Depression or Grief: How Do I Know?

“Are My Feelings Normal?”

3899825528_7261373b15_bAs a professional counselor, I hear this question many times per week. People in a variety of situations, heartaches and struggles just want to know “Do others feel similar to me when they go through comparable circumstances?”  And their second question follows closely on the heels of the first, “How can I stop the pain?”

This question has personal and professional importance to me. When my mom died in 1996, I was officially diagnosed for the first time with depression. I was not a counselor at the time, but looking back I was extremely sad and hopeless.  I struggled every day to get myself and my small children ready for the day, was always tired and uninterested in most activities. After months in this zombie-like state, I finally drug myself to counseling and within months was back on track with life. With the loss of my dad this past year I came face-to-face with the fear of the “black dog of depression” enveloping me again and taking over my life. This time I was better equipped with an understanding of grief and specific tools for keeping the depression on the distant horizon.  For a great overview of depression take a moment and watch “I had a black dog, his name was depression” on YouTube.

The following are some differences between grief and depression:

 

Bereavement/Grief includes:

  • Losing something or someone significant to you. (i.e. a loved one, job, home)
  • Experiencing painful emotions felt in waves intertwined with positive feelings and memories of what was lost.
  • Maintaining good self-esteem with the feelings of loss and emptiness directed at what is missed.

Major Depression is different in that:

  • It can be either triggered by an event like a death (or any another traumatic event) or it can be spontaneous and happen without any warning.
  • Moods and thoughts are predominately negative most of the day every day.
  • The experience of low self-worth and a self-critical inward focus rather than the outward focus on missing someone.

The experience of grief varies for different people. It is stressful and can last up to 1 – 2 years but it does not automatically lead to depression. While it may be difficult to discern between mild depression and grief, for many people an exact diagnosis is unnecessary. It has been shown that 40% of all depressive symptoms start to lift within 4 months without any treatment and many of the interventions shown to help relieve grief also work effectively with mild depression.

So to the second question, “How can I stop the pain?”

I would encourage you to ask a different question—if you can.

Instead of asking to be rid of the pain, ask:

How can I live well in the midst of pain?

 

Take Personal Responsibility for Feeling Better

Probably the biggest difference for me between the last time I dealt with a parent’s death and this time is the realization that I am responsible for caring well for me. I can invite others to help but I no longer expect my spouse, kids or friends to make me happy. I am happy when I am with them—well, most of the time :-)—but they are NOT responsible for me feeling better.  My heart, my job!

Be social

The last thing I wanted to do after my dad’s death was to be with other people. Those awkward moments when people don’t know what to say are difficult; however, often just being around others and listening to their conversations helps you know that life will eventually return to “normal”. Some other options: Attend church. Volunteer. Do things for others. Attend a grief class.

Exercise

I believe managing mild depression or grief with exercise is a double win! You get in better shape and you start to refill the happy chemicals in your brain. (Severe depression is different and usually needs an anti-depressant to enhance good therapy.) Walking is great. Finding an online workout has been very helpful personally.  Join a gym if you need the motivation of a trainer and classes. Find something you like so you will be motivated to continue. Three times a week, 30 minutes a time has been shown to be successful in lifting mild depression!

Give yourself time. Don’t rush. Remember the good times

Journaling can provide a container for the grief when it threatens to overwhelm you. Get those sad thoughts out on paper where they can be cared for effectively. My mom’s 85th birthday would have been this past week. I journaled about all the things I loved about her and yes, I teared up. But it helps to keep bringing healing to my soul and joyful memories to my brain—releasing happy chemicals! It’s a win, win!

Think about your thoughts

Talking with a friend, spouse or counselor can help you process the thoughts of grief, sadness and at times regret. Our thoughts determine our feelings which lead to our eventual behavior. For example, if I start to think “The pain of losing my dad will always be unbearable,” it leads to feelings of hopelessness and discouragement which lead to actions of staying in bed or isolating from others. It is extremely valuable to examine our thoughts with someone who can help us identify better thoughts which can lead to different feelings and more helpful actions. Instead, I might choose to think “I miss my dad but I was so blessed to have a great dad,” leading to feelings of gratefulness and writing a card to someone telling them why I am thankful for them today.

Sit with the Ultimate Comforter

Prayer and sitting with Jesus gave me hope when losing my parents seemed dark and hopeless. There is NO substitute for God in the walking of the grief journey. His word states, “God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” 2 Corinthians 2:3b-4 (NLT). If you are not a believer or are REALLY mad at God over the death of your loved one, I understand. I was there. Talk to him about your anger and your loss, He cares that you are hurting.

If you have recently lost a loved one, I am so sorry. IT IS DIFFICULT. There is no quick healing or solution. I would be honored to journey beside you as you process this grief. Maybe you have a great friend to encourage you, if so you are blessed! Ask them if they will walk this grief journey with you. I encourage you, don’t walk it alone. God intends for us to heal in community. Praying for you today!

 

depression counselorsOver 1,400 families in southwest Missouri trust the counselors of The Relationship Center to serve their counseling needs. With more than 14,000 hours of therapy in the last 5 years alone TRC counselors have the experience that can make the difference. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $75-$125 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here to Learn More About Depression Counseling at The Relationship Center

Child-Centered Parenting, Peer Pressure, & Family Identity

child-centered parentingWhat is child-centered parenting?

