Q&A with Rhyll Croshaw: A Pioneer Perspective on Trauma

Once a month on our blog, we feature Q&A’s with Rhyll Croshaw. This content was originally found on our sister site, rhyllrecovery.com, but will now be a part of our Women’s Discussion here.

Thanks to Rhyll for her insights and willingness to share her strength, hope, and experience with all of us.  Please let us know if you have more questions for her.

The following excerpt was requested to be re-posted here by one of our Instagram followers.  If you have content or a question you would like to see on our Q&A blog, please contact us at becky@salifeline.org.

The Story of Emily Woodmansee

At this time of year, I am often reminded of the strength and courage of the pioneers who settled the west. My great grandfather walked across the plains shoeless with a hand cart company when he 13 years old. I am reminded that I come from hardy, resilient stock.

A few weeks ago I discovered a story of another pioneer named Emily Hill Woodmansee. She and her sisters determined to come from England and worked for 4 years to earn enough money to come to the West. During her handcart experience, Emily walked the entire way through dirt, then mud, then snow. She helped not only her sister to survive the journey, but also a widow and her 5 children who were assigned to Emily for help. She and the rest of the company were saved in a frozen and famished state by a rescue party.

One of the rescuers rode into the camp on horseback and noticed Emily, who he had met earlier in England. He wept at her condition but had little to offer except the hope that help was coming. However, he carried an onion in his pocket which he handed to her. Emily was in a starving condition but she knew of another man in the company worse off and she gave the onion to that man- which act he credited as saving his life.

Emily and her sister made it to Utah despite incredible and indescribable hardship. Emily married and her husband later abandoned her and her child. She wrote that abandonment made all her previous suffering look like “child’s play.” After the abandonment of her husband her home was foreclosed on.

As I read this story about Emily Woodmansee, I was struck by her description that the abandonment of her husband had made all the previous suffering in her life look like “child’s play.” I think of the hundreds, even thousands of women who are being abandoned emotionally and even physically by men who are caught in the web of destruction of pornography. And I recognize that that abandonment is not an easy trial to recover from.

The trauma of living with or having lived with someone who has abandoned and betrayed us is very deep and needs serious attention. Those who are in the “helping” community, friends, family, spiritual leaders, therapists, as well as the traumatized woman need to understand the serious nature of this trauma.

For those of us who have been abandoned in any of these ways, there is a time for grieving, anger, and acknowledging the wrongs done to us. However, for those of us who want to come out of this trial stronger, we do not want to stay as a victim of that abandonment. Instead, we have an opportunity to use our life’s experiences, hard as they may be, to become stronger, more capable, and available for true loving relationship.

As for Emily, she remarried and had 8 children, and died stalwart in her faith. Emily Woodmansee is the author of the LDS hymn “As Sisters in Zion.”

“The errand of angels is given to women. And this is a gift that as sisters we claim. To do whatsoever is gentle and human, to cheer and to bless in humanity’s name.”

“How vast is our purpose, how broad is our mission. If we but fulfill it in spirit and deed. Oh not but the spirit’s divinest tuition can give us the wisdom to truly succeed.”

We’d love to hear your thoughts about this account.


3 thoughts on “Q&A with Rhyll Croshaw: A Pioneer Perspective on Trauma”

  1. So often in the LDS church we hear of the terrible sufferings that our forebarers endured. And it WAS terrible, just terrible. But sometimes, I fear, the pioneers experience becomes THE standard of suffering, which only means we somehow minimize our own suffering. I know I’ve done this…”well, at least I didn’t have to cross the frozen plains with no shoes….etc.”

    I love Emily’s story. I think of it often, because she has a unique perspective of not only having experienced the physical hardships of crossing the plains and setting up Utah, but also the deliberate abandonment and betrayal of her husband. And she said the later was worse! This gives me strength, and validates that what I’m going through IS really hard. We hear so much about the suffering of the pioneers and that I can somehow equate my own suffering to hers makes me realize what I’m doing IS HARD. I’m so grateful to have her perspective because as an LDS person with pioneer heritage, it’s a way that I can feel that I’m enduring my trials well as my forefathers endured theirs. I’m grateful that Emily wrote this down for me to hear. Thank you Rhyll for opening my eyes to this story and learning more about her. I feel a connection to Emily because of the betrayal she suffered.

    1. I love that you shared this, Carrie. I remember at the worst of my rock bottom when I was just completely falling apart that my mom would try to be helpful and say things like, “At least you don’t have cancer” or she would pick some other horrific trial she could think of to try to “give me perspective.” At the time, I would adamantly insist that I would RATHER have whatever circumstance she had come up with, and secretly wish to punch her in the face 😉.

      I have learned that God doesn’t compare my suffering to anyone else’s and their are no gold, silver, or bronze medals for who has it the worst. Pain is pain and suffering is real, and really has nothing to do with how it matches up with what someone else is going through. Although the pain I have felt through my husband’s betrayals pushed me to the limits of what I felt I could endure, I am grateful to say that it has absolutely been the pathway to progress for me.

      I am also so grateful to Emily for sharing that the pain of her abandonment exceeded even the physical deprivation we so often honor and revere. It reminds me that this pain is holy. Women who have been betrayed are so often misrepresented, blamed, shamed, ridiculed, or simply avoided. People just want us to “get over it.” The pain is not something to be ashamed of or buried. It is holy. It marks the depth of our experience.

      1. I whole heartedly agree. I don’t think people mean to make light of of pain, they are just uncomfortable because they don’t know how to help. Physical suffering is a little easier to see, understand, and fix. You’re right, this is a holy kind of pain, it is pain caused by the sins of another, which kind of reminds me of the Savior, and those of us who have felt it have a sacred responsibility to succor others going through it like only we can.

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