Eric and Leslie Dyches: Losing Loved Ones to Mental Illness
Eric Dyches and Leslie Huntsman Dyches both lost spouses to battles with mental health. In the midst of postpartum anxiety and depression, Eric's wife Emily Cook Dyches ran in front of a semitruck. Leslie also lost her husband Chad after a 14-year battle with depression and anxiety. Now, the two have joined their families—including their collective eight children—and are honoring the memory of their late spouses by speaking out about mental health.
Somehow, God provides a way for hearts to love.
Website: The Emily Effect.org, the non profit that Eric began in Emily's honor to provide resources to families and support for women suffering from perinatal mood disorders.
Link: Emily's Obituary
Link: Chad's Obituary
ABC Nightline Video: "Family of five remember late mother who struggled with postpartum depression
Article by Deseret News: "A family's faith and a mother's legacy shine through The Emily Effect"
Facebook Links: Following Emily's passing, Eric wrote letters to Emily that he called "Missives to Em." Read two here:
KSL Video Documentary:
BYU Communications Video Documentary:
1:48- Two Families
7:29- “Due to Mental Illness”
10:50- Dealing with the Unknown
13:40- Turning Outward
16:26- Every Experience is Preparation
19:20- Grief-A Positive and Negative Power
25:36- Two Families Becoming One
44:47- “The Picture on the Nightstand Is Not Enough”
48:56- An Ongoing Challenge
53:05- What Does It Mean To Be “All In” the gospel of Jesus Christ?
Morgan Jones 0:00
Emily Cook Dyches had just given birth to her fifth child when she began suffering from severe postpartum anxiety. She was treated for the illness for several months. Her family sought out all available resources, but on the afternoon of February 24, 2016, while riding as a passenger in a car on the interstate, she experienced a major panic attack, exited the vehicle running into oncoming traffic. She was killed on impact. Chad Huntsman was a former college football player who for many years battled anxiety and depression. He was married to the love of his life Leslie and the two had three children. But on April 7, 2015, Chad lost his life to mental illness. Leslie originally reached out to Eric Dyches – who is working following his wife Emily's death to improve resources and information surrounding mental health – because she felt a desire to share her husband Chad's story. Today, Leslie Huntsman Dyches and Eric Dyches are married and raising their collective eight children who range in age from a missionary to a kindergartener. This is All In an LDS Living podcast where we ask the question, "What does it really mean to be all in the gospel of Jesus Christ?" I'm Morgan Jones and I am so excited to have Eric Dyches and his wife Leslie Huntsman Dyches with me today. Welcome.
Leslie Huntsman Dyches 1:32
Eric Dyches 1:32
It's a pleasure.
Morgan Jones 1:33
Thank you so much for being willing to do this. So today, I am so grateful, first of all, I just have to say I'm so grateful to the both of you for your willingness to share your stories, and I would love to start by having both of you share a little bit of background on your story. Each, each of you respectively, for those that are not familiar. Your stories have some similarities and some differences and I would love for you to share it, rather than me trying to relay it.
Leslie Huntsman Dyches 2:05
Okay, I think I'll go first. I grew up actually in Scipio. My maiden name was Monroe and I grew up in a farming community. My dad's a rancher, my mom's a schoolteacher. And I went to Snow College and then Utah State. And then while I was working in Salt Lake, the summer of 2000, I met Chad Huntsman. And he made a memorable first impression, and was just larger than life. He had this smile that could just light up a room. And he was just different than anyone I had dated. And he asked me out on a date, we went to a movie, and then after our date, he said, "I'm going to walk you to the door, and I'm probably gonna kiss you." And I was like, "Okay." He just kind of took the mystery out of it. And he was just, he was so confident in who he was, and how he felt about me. And we fell in love really quickly. And we were engaged three months later. And then married five months after that, in 2001. We had three kids together, Holly, Hope and Miles, and just had a really great life together. We had our ups and downs, like any married couple, but we just had a really good relationship. A really good relationship. He was a really good dad and husband and everybody loved him. He was the type of person that, when he walked in the room, the room just lit up. And he would find the loneliest person in the room and go over and talk to them. And he would just give the best hugs, always had a huge smile on his face, he was the uncle that everybody loved, he was the dad that took the kids to do all these fun things. And they have, you know, all these good memories about the things that they did together. He loved sports, he loved hunting, but he did suffer with anxiety and depression. And he struggled pretty much our whole marriage and was in and out of treatment and – but then on April 7, 2015, he lost his life to mental illness.