Child-centered parenting occurs when the majority of activities within the house revolve around the children. It is a common phenomenon with marital consequences. Instead of children being welcome members to the family, they are the center of the family. Those beautiful children with dimples and cute smiles come between the two most important members of the family unit, the husband and wife. A solid husband and wife relationship creates security in the hearts of the children. The opposite is also true, fighting and friction between parents creates insecurity and fear of divorce in children.

Where does child-centered parenting come from?

Well-meaning parents swallow the cultural lie that children need to be “well-rounded”. To achieve the goal of “well-roundedness” parents sign their children up for every available activity: T-ball, dance, little league, swimming lessons, karate, writing lessons, riding lessons, taekwondo, music lessons, soccer, golf, etc.

It exhausts parents physically and financially. The possible children’s events today are endless (until you run out of money). So the big question—are activities BAD? Absolutely not. It is good for children to learn to swim, swing a bat, play an instrument and play cooperatively with others. So what is the problem then?

The Major Problems

Child-centered parenting breaks down the family unit. The parents become nothing more than taxis running their children from event to event often splitting up to attend separate events. Two more problems flow from this:

The Loss of the Marriage Relationship

Experts tell us that “empty-nest” is the time of the highest divorce rate in America. Why? I believe one cause is child-centered parenting. Parents become enamored with their children’s success in a variety of arenas and take little to no time for themselves or each other. Finding themselves alone after the last child has gone to college; spouses don’t even know what to say to each other. When the nights stretch endlessly without a child’s game to attend or a play to applaud, husbands and wives watch TV during dinner and wonder who it is they are sitting in the room with.

If you are married and reading this article, when is the last time you took your spouse on a planned date? If it’s more than two weeks ago, you might be curious about why. As a marriage therapist, I often hear a variety of reasons for spouses not dating such as lack of money, time, and similar interests? Just wondering if those reasons stopped you BEFORE marriage? Ouch!

The Loss of Family Identity

What is family identity? It is the proud feeling that “we” are a unit. We love and support one another. We have fun together. We play games. We work hard. We as parents train and pass on our values to our children. It is during all of these “we” times that family identity is built. A wise person once said, “Peer pressure is only as strong as family identity is weak.” Family identity is essential to protecting your children from the pressure to be involved in activities outside of your family’s value system.

Family identity cannot be built without TIME. School-age children are away from their home 40+ hours per week. During this time, another person(s) is placing their values in your children. Then if you add 2 – 3 nights of sports, music or dance, one might wonder where you will find the time to train your children in your values or honestly just have fun with them. Home school parents are NOT exempt just because having your kids are in your home all day makes it even easier to be child-centered and not prioritize your spouse or marriage! (Just ask me, I lived it!)

Signs of child-centered parenting:
  • Infrequent or no dating by parents
  • Exhausted parents and anxious children
  • Little conversation about anything except the children’s events
  • Parents’ conversations are often and usually interrupted by children
  • Husband or wife would rather spend time with the children than their spouse
  • Needs of spouse are less important than the needs of the child
  • One or both spouses receive their emotional support from the kids instead of the spouse
  • Difficulty getting normal chores finished around the house

IF CHILD-CENTERED PARENTING sounds AWFUL–What is the answer?

The answer is SIMPLE but NOT easy.  Adjust your beliefs; adjust your actions.

Adjust your beliefs:

Although the marriage relationship is more work, your relationship with your spouse is more rewarding than your relationship with your children. OK…I can hear some of you laughing out loud right now and saying, “You certainly don’t know my spouse!”

Well…if it is not more rewarding right now maybe it is because your spouse is last on your list. [PAUSE AND BE CURIOUS] Could it be that there is never money left after the children’s events for dates, special gifts, cards, and other items that show that you care? Or you are just too exhausted at the end of the kid’s events for a great sexual encounter?

Adjust your actions:

  • Call your spouse right now and ask them out on a date. [PAUSE] Seriously, do NOT read any further before making that call.
  • Spend the first 15 minutes after work with your spouse asking about their day. Train the children not to interrupt. Find special activities for the children during this important time.
  • Scale the children’s activities back for the next season to one extra-curricular activity per child.
  • Tell your children that your spouse is more important than them because you are planning to be married WAY after the children have moved out!
  • At all times, honor your spouse in speech and action but especially IN FRONT of your children.

My desire is that your family love and honor one another. If you have any trouble adjusting your beliefs or actions, come for a season of family or marriage counseling. I would be honored to help your family have amazing relationships!

depression counselorsOver 1,700 families in southwest Missouri trust the counselors of The Relationship Center to serve their counseling needs. With more than 18,500 hours of therapy in the last 5 years alone TRC counselors have the experience that can make the difference. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $75-$125 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here to Learn More About Marriage Counseling at The Relationship Center

Overcoming Sexual Barriers in Marriage

Sexual BarriersWhat does a couple do when the bedroom has lost its sizzle? They do what some of you reading this article just did…GOOGLE… “Why isn’t my sex life working?” or some similar topic. I imagine you are reading this article because you or your partner is disappointed about the sexual aspect of your marriage.

Sex is not turning out like your friends, TV, the movies, or even a previous relationship predicted.

What now?

There are three categories of sexual problems: physical, relational, and a combination of the two.

