Monday, April 14, 2014

Community Care After a Crisis- Identifying Emotional Warning Signs and Trauma Symptoms By: Dwight Bain


Community Care After a Crisis-  Identifying Emotional Warning Signs and Trauma Symptoms

 

A community crisis can terrorize an entire community in just a few minutes, while the recovery process to rebuild from a major critical incident may take weeks or months to sort through. The more you know about how to survive and rebuild after the crisis, the faster you can take positive action to get your personal and professional life back on track.


Since community crisis events like shootings at schools, malls or churches, bombing or terrorism are unpredictable, it requires a different course of action than the crisis brought on from natural disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, fires and floods. What can you do right now to cope with the psychological impact of a major community crisis brought on through violence?


1. Deal Directly with Your Emotions


This will reduce the tension and stress on you, which allows you to have more energy to deal with a difficult situation. However, if you stuff your fears and frustrations in a major community crisis, your emotions can quickly blow up without warning. Exploding in rage on your children, your coworkers or your marriage partner will only make a difficult situation worse.


Community crisis events are a terrible situation full of loss and difficulty for everyone. By taking action now you can move beyond feeling overwhelmed by intense stress, anger or confusion. As you follow the insight from this recovery guide, you will be taking positive steps to rebuild with the focused energy of an even stronger life for you and your family after the emergency service workers pack up and go home because your community has recovered.


To best survive a major community crisis, you need a strong combination of three key elements:

·         healthy coping skills
·         healthy supports
·         healthy perspective

 

2. Consider the Dangers of Long-term Stress

 

A major community crisis affects everyone however; it becomes dangerous to our health when the stress goes on for an extended period of time. Major stress can affect adults, children, the elderly and even pets, so it is important to be alert to watch for the danger signs of the psychological condition called Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder (commonly referred to as PTSD), in yourself, your family members and coworkers.


These symptoms include any dramatic change in emotions, behavior, thought patterns or physical symptoms over the next few days, weeks or even months. Since community crisis events are a terribly stressful time for everyone and often remain stressful for days or weeks to come, there are a number of factors to be aware of to keep yourself and those who you care about safe.
 

3. Identify the Warning Signs of Overload


These signs are indicators that the intense stress from the critical incident is beginning to overwhelm the individual. The longer the stress symptoms occur, the greater the severity of the traumatic event on the individual. This does not imply craziness or personal weakness; rather, it simply indicates that the stress levels from the storm were too powerful for the person to manage and their body is reacting to the abnormal situation of having survived a major trauma.


It’s normal to feel completely overwhelmed by a community crisis; however, there are danger signs to watch for in yourself or others that may indicate psychological trauma. Adults or children who display any of the following stress symptoms may need additional help dealing with the events of this crisis. It is strongly recommended that you seek the appropriate medical or psychological assistance if you see a lot of the physical, emotional, cognitive or behavioral symptoms listed below in you, your coworkers, or someone in your family or home, especially if these symptoms were not present before the crisis.


Physical Symptoms - Chills, thirst, fatigue, nausea, fainting, vomiting, dizziness, weakness, chest pain, headaches, elevated blood pressure, rapid heart rate, muscle tremors, difficulty breathing, shock symptoms, and so on.


Emotional Symptoms - Fear, guilt, grief, panic, denial, anxiety, irritability, depression, apprehension, emotional shock, and feeling overwhelmed, loss of emotional control, and so on.


Cognitive Symptoms- Confusion, nightmares, uncertainty, hyper-vigilance, suspiciousness, intrusive images, poor problem solving, poor abstract thinking, poor attention/memory and concentration, disorientation of time, places or people, difficulty identifying objects or people, heightened or lowered alertness, and so on.


Behavioral Symptoms- Withdrawal, antisocial acts, inability to rest, intensified pacing, erratic movements, changes in social activity, changes in speech patterns, loss of or increase of appetite, increased alcohol consumption, and so on.


If you are in doubt about these symptoms in your life, or someone you care about, it is wise to seek the care of a physician or certified mental health professional. Better to actively deal with the stressful emotions directly to help yourself and your loved ones to immediately cope with this crisis because these emotions tend to worsen and get more intense if left untreated. Remember that there are many experienced professionals who can help you and your children recover during a time of crisis.


You do not have to go through this alone. Take action now to prevent stress from continuing to overwhelm you or the people you care about. Call a trusted friend to talk through it, reach out to clergy, or call your family doctor or counselor. If you don’t know someone to call about these emotional issues, you can reach out for assistance by calling telephone hotlines which are offered at no cost to you. These numbers are often posted by local media, hospitals, churches, schools, the Red Cross, the Salvation Army or FEMA. If you, or someone you care about are feeling overwhelmed by stress, anxiety, guilt or grief, it’s important to make the call for assistance now to learn how to get past the pressure to begin to feel “normal” again. Finally, meditate on the comforting words of Lamentations 3:22-24 where Jeremiah writes - "Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassion's fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I hope in Him!”

