The Blue & Gray Press

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Humans of UMW: Emily McPhee maintains positivity through grieving process

3 min read

Emily McPhee is a sophomore and works at the Digital Knowledge Center as well as holding an RA position. (Erin Matuczinski | The Blue & Gray Press)


Staff Writer

Known for her upbeat and bubbly personality, sophomore Emily McPhee lives by the Ralph Waldo Emerson quote: “Live in the sunshine.”
McPhee believes she has the ability to befriend almost anybody, and her main goals in life are to spread kindness and gratitude. She worked this year as resident assistant in Eagle Landing and feels that being able to touch the lives of her residents has been the best part of the job.

“There is no better feeling than making someone else feel as warm as if the sun is shining directly on them,” said McPhee.

Showing love and compassion to others is also important to McPhee in her family, and she credits her grandfather for instilling those beliefs in her. Him pushing for everybody to be their best selves is why McPhee believes her and her three siblings are so close, despite their age gaps.

McPhee first grew close with her grandfather at a young age while living with him in Norfolk. At night after her mother put her to bed, she would sneak out to the living room and eat popcorn with him on his lap.
In the following years, McPhee’s grandfather encouraged a tradition of family gatherings for everybody’s birthdays, as well as holidays like Easter and Thanksgiving.

Last July, McPhee’s grandfather passed away. He had been battling an illness since the previous Christmas.

The months following were very difficult for McPhee. She had to begin her sophomore year in a state of grief, struggling to start classes and her new jobs on campus.

“It is a weird thing to go through because all of your emotions are invisible to other people,” said McPhee. “I was going through life knowing nobody knew how I was feeling, but also being too afraid to open up about it. I wasn’t sure anybody would really understand.”

McPhee spent a few months in therapy in order to work through the difficult emotions. When she returned to campus that fall, she made an appointment at the Talley Center to continue counseling and felt that her sessions there were beneficial.

Even after months of great progress, McPhee reaffirms that grief can occasionally come back out of nowhere, sometimes in the least expected times.

“Grief is a weird emotion because it never really goes away,” McPhee said. “I still have days where my heart feels empty. There will always be moments where I have news to share with him, but I can’t.”

Opening up to others is how McPhee feels is the best way to heal after a loss. While she has had helpful experiences with professionals, she acknowledges that confiding in family members and friends can bring comfort as well.

McPhee has found what she considers to be her second family while working at the Digital Knowledge Center. She was “recruited” by her own tutor freshman year, and took a position there this past August. She describes her coworkers there as the most kindhearted people in her life and does not know what she would do without them. Her resident assistant job has helped her meet some of her closest friends as well.

Moving forward after a difficult period in life, McPhee has begun journaling to keep track of where she is headed. She hopes to have a career in social media management, as well as achieving her life dream of living part time at sea on a sailboat. She continues to help others by making herself somebody who is easy to confide in, and encourages others who may be struggling to remember that they are not alone.

“There is no correct way to grieve,” McPhee said. “Everyone handles these situations differently. Be gentle with yourself.”

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