Examples of physical issues:

  • Erectile Dysfunction
  • Female Sexual Pain
  • Loss of desire

Examples of relational issues:

  • One partner having/had an affair and the other cannot think about resuming sexually
  • Sexual aversion due to an abusive situation either currently or from the past
  • Relationship conflict that damages safety and respect

Combination issues (more likely):

  • A young couple cannot have intercourse on their wedding night because of a small vaginal opening resulting in sex being linked with pain. Sexual aversion then develops for one or both partners because the pain during sex is not pleasant.
  • Low desire may be triggered at any stage of marital life for a variety of reasons. However, if the lines of communication are not open about sex, the higher desire spouse feels rejected leading to demand for more sex or withdrawal from the relationship—either approach leading to less intimacy.

Sexuality is one of the most openly discussed topics on TV and the news and yet I find that most couples cannot even say the words penis, vagina, and orgasm as it relates to their personal sex life without it becoming a threatening, scary conversation. A sexual conversation needs to be held fully clothed when you are ready to try it!

Treatment for overcoming sexual barriers in marriage depends on the length of time the problem has existed and the severity of the after-effects on the relationship. Treatment differs between the 70 year-old loving couple who wants to resume sexual intercourse after the narrowing of the vaginal walls and the couple who blames each other for sexual issues and threatens divorce if their partner doesn’t get it together sexually.

Normally a couple struggling with sexual intimacy must put the issue “on hold” for a season, quit blaming each other, learn to communicate, care for their own heart effectively, and eventually learn to love their spouse again.

Often instead of learning to love, spouses try two less effective ways of change:

  1. They try to change their spouse. This is not effective for obvious reasons. No one likes the feeling of being judged or controlled and no one can actually change another human being except him or herself.
  2. They try to serve their spouse more. “If I were just more loving, he/she would change.” On the surface, it appears a better option. However, when the loving actions are not reciprocated, it often leads to bitterness and resentment—neither of which provide a great foundation for awesome sexuality. There are more effective ways to increase sexual intimacy.

INCREASE EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION

Instead of the above options, couples need to commit to working on the problem together as a team. Effective teamwork starts with clear communication. Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson is a great book for learning how to have difficult conversations effectively. Another option might be The DNA of Relationships by Gary Smalley which contains an effective communication tool called Heart Talk.

However, just reading books will not change anything; you must take the concepts and practice them. This is where a good marriage therapist and a group of trusted friends would be a great asset.

INDIVIDUAL SEXUALITY HEALED

Once the relationship is stable and there are no threats of divorce, affairs, and when the name calling stops, the relationship will truly be a safe place.  After gaining relational stability, then it is time to look at each person’s individual sexual history. Perhaps there are beliefs or events from your personal past keeping you stuck in an ongoing cycle of hurts and disappointment in the bedroom.

A great resource for exploring beliefs around sexuality is The Sexual Healing Journey by Wendy Malz. If there is sexual abuse in your background (which is defined as any time someone made you feel uncomfortable in an unwanted sexual manner) you made need to get some professional help to heal.

COUPLES SEXUAL HEALING

Lastly, it is time to look at the couples’ sexual relationship. Making time for sexual conversation and activity is critical. The number one reason women do not have intercourse more often is because of fatigue. You cannot heal a broken sexual relationship without time (or any relationship issues for that matter!)

Many factors lead to married people feeling like roommates instead of passionate lovers. Among the ones, I hear the most are busyness, child-centered parenting, negative beliefs about sex, past abuse, and TV/electronics in the bedroom. Honestly, I think a ban on all cell phone, tablet and TV use after 9 PM would lead to an increase in sexual frequency. (OK, I will get off my soapbox now!)


As a licensed professional counselor specializing in marriage and sex therapy, my goal is to help couples connect in a deep, satisfying way both relationally and sexually. I wish you the best in your efforts to reconnect! Email me and let me know how you are doing – I care! rachelle.colegrove@getrelationshiphelp.com

depression counselorsOver 1,400 families in southwest Missouri trust the counselors of The Relationship Center to serve their counseling needs. With more than 14,000 hours of therapy in the last 5 years alone TRC counselors have the experience that can make the difference. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $75-$125 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here to Learn More About Marriage Counseling at The Relationship Center

Embracing Single Sexuality as a Christian

A recently married Christian couple sits before me in my office and through tears and shame relate their story:

The husband: “We waited. We were virgins on our wedding night. We never even kissed before marriage but that first night something went horribly wrong. We tried and tried to have sex and it just wouldn’t work. Now my wife is not even interested because of the intense pain it caused her. My wife has been to the doctor and there is no obvious medical condition.”

The wife: “It’s been 3 years and we are ready to call it quits. We are wondering if there is even a chance that we could conceive children. It’s all my fault.” Their heads drop as they cry together.

It is familiar cry of couples who unwittingly sabotaged their sexual relationship by putting sexuality “on hold” while dating and can’t “switch” it back on for the wedding night. Am I suggesting they should have had intercourse before marriage to make sure all the parts worked? No; rather I am proposing that sexuality is an essential part of our being from birth and should be faithfully stewarded rather than repressed.