 


About the Author –  Dwight Bain has dedicated his life to guide people toward greater results as an Author, Nationally Certified Counselor, Certified Life Coach and Certified Family Law Mediator in practice since 1984. His primary focus is on solving crisis events and managing major change as a Critical Incident Stress Management expert and speaker for over 3,000 groups on the topic of making strategic change to overcome major stress  He speaks over 100 times per year to groups across the United States on creating positive change. Follow him for updates at www.Facebook.com/DwightBain or www.Twitter.com/DwightBain

 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Money Can't Buy Me Love

 
A relationship strengthening guide for intimate connections
By Dwight Bain
 
Can a stuffed animal with a romantic message solve a relationship problem? Nope. Neither can a trip to the jewelry store, boxes of chocolate, sappy cards, balloons or vases of expensive flowers… none of these can fix a distant, damaged or dying relationship. But the VASE can.  Let me explain why.
Relationships take work. There is no easy way to achieve closeness and connection on an intimate level without time, talking and gentle touch. It can’t be done. We’ve all seen the commercials about a couple having a romantic exchange in a restaurant as the waiter brings them a special dessert with a diamond ring attached to a note that says, “Marry me”.  But as a counselor of more than 30 years I can tell you if that couple were distant or detached from each other before they got to the restaurant the jewelry would only be a shiny trinket that didn’t repair hurt, selfishness or neglect. 
Expensive gift cannot fix relationship problems. They can cause debt, which complicates problems, (84% of couples report they fight over spending according to Money Magazine), or cause a momentary escape from what isn’t working in their relationship… but the old saying is true. “Money can’t buy me love.”
So what can you do to really connect to the one you care about? Get a VASE. Here’s why.
Stuffed teddy bears and expensive perfumes affect the senses- the VASE approach affects the soul. Tina Turner got it right when she sang, “What’s love got to do with it?” because the feeling of romantic love is a fickle and temporary emotion. Having a fun dinner date on your anniversary is special – but not as powerful as really connecting over a bowl of Cheerios every day. Lasting love is about going deeper and that’s what this process creates… lasting committed relationship instead of a temporary feeling of chemistry. Real relationship connection on the heart level will grow a relationship closer than anything offered for sale at Macys.
V.A.S.E. stands for VALUES, ACCOUNTABILITY, SILENCE, EXPECTATIONS and here’s how it works.
Values-  Most couples have never sat down and actually talked about their core values. They might be able to guess what their partner believes, but haven’t communicated these issues to one another.
When you find a safe place to discuss your belief system with the person you care about the most it creates a powerful connection on a deep emotional level. One that is stronger than anything you could ever buy at a store. When I know what my wife believes about life, kids, family, money, love, politics, fun, God and everything else important to her I know her on a heart level. And when I know her heart, I can actively work to meet her there. Knowing and respecting your partner’s values removes silly arguments and power struggles from the conversation because you are working together out of shared beliefs instead of working against each other.
A-Accountability This isn’t a word most people like and it definitely isn’t a word people seek out. It’s tough to have someone in your life who asks you the hard questions like. “Haven’t you had enough to drink?” or “How is eating that going to affect your diabetes?” or “Why did you close the computer when I came in here?” or “Can we afford to do this?” When someone asks you a tough question you either have to face the issue and answer it, or you have to get really, really mad at them for having the courage to speak up. You know what path most people choose. They would rather fight than be held to a standard of behavior… one that matches what they say they believe, (see core values section above for more on this).
S-Silence isn’t golden in relationships, it’s deadly. If you go silent on expressing your feelings, fears or future with the one you say you love there is nothing a cute card with a talking dog that makes it better. I know card shops exist for the purpose of saying what you don’t know how to say… but can I be your friend for a moment and say “get a life?” There is more information available today on how to communicate in a loving way with your partner than there ever has been in the history of the world. Books, webinars, seminars, podcasts, workshops, retreats, teleseminars, counseling, classes, YouTube clips, even old episodes of Dr. Phil have tips on how to connect verbally. Too many people spend $5 on a piece of recycled card stock that says what a copywriter in Kansas thinks about love instead of sitting down to express what they believe about the one they care about. Want a more powerful relationship connection? Learn to express love. It’s worth every penny you spend to the people who won’t have to guess how you feel about them because you took the step, (and the risk) to verbalize your heart.
 
E-Expectations lead to great joy or great pain, which is usually heartbreaking and it goes back to silence. Here’s why. Picture a woman who thinks this is the year her guy will remember their special day and take her to their special place. She tells her friends, her mother and her therapist that they are going to the bed and breakfast for a romantic getaway because she has been dropping hints for months that were so easy a caveman could figure it out. Problem is her guy isn’t a caveman – he’s a guy and men often aren’t listening carefully to what their lady may be saying. In fact if the relationship is distant he may not be listening at all. Expecting your intended to read your mind isn’t going to get you what you want, but it can cause some huge explosions of rage over misunderstanding. If you expect a physically exciting weekend and you get ESPN instead your feelings are going to be hurt – and you may have caused it. I know some people like the feeling of being surprised that their hints led to a temporary feeling of being special, but most of the time their hints set them up for hurt. Better is to learn to speak up about what you want in the relationship. If you want more romance – say so. If going to a particular movie is what you want to do– bring it up. If something is important to you learn to express it directly. This may take away the pleasant feeling of surprise, but will guarantee you won’t experience the painful feeling of shock that silent expectations always bring.
So how does this VASE formula help?
It takes the cultural feeling of romance being something that money can buy down to a practical level of relationship that is priceless. The Beatles were wrong on this one. Money can’t buy love, but VASE’s can.
 
About the Author – Dwight Bain is a Nationally Certified Counselor and Certified Life Coach who has been making a difference in people’s lives since 1984. Follow him online at www.Facebook.com/DwightBain or @DwightBain

Monday, January 06, 2014

A New Year's Exercise to Improve the Outcomes of Your New Year's Goals


 

By Matt W. Sandford, LMHC

So, it’s the New Year again. And probably almost everyone will be thinking about New Year’s Resolutions or plans or desires about what they want to achieve during the year ahead. We seem to be oriented this way – to take stock once a year – to mark off our life journey, and use intervals to review and evaluate our course. That is what you are doing, right? Right?

I bet I probably had you with the first part – the part about making goals for the year ahead. But what about the next part – of evaluating and reviewing your course? Might you be doing the one without the other? If I’m right, I would say that if so you would be among the majority. It seems to me that many folks had all kinds of dreams, plans, goals etc. of where they want to get to or what they want to reach or achieve. But only a small percentage of those invest in reviewing their course direction, as it were. What I mean is, there are a lot of us Americans who really like to go,go,go – full steam, petal to the metal, squeeze all there is out of life, etc. etc.  I’m not saying that everyone is a high energy type. I am referring to our inner-directiveness, or drive. We want stuff! Not necessarily material stuff. It might be that we want more peace in our lives, to live in a better location or have a better or new job, or maybe a better or new relationship. I guess what I think it boils down to is that many of us would have to say we aren’t content.

Look, I’m not saying that having goals or dreams or ambition is a bad thing. I can’t say that because I have those things, too. Well, I guess I could but not in good conscience. What I am proposing is that we can all sometimes get caught up in our goals and desires in such a way that we don’t stop to reflect on what is good right now about our lives. We have a tendency to put our heads down and plow towards our goals, and we end up stepping over the very contentment and fulfillment we were striving for.

I’m not suggesting that it is easy to have contentment where you are. For many of you the circumstances are very challenging. I get why you would focus on the day when things will change. Nothing wrong with that desire at all. And I also know that there are many of you who aren’t dealing with severe life issues, although you may be dealing with other emotional struggles, you may be unhappy or you may be rather weary. Whether you are in the first category or the second,  I want to recommend an exercise in cultivating contentment.

Allow me first to present the foundation principle so that you can understand the exercise. The principle this is built on is this: that God is The Good Parent. What this means is that God is best understood in terms of how he thinks and feels about us and how he relates to us by seeing him as the parent of preschoolers. Oh – and by the way, you and I are the preschoolers.

Settle this notion that you are God’s toddler into your mind. See him as wonderfully excited by you – as parents of young kids are. See Him enjoying your eager inquisitiveness about the world around you, your every attempt to learn new things, your getting into things and making messes. Picture in your mind that even when you talk back, act out, tantrum, pout and get annoying in 100 ways that He is patient with you, since He knows that you are a preschooler and so He isn’t expecting you to be more mature than you currently are. He knows that it is HIS responsibility to develop you and grow you up to maturity. He is not worried about this happening. What this means is that God is in control of your life journey and your destiny. Like a good parent, He cares about your dreams and desires. In fact, He knew you would have them before you had them. He specifically designed you to have the dreams and desires and goals that you have.

Now, with this foundation principle in place, here’s the exercise. Every day for the next three weeks, I recommend that you take 10-15 minutes each day and you review the things you are grateful for. