back, it doesn’t so much matter what is true, but rather what is good, what brings you closer to God, what helps you love your neighbor. Instead of asking if our religion is true, shouldn’t we be asking if it is good?

    I don’t know where you are spiritually and I don’t know what is the right direction for you. I do know that I used to think in binary terms, and while there was a certain comfort in that, there was also a lot of shame, guilt, and feeling of self-worthlessness because I questioned or doubted. Follow your heart. You and I are doubters, and that is a noble quality that has brought humanity far. That’s how God made us, and it’s what makes us human.

    If you ever want to catch up or talk, drop me a line. Keep writing, keep being awesome.

    Reply
  2. Veronica

    Josh!!! I think you’re a pretty incredible person!!! Just sayin’- Remember how we went on a walk and you talked about a really hard experience for you as my heart was breaking with my family situation? The Lord was in the details of that interaction. Remember how we were visiting outside and I said, “I really want to see a shooting star” and then we saw one within 3 seconds of me saying that? The Lord was in the details of that interaction. Remember how I randomly asked if you wanted to go on a walk and you had just decided that you wanted to exercise more? The Lord was in the details of that interaction. If I pulled out my journal of Alta times, I bet I could find more. Those were just 3 quick ones that came to mind. I think you’re pretty amazing, not because of the experiences that we’ve shared, but because of your kindness, honesty and who you are!!!

    Reply
  3. Brad Levin

    Hi Josh! Somehow I just came across this site. It’s been a while!
    Appreciate this piece on mourning, and the distance between some dreams of yours and your experiences. The discussion reminds me of some of the times I’ve mourned most intensely- once after watching a WWII documentary when we were at Alta, a second one when I lost my theism, and a third when my wife and I’s baby died. I think the tears can help us accept injustice in the world, but they don’t necessarily do that in my experience. Sometimes they just express an emotional response to tragedy, and not much else.
    In any case, sorry to hear it’s been a hard year for you, and I acknowledge the pain of those broken dreams. It’d be nice to catch up sometime- perhaps a vid chat?
    My best, -Brad

    Reply
  4. Sarah

    Josh! The day I moved to Provo I ran into you walking down the street as I was getting out of my car. That was cool, and now that I’m leaving Provo I am sad I didn’t visit you more!

    You have seriously been through so much, and you are awesome. I don’t see any of those negative qualities you are placing on yourself.

    We should chat. I have a lot of similar feelings about church, relationships, etc. As you know. Let’s visit tomorrow if you’re free.

    Reply
  5. Rosalie Holder

    Hi Josh,
    I appreciate your post and can relate to quite a bit of it. I’ve learned a lot about mourning in the last couple years. I lost an older brother almost three years ago and not long after my husband and I lost the church. I got tired of not feeling happy, never feeling like I fit in and that no matter how hard I tried it wasn’t enough. I got tired of believing in Satan and i got tired of fear tactics. Stepping away was a huge initial relief but has brought subsequent years of feeling lost, angry and frustrated by not having answers. Grieving is never linear, sometimes you retrace steps, sometimes you feel completely lost or overcome, sometimes it feels manageable. It’s been a hard few years, but personally I’ve learned that sometimes all you can do is accept the pain, let yourself recognize it and absorb it for a time. Accept your feelings as valid. I’ve also found that therapy and the passage of time are very valuable. Thanks for your honesty, we need more of it.

    Best wishes,
    Rosalie

    Reply
  6. Lindsey

    Hi Josh,

    I don’t know if you remember me but we were next door neighbors at Deer Haven for awhile. We went on a bike ride once and then I was too shy to talk to you much after that. I did find your blog though and have read it from time to time after because you’re such a good writer and have a way of expressing things that I often feel but can’t quite articulate. Such is the case with this post.

    I’m on chapter 32 and find myself in a similar position- accepting my doubts rather than forcing them to conform to what I want, withdrawing from a God and people I once loved, mourning for the person I thought I would be but who will never exist outside my childhood imaginations. It is far from the path I thought I would take but somehow I have found peace with it. After the denial, and the anger, and the mourning and then some more anger and mourning there is a grey space. There is far less certainty there than I would prefer, but there is also a lot of forgiveness. A lot of room to be a regular human with all of the messiness and tragedy and imperfection that comes with that.

    All of that is to say, I suppose, both that I feel I understand somewhat where you are and that I am sorry that you have to experience it. It has been one of the most difficult experiences of my life and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. So mourn for as long as you need, just don’t despair. Because while things might not ever be the same they will be good again at some point. And if you ever need someone to talk to who has been there (I believe), feel free to contact me. I know things would have been easier for me if I had had someone to talk with who had been on a similar path. I hope that wherever your path leads you will find peace and beauty in it, even if it does end up being the road less traveled by.

    (And thank you for your beautiful post. I don’t know if it was cathartic for you to write, but it was certainly a balm for me to read, and know I’m not the only one to be surprised at not being the narrator in my own story.)

    Reply
  7. Roger

    Josh, hey I recognize where you’re hiking there in the pic. Cool.
    But back to your post — i don’t know you well, but your post and it’s title made me think of the phrase “They mourned after God.”
    I think it might have been inspired by this quote:
    +++
    “Come near to the holy men and women of the past and you will soon feel the heat of their desire after God. They mourned for Him, they prayed and wrestled and sought for Him day and night, in season and out, and when they had found Him the finding was all the sweeter for the long seeking.”
    +++

    May you keep on keepin’ on or not give up. I’m seeking likewise and I believe the above quote. I believe.

    Reply

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