This scenario will be addressed in two ways, first in a preventative manner looking at what this couple could have done during their dating season to steward their sexuality and secondly in a restorative manner—what are some ways to bring healing now? These two articles are Embracing Single Sexuality as a Christian and Overcoming Sexual Barriers in Marriage.

Embracing and Stewarding Single Sexuality as a Christian

Sexuality was God’s idea and reflects his very image. Genesis 1:27 states, “So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.There is something unique about God’s plan for two persons to reflect his fullness.

Christian singles today are waiting longer to marry and are bombarded from two sides of the cultural sexual war:
Side One –generally promoted by TV and Hollywood: “Why wait? Sex is meant to be enjoyed!”

Side Two –generally promoted by the church: “Sexuality will get you into trouble. Do your best to shut it off and suppress it until marriage.”

Clients that have fully embraced either one of these options sit in my office devastated by the outcome. Let’s explore a third and better option:

The Third Option: Stewarding Single Sexuality

What does it mean to steward our sexuality? I believe this includes embracing God’s design for human relationships. God was clear in the beginning about his image being defined by the two sexes—male and female. Our sexuality does not start at puberty but rather at birth.

Authors Rosenau and Wilson (2006), give overlapping concepts of the various aspects of sexuality including lifelong sexuality, erotic sexuality, and true sex. Sexual activities fall into these three categories reserved for specific people and places. Let’s compare the three categories:

1. Sexuality

Sexuality encompasses all of our whole being from birth. We relate to others out of our sexuality every day. Sexuality drives us to intimacy with friends, God, and potentially our partner. It defines us as male or female.

This includes our sexual identity as male or female and all of our day-to-day interactions. It is the largest and most comprehensive circle in which the next two categories sit.

2. Erotic Sexual Behaviors

Erotic Sexual Behaviors include physical and mental activities that are emotionally or sexually arousing. (i.e. fantasy, sexual conversation, kissing, caressing, holding)

3. True Sex

True Sex is the most erotic sexual behavior reserved for marriage (Hebrews 13:4). At a minimum, this category includes all oral, anal, and vaginal intercourse and activities leading to orgasm.

Soul Virgins chart

The above illustration is adapted from Soul Virgins by Doug Rosenau and Micheal Todd Wilson (2006).

For the Christian dating couple who want to abstain from true sex until marriage, that does not mean avoiding any conversations about sex. It also does not mean avoiding physical contact entirely. Instead, it refers to deciding what to do when an intimate moment starts to go farther than the limitations agreed upon .

This involves couples stewarding their sexual lives in a way that honors both partners. Instead of asking the proverbial “How far can we go?” question, one of the following questions might help steward sexual behavior toward the couples’ sexual values:

  • In our romantic interactions, how can we find sexual wholeness and intimacy in ways pleasing to God?
  • How can I steward my partner’s sexuality and develop his or her true potential to become all God wants him or her to be?
  • How can I value, celebrate and protect this other person, who might be someone else’s Adam or Eve? (Rosenau & Wilson, 2006)

No significant change comes without looking at our underlying core beliefs. Individuals must truly believe their body is special, made by God, belongs to God, and is worth saving until marriage. It is a soul virgin attitude that must define a man or woman’s life to pave the road for physical virginity.

Soul virginity starts during singleness but is an attitude continued through the various potential stages of marriage, possible singleness again, childbearing, and widowhood. A soul virgin is defined as one who continuously seeks to value, celebrate and protect God’s design for sexuality—body, soul and spirit—in oneself and others.

How To cultivate soul virginity:

Stay in close relationship with the Fathergetting your intimacy needs met with Him first
Cultivate many friendsnot just your significant other
Discuss biblical standards and set a practical plan for purity with your “person”
Set up accountability partners for both to contact when struggling
Steward and discipline your thought life — It is where the battle is won or lost
Repent and try again if you fail — figure out why the plan isn’t working well

Much of the content within this article has been gleaned from the excellent book, Soul Virgins. I encourage you that the battle for sexual purity is worth the fight. Keep up the battle. Let me know how you are doing. You can contact me through my professional page, Rachelle Colegrove, MA, PLPC on Facebook.

My next article on Overcoming Sexual Barriers in Marriage will be featured in December 2014. I am looking forward to helping couples explore options for restoring health and fun to their sex lives!

christian counselingOver 1,400 families in southwest Missouri trust the counselors of The Relationship Center to serve their counseling needs. With more than 14,000 hours of therapy in the last 5 years alone TRC counselors have the experience that can make the difference. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $75-$125 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here to Learn More About Counseling at The Relationship Center

How to Keep Your Sanity as a Pastor’s Wife!

As a pastor’s wife (and now missionary) for heart care for a pastor's wife25+ years, I am finally learning the keys to maintaining my emotional health. Yes, you heard me right . . . myself.  I have tried to keep the pastor (my husband), his kids, the deacons, their kids, and pretty much
everyone else in the church happy at times. If you are already a pro at taking care of your own heart, pass this article on to another friend, but if not, maybe something in here will help you.

As a counselor, I have found an excellent process that leads to emotional wellness when I am triggered and I give it to EVERY client because no one “makes it through childhood unscathed.”  While not all your craziness can be blamed on your mom (I already told my kids I would pay for their therapy!), at some point everyone has been wounded by another human being. It is inevitable. These wounds create buttons that get bumped into by those around us. I hear women say, “Well, if my husband would just _____ . . . then I would be OK.” I am proposing that you can be OK whether or not your husband does _____.

Your heart—Your responsibility. This article contains five steps for caring for your heart. An excellent team of therapists at The National Institute of Marriage developed these steps. Let’s get started!

You have dinner almost on the table and your husband calls to say he will not be home again because of an “emergency” with a church member. As you feel the steam rising from your ears – stop. Take space and work through the following steps in a quiet place with your journal. I have clients take a picture of the steps and keep it on their phone for use at all times (in traffic, in Wal-Mart, with children).

1. Become Aware of My Feelings (not usually too hard!)

  • What is going on physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, relationally?
  • Identify my feelings. Be curious rather than judging them. A judged heart will immediately shut down whereas curious attitude promotes openness.
  • “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” James 1:19

2. Accept My Own Feelings

“My husband makes me so angry!” Really?
You just gave him power over your emotional wellness – You can choose to be angry or not.
 
  • Own your thoughts, feelings, actions, and beliefs, through personal responsibility:
    • I am responsible for my own Thoughts, Feelings, Actions, or Beliefs.
    • I am not responsible for another’s Thoughts, Feelings, Actions, or Beliefs.
    • In relationships, I recognize I contribute a positive or negative influence, but I cannot control or determine another’s Thoughts, Feelings, Actions, or Beliefs.
  • Accept the job to exercise personal care.
  • “Search me, O God, and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts.” Psalm 139:23

3. Allow God to Enter

  • Pray.
  • What does God say to me about His comfort, His truth, His conviction, my value and my worth?
  • What is the TRUTH?
  • “God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19

4. Attend to My Thoughts

  • Are there negative messages/beliefs I might be feeling from my past?
  • Did I do anything to contribute to my feelings?
  • Could I possibly have misunderstood? Am I mind reading?
  • “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?” James 4:1
  • “Above all else, guard your heart, for from it flow the springs of life.” Proverbs 4:23

5. Act in Integrity

  • Will my response create safety within me?
  • Will my response create safety for my relationship?
  • How does God want me to respond?
  • Maintain and respond with integrity.
  • “If it is possible, as far as it depends upon you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18

If you need help learning to care for your heart and respond in integrity instead of reacting, please give me a call.

For a printer friendly PDF version of this article, please click here: How to Keep Your Sanity as a Pastor’s Wife

 

depression counselorsOver 1,400 families in southwest Missouri trust the counselors of The Relationship Center to serve their counseling needs. With more than 14,000 hours of therapy in the last 5 years alone TRC counselors have the experience that can make the difference. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $75-$125 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here to Learn More About Marriage Counseling at The Relationship Center

A Parent’s Response: Voicing a Gay Identity

Contemplating Parents

Teen: “I’m gay”

Parent: “What?”

What happens next?


Your adolescent son or daughter arrives home from worship practice and says, “I need to talk to you . . . (LONG pause). . . I am gay.

Immediately questions flood your mind and rush like a stream out of your mouth, “What do you mean? Are you sure? How long have you known? What does this mean for your future?” Overwhelming emotions intertwine with the questions: shock, fear, disappointment, disapproval, fear, and maybe even resignation for a parent who suspected the same sex attraction.

For many parents, especially evangelical Christians, this announcement comes as a total shock. As your adolescent shares and watches closely for your reaction, you sit stunned trying to reorient yourself to your surroundings and control the panic rising in your throat. Most parents react with a deep sense of loss, feelings of shame, panic, and aloneness (Saltzburg, 2004).

One Christian mom describes her reaction to her son’s disclosure as “being kicked in the gut”.

With this new information about your child, How should you react?

LISTEN MUCH/TALK LITTLE

For most parents, there is a flood of emotion ranging from sadness to anger. If possible, put aside your own emotions and listen to your child’s heart. Your child has been struggling with same sex attraction and this conversation for months, possibly years. This is a critical moment to listen. Your child has taken a great risk of rejection to share their feelings with you.

BE AFFIRMING WITH YOUR WORDS

  1. You will always be my son or daughter.
  2. Tell me how you came to this conclusion.
  3. We will work through this journey together.
  4. What do you need from me as your parent?

ASK FOR TIME TO PROCESS

Your child has spent many months processing these feelings. You will need time to find safe people to share with, read and educate yourself, pray, and grieve.

Most parents ask “What could I have done differently? Is this my fault? What caused my child to be homosexual?” While the causes of homosexuality have been widely researched and debated, at this point there are no definitive causes of homosexuality (Yarhouse, 2010).

While processing and finding resources, continue to do the things that you enjoy (i.e. gardening, reading, motorcycles). This will keep your whole life from being absorbed by this relationship change with your child.

Taking time to process and accept what you are feeling as a parent is essential to understanding for your child as well as to continue developing a healthy relationship with them.

FIND SAFE PEOPLE TO WALK THE JOURNEY WITH YOU

Most parents find this to be an unexpected and difficult journey. Dreams are shattered. Previously held thoughts of traditional marriage and family are set aside. It is essential to find a few safe people to walk alongside for strength and encouragement. Safe people care and uphold your confidence in them.

It is important not to compromise your child’s disclosure by sharing with those who are not confidential. Often times, this is where a pastor or counselor can be of great assistance. A counselor with specific training in dealing with same sex attractions is a bonus.