Eric Dyches 4:26
So I guess my story begins in a small town in Moroni as well – Leslie and I both grew up in rural Utah – I grew up in a small town in Sanpete county, in Moroni. And just had kind of a typical small town, Utah life. As I was growing up, I happened to meet a young lady, and her name was Emily Cook, and she grew up a few blocks away from me. And in a small town, you have small class sizes and you're often in the same class and same church classes and you spend quite a bit of time together. I decided that she was a pretty neat person. And she happened to be really cute and fun and nice. And so I was attracted to her early on in my life. And we were friends all throughout our high school and, and elementary, kind of formative years. And then I went on a mission. And she went to BYU. And when I got home from my mission, we went out on a date. And the first date we went on, I realized that I still really liked her and liked to be with her and liked the kind of person that she wanted me to be, and, and kind of led me to be. And so a few months later, we decided to get married, and we were, we were married. And we had five kids together, ranging now from kindergarten up to a missionary, and so we had a really good life. We lived in Utah County, most of our married life, lived in American Fork, Springville, and Salem for a time. And Emily taught school for a local private school and really enjoyed that. And she was a dear friend to everybody. And I think that the one thing that most people use to describe Emily is kind. She was very kind, and gave people the benefit of the doubt. In 2015, we had – Emily and I had her last child. And she had some complications during the birth. And it's a longer story, but in short, when she came home, she was quite different than when she went into the hospital. And she had severe anxiety. And that played out for the course of about a year, about 11 months, and we were, we sought treatment through the typical channels that I was familiar with and we found some solutions and some help and some resources. But I would say by and large, we were left with more questions than we had answers through that process and it was very frustrating. And so 11 months after the birth of our, our, our child, she experienced a severe panic attack, and she exited a vehicle that had pulled over on I-15 that she happened to be in. And my belief is she lost all spatial awareness and she started to run to a safe spot and happened to run out on I-15 and happened to be hit by a semi truck, and she lost her life to mental illness.
Morgan Jones 7:28
So in both cases, your spouse's were determined to have died by suicide. Eric, when we talked, you talked about how we use that word "suicide," to describe a broad range of things, where in every instance, you're dealing with a different person, an individual and a different situation. So you said that you would prefer that people say that they died due to mental illness. Why do you feel so strongly about that?
Eric Dyches 7:57
I think I feel strongly about that because of the faces that I've looked into and the eyes that I've looked into – family members, families that have lost children and spouses and loved ones, to what we call suicide. It's a word that's broadly used, but there's so much emotion attached to that. And when you use that word in the context of a conversation, when someone passes away, there's automatic judgment. It's just, it's human nature to just start connecting dots and asking questions and wondering and, and that can be a very painful process for those that are left behind. And, and early on in my relationship with Leslie when we got to know each other, we didn't know each other growing up, and when when I started to communicate with her, she described the scenario that when you look at the word suicide, and you use that, contextually, every scenario is, you know, you use that word, but there's so many different scenarios, right? When you look at Emily or Chad, the way I like to describe it is they had a malfunction with the central nervous system. And I don't think science fully understands it. I've read hundreds of articles. I've talked to hundreds of people. And I'm not an expert in this, but there are still so many answers when it comes to mental illness and this malfunction that takes place within the brain. So that – the reason I'm passionate is, if you take a scenario, that that someone is caught up in a multimillion dollar Ponzi scheme, and they're caught, and they decide, "I don't want to face the music in this scenario, and I know my life as I once knew it is over. So I think I'm just going to prematurely end all of this for everybody and not have to deal with it." And you look at a different scenario when someone has suffered their entire life or months or years with this malfunction in the brain and, in – with an impulse that comes, and they do something, they are caught in an act, and it takes their life, we call that suicide as well. And I'm not saying, I'm not here to . . . make excuses. I'm just here to suggest as a society, let's look at it more broadly. So the terminology that I prefer to use is "died by mental illness." Because I don't know all of the scenario of how Emily passed away or why she passed away. And Leslie with Chad as well, we could speak for hours because we've speculated and we've wondered, and we've talked about it. But the point is, we don't know. And let's not be so quick to judge in those scenarios.
Leslie Huntsman Dyches 9:26
Morgan Jones 10:32
How do you deal with what you don't know – with the unknown? And how do you pick up the pieces after the traumatic death of a loved one?
Leslie Huntsman Dyches 11:00
Well, I think you could drive yourself crazy with focusing on what you don't know, and how it all played out, and what they were thinking and what they weren't thinking and all those different things. But for me, the best thing for me was to focus on what I do know. And what I do know is that Chad was a good husband and he was a good father. And he was a good son, and he was a good brother, and a good friend, and that he loved his family. He absolutely adored his kids. And me. And I know for a fact that he fought for 14 years to stay on this earth. So that's what I do know. And I think it's important to focus on those, those kinds of positive things. As far as how do you pick up the pieces after a traumatic death, I feel like after Chad passed away, it was like, my life was like a mirror. And someone had just pushed it over a cliff and said, "Okay, pick up the pieces and put them back together." That's how it felt in my heart. And so I'm just down on the ground, and I'm putting these pieces back together, and I'm trying to figure out where they fit and, and they don't really fit together and, and so you just feel so broken after losing someone that's so close to you. But the truth of the matter is, you won't get those pieces back together in the same way. They won't ever fit back together the way they were. And so you just have to figure out how to get them to fit back the way that it's gonna work.
Morgan Jones 12:43
Right. It's like a new puzzle.
Leslie Huntsman Dyches 12:45
Yeah, yeah, a new puzzle. You, you said the word traumatic deaths. And both of our circumstances they died traumatically. And for me, I – and I was just going to bring this up is because this might help someone, – but to deal with the things that, the trauma that I experienced, I was able to do a therapy called EMDR. And for me, that was life saving. It really, really helped me to sort of file that instance away into my brain and not have it take over everything. And, and so I'm not thinking about it all the time. But it's just – I know, that was one day in our life together. But it wasn't our whole life together.
