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Writing to help and heal

This Grow Your Value finalist wrote a book to help others feel less alone in the world.

Grow Your Value finalist Emily Reeves never planned to publish a book about losing her younger brother, a Navy SEAL who served in Afghanistan, when she began privately writing about her experience with grief after he was killed in 2011. In the month following his death, Emily wrote her brother deeply personal letters describing her feelings and what happened that day. In a fog of confusion and pain, she turned to the writing process to feel the deep connection she had with her only sibling.

“I started writing to him, knowing he would never get them,” Emily told MSNBC. “I knew he was gone, but it was something I needed to do to get feelings off of my chest.” She didn’t realize it at the time, but this marked a new chapter in her life and career.

The series of letters eventually became a memoir detailing Emily’s experience with grief and the aftermath of losing a sibling, particularly a military hero. Last month, on the fourth anniversary of her brother’s death, her book Stay Safe was published – signifying what Emily calls “a major milestone in her grieving process.” The satisfaction, comfort and peace she felt after sharing her story with others marked a step forward for Emily and ignited her passion for writing.

The brave act of recounting her story and helping readers understand that grieving is an individual process inspired Emily to reevaluate her professional value and source of career fulfillment. While she initially dreaded the judgment of her readers, she now seeks the emotional gratification that comes with sharing the hardest parts of her life with others. Her hope is that by sharing the intimate details of her own struggle, her readers won’t “feel alone and strange and crazy.”

“I want others to be able to look at that and say, ‘It’s okay if I’m laughing through the tears, or it’s okay if I’m angry at people.’ You can’t be perfect in that situation,” she said.

Emily entered the Grow Your Value bonus competition as a jump start to her new career trajectory, and believes that a revitalized sense of value is exactly what she needs to pursue writing full time. Emily has already done the leg work to grow her value. I have always said, “If you don’t put yourself out there, how will you know what's going to happen?” Emily put herself out there by publishing her book, and it has given her inner strength that she never thought existed. 

Emily is beyond brave for publishing her deeply personal and difficult story, and it has led to a rewarding new chapter in her life. I'm excited to see her bravery and strength when she's on stage at Know Your Value in Chicago. “What I’m hoping is that I’ll walk away with the confidence that I need to follow my passion and to ask for what I want from my career and pursue that,” she told MSNBC. 

You can catch Emily and the other Grow Your Value finalists compete for $10,000 at Chicago’s Know Your Value event on September 25 at where we’ll be livestreaming the event. And if you want to attend in person, you can still snag tickets. See you in Chicago!