EDUCATE YOURSELF

Educating yourself about homosexuality helps you to gain respect for your teen and possibly gives common ground for a discussion regarding sexual identity. Conversely, judgment closes the doors of communication and potentially alienates your son or daughter.

One prolific writer and researcher around the combined topics of Christianity and homosexuality is Mark Yarhouse. He has specific resources for parents and youth pastors to help them address the topic of homosexuality with teens.

Dr. Yarhouse developed a three tier distinction to help those struggling with unwanted same sex feelings.

 Distinction PyramidThe First Level

I experience same-sex attractions” is used to describe feelings men (6%) and women (4.5%) have toward the same sex (Laumann, Gagnon, Michael, and Michaels, 1994).

This does not necessarily describe their behavior but is a way to understand that for whatever reason some people have attractions toward the same sex.

The Second Level

I have a homosexual orientation” describes men (2%) and women (1%) whose feelings have been strong and persistent for a significant length of time.

This would then lead that person to describe their attractions as ‘homosexual’.

The Third Level

I am gay” is a socio-cultural label that people use to describe themselves. Because most researchers do not ask about “gay identity” there are not figures to report how many adhere to a gay identity.

Essentially, this tier shows that a larger group of people have same sex attractions than choose to have a homosexual orientation. This can be helpful with adolescents who are only hearing the media message “if you have same sex attractions then you are gay”.

It is important for your son or daughter to realize his or her identity is built around many factors—one of them is sexuality.

FOCUS ON YOUR PERSONAL JOURNEY

Pray, read the Word, fast, ask God for scriptures to uphold and comfort you during this new journey. Realize that God is on your side and he wants to walk beside you as you process your feelings and your loss of previously held dreams for your child.

While the disclosure of same sex attraction destroys some families, it is not necessary. There can be common ground reached for both parents and teens. As a licensed counselor and licensed minister, I am available to come along side you and your child during this journey and help you find healing. If you or your teen needs a safe place, I would love to be there for your family.

Resources

Laumann, E.O., Gagnon, J.H., Michael, R.T, and Michaels, S. (1994). The social organization of sexuality: Sexual practices in the United States. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Saltzburg, S. (2004). Learning that an adolescent child is gay or lesbian: The parent experience. National Association of Social Workers, 48 (1), 109-118.

Yarhouse, M. (2010). Homosexuality and the Christian: A guide for parents, pastors, and friends. Bethany House Publishers. Bloomington: Minnesota.

For a printer friendly version of this article, please click here: A Parent’s Response: Voicing a Gay Identity

 

christian counselingOver 1,400 families in southwest Missouri trust the counselors of The Relationship Center to serve their counseling needs. With more than 14,000 hours of therapy in the last 5 years alone TRC counselors have the experience that can make the difference. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $75-$125 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here to Learn More About Counseling at The Relationship Center

Creating a Marital Timeout

Holes in the wall, screeching tires, clenched fists, and hateful words are just some of the indicators that a relationship has gone awry. Angry words and actions affect lives forever. How can you stop these reactions early before they are out of control?

Marital Time OutOften, the beginning of healing in a relationship comes by calling a “cease fire”. While calling this “time out” will not  bring healing by itself to your relationship, it will help to avoid further damage. I often use the “marital timeout” with couples who are new to therapy and cannot even have a conversation without it escalating out of control.

So how does the timeout work?

Unlike a timeout for a child, adults put themselves in timeout. As emotions start to rise, one spouse might say to the other, “I can tell I am getting angry and need a timeout. Let’s resume this conversation in 20 minutes or in the morning.”  Then, because the timeout has been discussed previously when both parties were calm, each spouse proceeds to a place to think about the situation.

During this time apart, I suggest each spouse go through The Care Cycle from the National Institute of Marriage outlined below.

Disagreements happen because one or both persons are having their “buttons” pushed. I suggest that couples print off The Care Cycle, move to a quiet place to process, and then come back to share what each has learned about themselves.

Here are a few things to consider when taking a marital timeout:

  1. It is not effective when used for the purpose of withdrawal (avoiding your spouse, alienating yourself without resolution, sulking, or using the silent treatment).
  2. It must always contain a specific time frame by when the situation will be discussed and resolved.

If couples cannot resolve situations within a week or two by themselves, I encourage them to see a counselor for help. Your relationship is too important to let it sustain prolonged damage.

The Care Cycle

Aware: Create Space

  • Physically remove self from situation
  • Internally give self permission to slow down
  • Take several minutes in this safe place. Physiologically, you may need 20+ minutes

Goal: Seek a quiet space for comfort, clarity, and objectivity.

Accept: Identify my own feelings

  • What are my emotions, buttons, and fears in this moment?
  • View my feelings as information
  • Adopt a curious rather than judgmental stance about my feelings

Goal: Validate and accept emotions, buttons, and fears.

Attend: What are my thoughts?

  • Did I do anything to contribute to my feeling?
  • Did I play back an old message?
  • Do I have memories of broken places?
  • Do I have negative beliefs about myself?
  • Am I dwelling on negative past experiences?
  • Is this feeling deeply familiar? When have I felt it before?
  • Am I judging or condemning myself?
  • Am I mind reading rather than checking it out?
  • Could I have possibly misunderstood?
  • Did I get myself all worked up?
  • Am I aware of any temptation to soothe/medicate my hurt? (with food, substances, shopping)

Goal: Discover the role you play in the emotional intensity of the situation.