Morgan Jones 13:38
Beautifully said. So one thing that I wanted to touch on, but I think that it's so impressive that you immediately in in the things that I watched and read, obviously there was more to watch and read about Emily than there was about Chad, but you turned your attention to solutions to first, kind of clear Emily's name and her story, and to set the record straight on that, and then to helping other people because you said if her story could help other people, then she would not have died in vain. So, when you turn your your attention to helping others you turn outward. What do you wish, in retrospect, Eric, that you had known and how have you channeled that longing of what you wish you had known, into helping others in need?
Eric Dyches 14:32
Well, my experience with this traumatic event was unlike anything that I've ever experienced in my life. And so as I sat there that first night – and I remember being in my office – and I was online, and I was kind of just decompressing for a little bit and I pulled up a news story and I could see what was being said about the scenario. At that point there was something – I don't know how to describe it other than deep down inside of my, just my stomach I could feel something that just started to boil and said, "You need to go. You need to do something with this." And it's my nature to be a doer, I think often we are that way. And so I determined that night, I was going to do something to share this scenario and what went wrong, with other people. And actually, in Emily's funeral, I, I shared it. I said, "I'm going to do something, I'm going to share this message. So people don't have to experience what I experienced." Bear in mind, those feelings were fueled by the fact that a few hours earlier, I was sitting in my family room with a priesthood leader, sharing with my kids that their mom wasn't coming home. And so those feelings just started to grow. And I knew that I didn't want anybody, ever, to have to experience what I had just gone through. And so grief – you can do one of two things, right? It can make you upset and bitter and mad, and at times, I've been that way, or it can make you find the positive and work to make a difference for those that are coming behind.
Morgan Jones 16:10
And Eric, correct me if I'm wrong, you were the bishop at the time?
Eric Dyches 16:14
I was serving as the bishop. I'd served since October, and Emily passed away in February. So it was a short period of time. And yeah, I was I was serving as a bishop of the ward.
Morgan Jones 16:25
And when you look back on that period of your lives, each of you, do you feel that you were prepared for these experiences?
Eric Dyches 16:37
Well, I think for me, yes. I mean, the answer is yes, I think every experience I'm having today is preparing me for the future, right? And especially within the gospel context, there's plenty of opportunities to prepare. And as a culture, we are committed to preparation. And so I would, I would share something that's a little personal, but I think it's in this scenario I'm willing to share. About 18 months before Emily passed away, I was not serving as the bishop in the ward, I was serving in a different calling, but I just been released as a counselor in the bishopric. And I'd served with the bishop for four and a half years, with a man who I love dearly. And he happened to pull up in front of my house one evening. And I don't know what I was doing out front. I remember it was dark. And he was out making visits and happened to pull up just a perfect time. And I hadn't been spending as much time with him so I wanted to have a quick chat. I walked out to him, and I remember he asked me, "How are you doing?" And I said, "I don't know what is happening. But I feel like something is coming. And I need to prepare for that." And so we talked back and forth. And we both speculated what might be coming. But at the time, I didn't know what was coming. All I knew was the Spirit was prompting me to firm up my foundation. And I have some very specific things that I was counseled to do through the Spirit. And most of those I did. and I think that helped me prepare for the tsunami that was just about to hit. And I know everybody may not have that kind of example that they can share. But for me, that's what happened. The Lord had to be very clear for me to help me be ready to stand on that foundation, and take the wind that was coming.
Morgan Jones 18:22
Leslie Huntsman Dyches 18:23
And I mean, I think I don't think you're ever completely prepared for something like that. I mean, we'd had some rough times and dark times and you know, our time together, Chad and I, but nothing would prepare me for what happened that April day. But I know that our Father in heaven was mindful of us. And He put the right people in our path. He gave me loving parents and in-laws and an incredible Bishop, neighbors, siblings, friends, He knew the people I needed at that time – while we were going through those hard times – but also when he passed away.
Morgan Jones 19:11
Eric you said to me on the phone, that you have learned that grief can be a positive power or negative power. I wondered if you would share with us, what did you mean by that? And what have these experiences taught you about grief?
Eric Dyches 19:27
Prior to this experience, having Emily suffer with mental illness and pass away, I did not understand the depths of grief that existed in this life. I just, I had lived a pretty problem free life, I would say generally speaking, and so after having this experience, it took me to places that I didn't even know existed in terms of sorrow, and loneliness. And I know that there's many people in our society, there's many people in our neighborhoods that feel those feelings. I think, you know, an example would be prior to having this experience, I would see some traumatic event on the news or I'd hear a traumatic event in the community, and I would be like, "That is so sad. I feel so sorry for those people. What's for dinner?" You know or–
Morgan Jones 20:20
On to the next thing
Eric Dyches 20:20
– Just on to my next problem, right? Like, so superficial. And when you have something so final happen to you, like the passing of your spouse, it touches your heart in a way that you would never have had, had you not had that experience. And, and afterwards, I read a quote from Joseph Smith that Elder Maxwell had quoted, and he – after the Liberty jail experience – he said, "My heart will, will never be the same. It's going to be more tender." And Joseph had to go through that experience. I'm not comparing myself to Joseph, but I'm saying in this life, we are going to have experiences that are going to allow us to be more tender. The other point that I'd like to make in terms of grief and trauma – some things you're better after grief and trauma, other things I would say, I have regressed in certain areas. And I'm sure there's people in my life that say we want the old Eric back. But the challenge is, is once you experience grief and trauma, it changes you for the good, but it also, it makes you a little suspicious. Sometimes, I've heard that, you know, our hearts are developed for connection. But after trauma, we kind of focus on the protection side. And I've experienced that. So for the listeners, I would say, if someone close to you has experienced grief and trauma in a very deep and impactful way. Do not say, "When are they going to get over this?" You need to say to yourself, "How can I help them integrate this into their life moving forward?"