Allow: Allow God to Enter

  • Ask yourself: What will bring life to this situation? What is the TRUTH?
  • What does God say to me (comfort, truth, conviction, value and worth)?
  • Allow Him to remind me I am the caretaker of the body/mind He has given me.

Goal: Between you and God, allow your wants to be met.

Act: Choose to respond instead of react

  • Will my response create safety within me?
  • Will my response create safety for my relationship?
  • How does God want me to respond?

Goal: Behave with honor and integrity.

 For a printer friendly version of this article, please click here: Creating a Marital Timeout

 

depression counselorsOver 1,400 families in southwest Missouri trust the counselors of The Relationship Center to serve their counseling needs. With more than 14,000 hours of therapy in the last 5 years alone TRC counselors have the experience that can make the difference. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $75-$125 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here to Learn More About Marriage Counseling at The Relationship Center

10 Practical Ways to Deal with Anxiety

Scan the list for 10 practical ways to deal with anxiety…I purposely made it sparse so you wouldn’t be anxious about the length of the article. If you find one that interests you, scroll down to that number to read more about it!

  1. Talk with a frienddealing with anxiety
  2. Listen to calming music
  3. Practice Deep Breathing (download the new app for suggestions 3-5)
  4. Practice Progressive Muscle Relaxation
  5. Practice Inspirational Imagery
  6. Pray
  7. Get rid of the “if onlys” and “what ifs” in your life
  8. Live in the present
  9. Take an effective anti-anxiety med
  10. Hire someone to worry for you
  11. Oh wait, or you can see a counselor…like me!

1.  Talk with a Friend

I can relate to the visualization of worry reproducing like rabbits! But do the worrying with someone else involved! “Never worry alone. When anxiety grabs my mind, it is self-perpetuating. Worrisome thoughts reproduce faster than rabbits, so one of the most powerful ways to stop the spiral of worry is simply to disclose my worry to a friend… The simple act of reassurance from another human being [becomes] a tool of the Spirit to cast out fear — because peace and fear are both contagious.” ― John Ortberg Jr.The Me I Want to Be: Becoming God’s Best Version of You

2.  Listen to Calming Music

Calming music is so personal. What may calm me, may stress the heck out of you . . . get on YouTube and search the era and type of music you like. Close your eyes and let the good times from the music you love wash over your soul.  I recommend a classic song, “How Great Thou Art” by Carrie Underwood and Vince Gill.

3,4,5.  Practice Deep Breathing, Progressive Muscle Relaxation, & Inspirational Imagery

Deep Breathing, Progressive Muscle Relaxation and Inspirational Imagery are an amazing part of a new app I highly recommend: Being. Life Simply.  This app features customizable durations for Deep Breathing, Progressive Muscle Relaxation and Inspirational Imagery, followed by a time of extended music. Sessions can range from 2 to 22 minutes in length. They also include a “booklet” on causes and solutions for stress.  I encourage clients who are struggling with anxiety and/or panic attacks to download the app on their phone so relaxation can be available at a moment’s notice.

6.  Pray

I love Sarah Young’s thoughts about laying our prayer requests before the Father. She encourages readers to lay out their concerns before the Father but then to start thanking Him for the answers even before there are discernible results. It is stated in Sarah Young’s devotional, Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence: “Thankful prayers keep your focus on My Presence and My promises.”  This is an awesome 365-day devotional written in the first person from Jesus.

7.  Get rid of the “if onlys” and “what ifs” in your life

“If Onlys” are regrets about the past. You or I can’t change a single thing about yesterday. Sometimes I need to look at the past, grieve actions—both mine and others—but then refocus on the power found in today. In contrast, the “what ifs” keep me distracted by the future. “What ifs” are mind reading to the negative—”what if I die on the way to work today?”, “what if my spouse does not change?”, “what if we go bankrupt?”—you get the picture. When you catch yourself on the “if only” or “what if” train, see a BIG RED STOP SIGN…stop that thought and refocus on something positive. By doing this, you will cut a new neuro-pathway in your brain that will lead to a different destination. A great book for retraining your thoughts is Telling Yourself the Truth by William Backus and Marie Chapian.

8.  Live In the Present

One of my favorite quotes is “Be fully where you are” by Lucy Swindoll.  Anytime you are experiencing significant anxiety, ask, “Is this in my yard?” If it is your responsibility, claim it, make a plan, and take care of it. However, often the responsibility belongs to a spouse, child, co-worker, or other relative. In that case, gently place it back in their yard and let your peace return. You are not responsible for another person’s thoughts, feelings, actions, behaviors, or beliefsjust your own. For most of us, we have plenty of our own weeds to care for in our own yard.

9.  Take an Effective Anti-Anxiety Medication

While one of the most effective treatments for anxiety is cognitive behavioral therapy, sometimes therapy can be enhanced by medication to increase its effectiveness.  According to WebMD, antidepressants such as Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa, Paxil and Lexapro are often used to treat a variety of anxiety disorders. These medicines may need to be taken on a daily basis whether you experience anxiety that day or not. See your health care provider for his/her recommendation.

10.  Hire Someone to Worry For You

Lastly, Max Lucado shares a humorous story about a man who hired someone to worry for him. His salary? a whopping $200,000 a year. After the man accepted the job, his first question to his boss was, “Where are you going to get $200,000 per year?” To which the man responded, “That’s your worry.” ― Max Lucado

11.  Come See Me!

While anxiety is no laughing matter, laughter does help decrease anxiety. I hope you will try some of the suggestions in this article to help you live an anxiety-free life. OK….at least lower it a degree or two. If you need to chat, give me a call at The Relationship Center :  417-763-3309. I love to help people start on a new peaceful path in their life.

For a printer friendly version of this article, please click here: 10 Practical Ways to Deal with Anxiety

 

anxiety counselors

Over 1,400 families in southwest Missouri trust the counselors of The Relationship Center to serve their counseling needs. With more than 14,000 hours of therapy in the last 5 years alone TRC counselors have the experience that can make the difference. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $75-$125 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here to Learn More About Anxiety Counseling at The Relationship Center

Overcoming Depression in Marriage: It’s a Team Approach

married couple

“Just choose to be happy,” intoned a well-meaning pastor.  Even as I type that phrase, it arouses anger.  Although I wanted to “choose” to be happy, I just couldn’t do it—no matter how much I felt guilty or quoted Bible verses. My body and emotions would not respond to “choosing” to be happy so in addition to being depressed (which I didn’t know at the time) I also felt like a failure as a Christian because I could not “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:13).

It appears that more people struggle with depression than ever before or maybe just more people are willing to talk openly about it. Depression not only impacts the individual, it usually deeply affects their marriage.

In my counseling experience, I have seen depression take its toll on not only the depressed person but also their spouse. At first the “non-depressed” spouse tries to pick up the slack by helping more with the housework, doing homework with the kids and making up for lost finances by working extra hours. Often the non-depressed spouse cannot understand the depth of discouragement, fatigue, and mental exhaustion their spouse is suffering from.  As a pastor’s wife and therapist who has struggled with bouts of depression, I have often felt misunderstood by my spouse and friends.  Maybe you are there, too, or you are just reading this article hoping for some practical tips on overcoming depression.

First of all, for those of you who are depressed or have a friend who is struggling with depression, there is hope.

Here are some tips for dealing with depression:

  • Admit there is a problem
    • Because I was a Christian and a pastor’s wife overly concerned with “image management”, it took months for me to admit I needed help. I was struggling on a daily basis with getting out of bed and the normal tasks of life such as child rearing, going to work and making meals before I finally went to see a counselor.
    • When simple tasks send you into a hysterical crying fit or confine you to bed, it is a signal to get help.
  • Take a Team Approach
    • Doctor:  Discuss your feelings of depression with your family doctor. They may recommend an anti-depressant. For many people consistently taking an anti-depressant will lift the dark cloud so therapy can be more successful.  Be sure to ask questions about the medication, including the sexual side effects.
    • Counselor/Therapist:  For many people, depression is not completely genetic or biological. It has root causes in previous or present life circumstances.  In my case, my mother died and within weeks we assumed a new pastorate in a different state where I had no support system. Research has shown that the best treatment for depression includes a combination of medication and counseling.
    • Spouse: Definitely include your spouse in these conversations. They are being affected by your depression and possibly have valuable insight into the situation to share with your doctor and therapist.
  • Exercise
    • For many people consistent exercise reduces feelings of depression especially if it is outdoors. Research has shown even three times per week for 30 minutes each day has a positive impact on reducing depression.  Even better would be to find an outdoor activity that you and your spouse enjoy and start today. Just a few ideas: riding bikes, walking, jogging, golf, skiing, cliff diving, mountain climbing and having sex (maybe not outdoors, though)!
  • Self-Care
    • Self-care often includes exercise, but it can include so much more. Every human being is created with the need for rest and fun. Because of hectic schedules, we often do not take the needed time to recharge and enjoy life. Schedule a walk with a friend, a drive to the lake, or a few minutes at lunch to sit outside and absorb the rays, the happy chemicals in your brain will increase and your body (and maybe even your spouse) will thank you.
  • Practice “Grace-filled” self-talk
    • Be curious about how you speak to yourself. Record your self-talk for a week. Are you kind? Would you speak to a friend like you speak to yourself? Do you have grace for everyone else but you? Process this exercise with a friend or counselor.
    • Allow yourself to be imperfect.

If you find yourself or a friend struggling in the area of depression and/or marriage, please don’t hesitate to give me a call.  I have been there, and I care.

Rachelle Colegrove is a counselor at The Relationship Center in Springfield, MO. In addition to being a full-time therapist, she is also a licensed minister. Her passion is to help people become authentic in their relationships and reach their full potential.  Having come from a ministry background, she understands the pressure ministry adds to marriage and family life.  She enjoys life with her minister husband and two grown sons in Nixa, MO.

For a printer friendly PDF version of this article, please click here: Overcoming Depression in Marriage: It’s a Team Approach

 

depression counselorsOver 1,400 families in southwest Missouri trust the counselors of The Relationship Center to serve their counseling needs. With more than 14,000 hours of therapy in the last 5 years alone TRC counselors have the experience that can make the difference. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $75-$125 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here to Learn More About Depression Counseling at The Relationship Center