Leslie Huntsman Dyches 21:53
I look at it like, you've got a hole in your heart, that will always be there. And no matter what you do, you can't fill in that heart, that hole, because that person was a part of you. And I feel like in our society, sometimes we avoid bringing up the person that has passed away. We avoid that because we don't want to make someone sad, we don't want to say – "I don't want to upset them. So I won't I won't bring up" – you know? I've had people say to me, "Can I ask your girls about their dad?" You know, "Would that upset them?" And I, no – they are thrilled when someone says, "Tell me about your dad. Tell me about his good qualities." My son loves to talk about his dad, and that he was this college athlete, that he was amazing in all these areas. And so, and I just remember, I was in the grocery store, it was my first trip by myself, after Chad passed away. And I decided I was going to go to Walmart, alone. And it was a big step to do that. Because I was – I had experienced major trauma. And I was pushing the cart down the aisle. And out of the corner of my eye I saw a lady that had been in our ward previous to it splitting. And she went to turn down the aisle I was down and she, she kept going so she didn't have to run into me. And I know that she – and she's a sweet person – but I know that she just was worried about what she was going to say to me and how she was going, you know, she just didn't know what to say. And so I found her. I went and I sought her out, and I said, "Hey, how are you?" And I just brought her in and made her hug me. Because I didn't want anyone to treat me differently. I wanted them to talk about Chad, and remember the good things and share with me their good memories about him. I didn't want them to avoid me. So my advice would be don't avoid those topics. Don't avoid those people that are suffering, like go to them and say, "Do you need to talk? Tell me about where you're hurting. Tell me why you miss them."
Morgan Jones 24:02
I actually just had a conversation the other day with a friend who was going through something hard and we were talking about this, that a lot of times I think when people experience grief, and we know that they're going through something hard, it's almost like an avoidance on our part because we are scared of saying the wrong thing or doing the wrong thing. And how powerful it is just to show up and give them a hug and be there and be present. I've mentioned this on this podcast before but one of my very favorite stories ever about my grandma, who is not a person that like goes out and seeks out opportunities to like, be the center of attention or anything, she had a neighbor who had lost her husband and my grandma was a widow for 17 years. And one night – and we didn't know this until after my grandma had passed – but I guess one night she called this neighbor and she said, "I know that you probably don't feel like talking. But I just wondered if I could come and sit with you." Which I know, knowing my Grandma, I'm like that was so out of her comfort zone, she would have hated calling that lady. But she could go and sit with her. And that was the thing she knew how to do. And so I think that that is such a powerful – and I love that you sought the lady out and made her hug you. Because I think that sometimes it's, it's up to us in our grief to get people to embrace us. How did the two of you meet? This is the happier part of the story, I feel like.
Leslie Huntsman Dyches 25:34
I can take that one. So Chad had passed away in April of 2015. And then Emily passed away in February of 2016. And so I had been a widow for several months. And one of the things I would do at night because I was just so lonely and trying to fill the time was I would just kind of scroll through Facebook each night. But I had heard the story about Emily, and I remembered seeing her at Snow College because I was at Snow College the same time she was and we weren't friends, but I just remembered her face. And so when I saw in the news that she had passed away, I just I was heartsick. And I had experienced some postpartum anxiety after my kids were born, and so I just kind of had this tender spot in my heart. And then after losing Chad, of course, I was completely empathetic to their family. And I – one night was just kind of scrolling on Facebook, and my friends who were friends with Emily, so you know Facebook, how Facebook works, like if your friend, your friends are friends with them, then you can see different things. And so they were posting about her death and things like that. And so I just got curious, and I was kind of reading and I just remember seeing this picture of their family, people were posting, and I just – looking into the faces of those kids and in Eric's face. And I just thought, I know what they're going through. And my kids know what they're going through. And it was just kind of this like weird connection like I was feeling with them, and it was through a photograph, which is bizarre but – and then I saw a post that Eric had put on there that he was going to do something about what happened with Emily. He was going to start a foundation, he was going to get more resources and and talk about mental illness. And so I just immediately, in my mind, it just came to me and it just it was like, "He needs to hear Chad's story. He needs to hear, you know, what you guys went through and, and how, you know, you struggled to find the right providers." And, and so I just, that thought went through my mind, but I just kind of thought "Yeah, yeah, you know, down the road. Maybe he will hear Chad's story, I don't know." And then the thought just kept coming to me. You just need to reach out to him and tell him Chad's story. And for three days, I pushed off that prompting just to reach out to him and tell him and then finally one day I just sat down and I thought, "Okay, this prompting is not going away. I'm just gonna type out this quick little message on messenger and just say, 'Hey, you know, I'm not a creeper, but this is what, you know, I've gone through and my husband struggled and I'd love to get involved with your foundation,'" Just . . . what else.
Eric Dyches 28:44
So I remember receiving it. So at the time because of Emily's kind of public passing I was getting – we're talking about Facebook, lots of friends requests, lots of messages through instant messenger, and a lot of people offering support and kindness. I mean, people are amazing. But I distinctly remember receiving that friend request from her, and then a day or two later, she sent me a message and on the message from messenger, she linked a few common friends that we have. And so it did kind of ease the worry that okay, "She likes to use the word creeper. She didn't want to be a creeper." And it's so unlike her to do what she did, but she mentioned the the prompting, but I will say from my end when I received it, there was something different about it. I distinctly remember that. And then when she messaged me, I thought there's really something different about this and, and I – she offered to to talk and share Chad's story and I took her up on it immediately, like that day.
Leslie Huntsman Dyches 29:44
Well, I need to clarify something because I remember thinking, and part of the reason I was pushing the prompting off is because I thought, I don't want him to get the wrong idea, because I'm not getting remarried. Like I've got my kids. I've got my temple marriage. Like, I've got my memories like – we're good. And so I remember thinking, I don't want him to like, think I'm trying, you know –
Morgan Jones 30:10
Making a move
Leslie Huntsman Dyches 30:10
Making a move, yeah.
Eric Dyches 30:11
A widow reaching out to a widower. And it was, you know, relative – it was sooner after Emily's passing than Chad's, right? She was about a year out.
Leslie Huntsman Dyches 30:19
Eric Dyches 30:20
And so she messaged me and I, I was so desperate at the time to find answers, right? I was talking to family members, I was talking to professionals –
Leslie Huntsman Dyches 30:31
But, but not just that, you were saying, "How do I help my kids?"
Eric Dyches 30:35
Leslie Huntsman Dyches 30:36
You know, "What type of therapy or counseling do we need to do? And you know, how – they're just struggling, what do I do?"
Eric Dyches 30:45
And the fact that there was mental illness, right? The fact that she had lost her husband to mental illness. We had a conversation that was supposed to last 5 or 10 minutes and it went an hour and a half the first time that we talked on the phone, because I peppered her with, with questions, that one: I didn't feel like if I asked those questions of people closest to me, they would have an answer to, and some of them were, were really personal and sensitive related to Emily and her passing and her mental illness that nobody around me had experienced. And I found someone that had experienced that. So it started as like, like a therapy session, and that one phone call turned into another. And that kind of led to a really good, strong friendship. And the fact that when I was struggling with my kids, I could shoot her off a note and say, "Hey, I'm having a hard time with this. What, what are your ideas?" And so we just started messaging back and forth, and sharing kind of ideas of how to move forward.
Leslie Huntsman Dyches 31:00
One thing I was going to say about the first time we talked on the phone was that we were sharing things that we hadn't shared with anyone else. Because I felt like, you know, my, my parents and his, Chad's parents and my sister, I mean, they all love Chad dearly, right? But there were certain things that only a husband and wife, that relationship, that you share with them. And so when Eric and I talked for the first time, we were sharing very personal things with each other just because I think for one thing I was – I knew he wouldn't judge Chad. And he knew I wouldn't judge Emily, because we both understood, we had that love
Morgan Jones 32:25
Like a safe place.
Leslie Huntsman Dyches 32:26
Yeah, it was like a safe place for both of us.
Eric Dyches 32:28
It was safe. I remember vividly saying, "I've never told anybody this, but I'm going to share it with you." And it had to do with Emily's mental illness. And again, it – we were very protective, and still are very protective of our late spouses. And, but it was a safe opportunity for me to share and then gain perspective from somebody that was willing to share with me and help me. And that's how our relationship started. It did not start romantically, right? She was not looking to be remarried. I was looking for meaning and understanding and I needed answers. And she was able to provide those along the way. When she talks about kind of putting that broken mirror back together, because she had gone through that process, she was really helpful to me, to help me know where to put some of those pieces so I could move forward.
Morgan Jones 33:16
Yeah. So that's, that's the good part, right? And then I imagine that there are probably some unique challenges that you face in your relationship. Blending families, obviously a big thing, but even just having experienced trauma, how do you – how does that affect your relationship?
Eric Dyches 33:37
Blending a family is very difficult. And we've gone through some difficult things. And we can say it is very difficult to blend a family and –
Morgan Jones 33:44
Really quickly, your kids range from – you have a son on a mission, and the youngest is in kindergarten.
Eric Dyches 33:51
Morgan Jones 33:51
And there's eight of them.
Eric Dyches 33:52
And there's eight.
Leslie Huntsman Dyches 33:53
Eric Dyches 33:56
Yeah, we're out numbered. And the funny part is when you say, "We have a senior, junior, sophomore and freshman," everybody chuckles at that. And then we have a couple in kindergarten.
Morgan Jones 34:06
Exactly. And they, and they automatically are like, "Yes, please bless you."
Leslie Huntsman Dyches 34:12
Or back when we had three girls in junior high.
Morgan Jones 34:14
Oh, that's, that's like any parent's worst nightmare. That's my worst nightmare. And I'm not a parent.
Eric Dyches 34:21
So I think blending family is really difficult. And if you are interacting with someone, which I think we all are in the process of blending, just have compassion on them, give them the benefit of the doubt. And family relationships are more complicated probably than I once thought. Leslie and I both grew up in LDS homes with a husband and a wife. And kind of – that's the norm was kind of our –
Morgan Jones 34:48
Eric Dyches 34:48
The traditional was kind of our norm, and so that's what we understood. And I think one message I'd like to say is, there's a lot of different ways that a family looks, right? And so we are outside of that traditional norm, and doing the very best that we can to make that work. And so just – if you're interacting or as you interact with people just be sensitive to the fact that they might feel different, but you can help them feel included in that process by the words and the way you act to them.
Morgan Jones 35:21
Yeah. I want to go back to what Eric was just talking about in – with families that look differently. This is about to be a first on this podcast, but I would like to quote my favorite childhood show, which is Barney, but there's that song, there's this song that Barney used to sing, and I loved it. My family looked the way that you describe the traditional family, a dad, a mom and kids. But in the song it said, "A family is people and a family is love. That's a family." And they talked about how they come in all all shapes and sizes, and different kinds, but then it says, "But mine is just right for me." And for some reason, as a little girl, even, that resonated with me. And I remember thinking that's so true. That is what a family is. And so I do think it's so important, especially within the church, when we have this idea of what the perfect Latter-day Saint family looks like, to recognize that very few people, I think these days, fit into that ideal. But that doesn't mean that they're not a family. And I think what you all have created in your home is a beautiful thing. I've been wondering, as you've been talking – I think, and you mentioned this, Eric, when we spoke – that there are people that kind of have ideas about remarriage. And I think I read one of the things that you wrote the missives to Em, and you talked about how you had met Leslie, and that idea of getting remarried. And you were kind of in the moment of that when you wrote that that piece. And I thought, I have myself, have been judgmental at times I think of people that move on seemingly quickly. And so how did you handle that? And how – what are the – I imagine there's a lot of complicated emotions with that. Is that something you're comfortable talking about?
Eric Dyches 37:18
Absolutely. So I, I'm going to start kind of tongue in cheek here, and occasionally – because I think Leslie and I have to laugh through this at some level because, and respectfully, right? Because we don't have all the answers. But one of the things we joke about is one of these days, we're going to come up with one of those vinyl signs. And instead of saying, "Just because two people fell in love," we're going to put, "Just because four people fell in love." Because we don't – I mean, it's complicated. And let's just admit that family relationships are complicated. And we don't have a perfect box for every family or every relationship to land in, right? And I love the fact that in our culture, that we're being more open to that, right? And so I think, to your, to your specific question, I grew up with Emily, she was the only girl I wanted to be with. She was phenomenal. In every way, I thought. And before I went on a mission we, we were, we were really good friends in high school and dated quite a bit. And then she decided, "You're going on a mission. I'm going to college. So let's just separate and go our separate ways." And I was completely broken hearted, completely broken hearted. And so I served two years away from her, when I got home, we met back up and she had had a change of heart and decided that I was kind of cool. And so we were going to hang out. So my point is, I was so committed to her. I was committed to her throughout my whole life. And I was committed to her through her, through her sickness and through her passing. But what happened what I think was a gift to me. And my – one of my daughters, Leslie, share what Macy told you about me. And I'll finish.
Leslie Huntsman Dyches 39:04
Oh, this morning, I said, to Macy, she's our fifth grader, and she's just this much sassy. Anyway, she's just a bubbly, fun girl. But I said to her today, I said that we were doing this podcast, and she wanted to kind of know what we were talking about, right? So I started asking her a few questions. And I just said, "They're gonna ask me about blending the family and things like that." And I said, "How do you fill about us blending the family?" And she said, "Good." And I said, "Are you glad that we, that we blended our families together?" And she said, she goes, "Yeah, I am." And I said, "Well, what if we wouldn't have met? What if your dad was just doing this by himself?" She goes, "Oh, he could never do it."
Eric Dyches 39:50
Which is true. Which is totally true.
Leslie Huntsman Dyches 39:52
"Oh he could never do it," yeah.
Morgan Jones 39:54
Very matter of factly.
Eric Dyches 39:55
Matter of factly, she knows that and people closest to me know that. The point to that is, I knew early on – and this is a super sensitive side, but I'm willing to share at some small level, if it can help somebody – I knew very early on, that there was going to be a ram in the thicket. I knew the story of Abraham and Isaac kept coming to mind, and the words those sacred powerful words that God would provide. I didn't know all the details, but I figured that it would probably be a remarriage. And I knew that that was going to be hurtful for people. And I didn't know how my heart would change because at the time, I was so still in love with Emily, which I'm, I am today. Thus the whole complication with four people falling in love, right? Somehow, God provides a way for hearts to love. And God has provided a way for me today, as I sit here, to love Emily in the spirit world, and to love Leslie right next to me. And I don't – I can't explain it. But I know that it's working out for us. And one day, we'll have more answers. I welcome the fact that Leslie continues to love Chad. I want that to happen. They – we celebrated his birthday recently. And Leslie took her three kids, and they went to a nice dinner, and they laughed and lived and loved all about Chad. And I want that to continue. So I can't explain exactly, I can just – the best way to describe it is it's a gift that God bestowed upon both of us to allow room in our hearts to have an additional relationship. We talk about, in the Pearl of Great Price, it's this this concept of added upon. Leslie does not will not take Emily's spot, she's added to the relationships in my life. And I've made place for her in my heart while keeping place for Emily.
Morgan Jones 41:58
That's beautiful. Leslie, anything you would add to that?
Leslie Huntsman Dyches 42:01
What I was thinking is just how our Father in Heaven just gives us this, we have this capacity to love. And He just expands that. And I just think about these eight kids. You know, I just had the three before, and, I never wanted a big family. But I just I felt my Heavenly Father just opened my heart and expanded it to love these children like they're my own. So the baby, Emily and Eric's baby – Trey. He's kind of the light of our lives. He's just, everybody knows him. Every – I mean, go to the high school, "Trey! Trey!" Everybody knows him. The elementary school, I mean every, because he's – all the friends are always over, we have lots of teenagers over all the time. Everyone loves Trey. Anyway, he just started kindergarten a couple, few weeks ago. And I took him in just thinking, you know, this can be great. I'm going to have a couple hours to myself and I take him in. And I, I was stopped by this, this administrator in elementary school in the hallway, and she said, "Oh, Trey's going to kindergarten," and she goes, "I can hardly believe that." And it just hit me. Like, it hit me so hard that I was the one taking him to kindergarten, that his mom wasn't there. And I just immediately just got teary, and I just, you feel a tiny bit of guilt, that it's you and not her. And just knowing how I feel as a mom and how much I love my, all my kids, just knowing I wouldn't be there for those milestones was just really, it just, it just hit me really hard at that time. And I just really felt that she was aware of him and she was aware of me and my feelings, and that she was grateful that I was there taking care of him and loving him. And it just kind of opened my eyes a little bit more to the whole, to a different perspective of just not, not that it's like "My family, your family" – that we're all in God's family. And we're all just kind of helping each other along and helping each other home.
Morgan Jones 44:39
I think that it is so inspiring to hear how the two of you have come together. I don't want to miss the opportunity because we've never talked about the topic of suicide on this podcast before, and it is something that when you and I spoke, Eric, on the phone and you told me not only about Emily, but about Chad, I thought, and I told you this on the phone, that I have like a list of things that I want to talk about on this podcast. But I often wait until I feel like the right situation comes along. And I felt like this is a good time to talk about this. If the numbers hold true, then there are people listening to this podcast who have either contemplated suicide or who at this moment are contemplating suicide. Eric, what would you say to those people?
Eric Dyches 45:38
I'll keep it pretty simple. And I hope these words will resonate in someone's mind if they ever contemplate taking their own life. And these words are, "The picture on the nightstand is not enough." And what I mean by that is, we have eight kids, and you can imagine we, we have many life events in any given month, or any given year, we have plenty of life events. We have a son, who we just sent off at the airport. And shouldn't his mom have been there? We have an 11 year old that'll be receiving the priesthood. And I'm the one that's going to do that. Shouldn't Chad be doing that? We have daughters who are having these handsome young men come and pick them up for dates. Shouldn't it – shouldn't Chad be here seeing them off. And on and on, right? Birthday parties and big events. And with – without exception, our kids next to their bed, have a picture at least or often multiple pictures of their late parent. And my point is, that picture is not enough. If you are contemplating ending your existence in this life, I can tell you, the picture's left behind on the nightstand will not be enough. Leslie and I have spent countless of hours with our kids holding them, literally holding them. And when you have a child through sobs, just saying, "I just miss her. I just miss mom, or I just miss dad," Which we've been there, we've done that. And as a parent, it's one of the most helpful feelings, to not be able to bring that person back, and to say, the only thing to say is, "I miss them too. I wish she were here I wish he were here." And our message I think Leslie and I would would have for others is the picture on the nightstand will never be enough. So please just stay and find the resources and seek out the help and continue down the path. God will provide. Medical sciences improving. Our resources local, locally are improving. I am amazed at the people that I talk with. And I'm amazed that I see these donations recently just as of a few days ago, there's donations coming to the right places, we are improving the resources for mental illness. And we're improving the resources to fight this epidemic of suicide in the state of Utah and surrounding areas. So my message is, your picture on that nightstand will not be enough. Please just stay.
Morgan Jones 48:46
Thank you, Eric. One thing I wanted to emphasize before we finish is that for you this is an ongoing thing, for people that watched it on the news, it was something that happened and then was over but for the people experiencing it, it's not over. And I think that that's true of so many challenges in our lives, that from the outside looking in, they're like an isolated incident, but they keep going on. How do you keep – the ongoing challenges that you face in your lives as you move forward and live your lives – how do you keep those ongoing challenges in perspective?
Eric Dyches 49:26
I think it's a great question. And I think the fact that you're recognizing that when someone close to you passes away a piece of your self, your heart goes with them. And you're right, the the funerals over people go back to their busy lives and those that lost the loved ones are still left to pick up the pieces, right. And so the fact that we're recognizing that we ought to be compassionate and not just a situation of an untimely or traumatic death, but, you know, difficult relationships or disease or divorce or whatever it may be these very difficult things that happen, the fact that we're recognizing that we need to sit a little longer, like your grandmother, right? And sometimes just be with that individual. I'm not certain that I have specific examples, because you're right, we are still in this. And one of the hesitations on coming on, you know, a public forum, forum like this and sharing our stories is, we don't want to give anyone the perception that we have this all figured out. We don't. We are struggling and working and reading and praying and talking and wondering and pondering and trying to do the very best that we can. So we can be equipped to go through these scenarios –
Leslie Huntsman Dyches 50:42
And still grieving
Eric Dyches 50:42
– And still grieving along the way. And so I think, God will reach you where you are, if you seek. One of the most often cited promise is, "If you seek you'll find." And so our scenario is our situation, our, our story is our story. But I think if you go to the scriptures, and you look at the assurances that come from the scriptures, and you look at the invitations, especially the invitations from the Savior, and one of the most oft quoted, invitations, is to "Come unto me." And if you sincerely want to come unto Him, He will reach you and He will find you where you are. And it will look differently than our scenario. But He will tailor His approach with you. And if you think about the message that's coming from our Prophet today of "Hear Him," You can hear Him. I can hear Him. When I read, when I read in the scriptures of those words, and questions and assurances from the Savior, and especially the invitations, I feel like He's talking with me. And so find yourself in the scriptures. Elder Bednar in his "Hear Him," #hearhim video, he says, "The scriptures are God's pre-recorded voice." We can go to the scriptures and we can hear God's voice. The night Emily passed away, I kept hearing phrases and words from the Book of Mormon and the New Testament. And four and a half, almost five years later, the words that come to me are from the New Testament, and the Book of Mormon. Those assurances, the fact that God, the Savior of the world will break the bands of death, it will be swallowed up in Him, that steam will be gone because of Him. His resurrection is real. If we go back to Him, the source, we will find the answers that are unique to us.
Morgan Jones 52:41
That's powerful. Thank you so much, Eric and Leslie, thank you so much for sharing these things with us. My last question for you is, what does it mean to you to be all in the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
Leslie Huntsman Dyches 53:11
The day after Chad's funeral was a Sunday. And I walked into sacrament meeting a few minutes late with my children and my mom, and we sat down, and they started the sacrament. And I was, as I was sitting there waiting for the sacrament to be passed to me. I was sitting in the very back. And so there's that, there's that curtain that divides the wards and I could hear the priesthood Brethren, behind the curtain behind me singing "Joseph Smith's First Prayer." And I had never noticed these words before, or if I had I, it went over my head, but the words that just stuck with me were, I could hear them singing, "But undaunted, still he trusted in his Heavenly Father's care." And that just spoke to me like, "Yes, you just have to trust me." And so, for me to be all in, I have to put my trust in Him. I have to trust in His plan, and His purpose. And I have to trust in His teachings and, and in His timing of things. And most of all, I have to trust in His love for me, and that I won't have all the answers right now. But I do know that He loves me.
Morgan Jones 54:54
Thank you so much. Eric?
Eric Dyches 54:58
Whatever all in is, I haven't figured it out. And so I'm probably not the best person to ask that question of, and that's why I listen to your show on a weekly basis, because I love to get the perspective of so many individuals and what all in means to that individual. So I don't, I don't pretend to, to have it all figured out. I think for me, I'll simplify it. And I would say, if you are regularly thinking about the Savior, and you have a genuine desire to treat His children, your brothers and sisters well, and you want to develop those cardinal attributes, you want to be a forgiving person, you want to give to people, you want to show mercy, you want to have charity in your life and be seen as someone that has charity, if you think about the Savior, and you want –you think about him regularly, and you want to develop those attributes, I think you can check the box of being all in. There's a really powerful word that we use in our culture, and that's "strive." I know people that are listening right now, and some people close to me, who've had some pretty major struggles in their life, and their ongoing struggles. And if you ask them, "Are you all in?" They would say, "No, I'm not all in because of all these reasons why I'm not." And in reality, I look at them, and they are my inspirations. Because they want to be like the Savior. They think about the Savior, they're doing the very best they can. They may not check every box of every checklist, but the fact that they are desirous – that word is often used in the scriptures – and, and if we are, God knows our hearts, and that's one of the greatest things. He knows my intents of my heart and He will bless me accordingly. So if you think regularly of the Savior, and you want to develop his attributes, I don't think I need to complicate it any more than saying, "I'm all in and I'm going to keep going."
Morgan Jones 57:02
Thank you so much. That might be one of my favorite thoughts about this, just because I have people sometimes that say to me, "I don't think it's possible to be all in." And I personally think it is possible because I think it is what you just described. And I don't think anybody checks all the boxes and so – I think you just made it – you, you narrowed it down to two boxes, and I think a lot more people can check those. So thank you both so much. It has been such a blessing to be with you. So thank you.
Eric Dyches 57:36
Morgan Jones 57:39
We are so grateful to Eric and Leslie for joining us on today's episode. While we didn't focus on maternal mental health in this episode, our show notes include many resources that we hope will aid your exploration of the topic. You can find those at LDSliving.com/allin. Again, all of our show notes for every episode, including full transcripts can be found at LDSliving.com/allin. As always, thank you to Derek Campbell of Mix at Six Studios for his help with this episode, and thank you for listening. We'll be with you again next week.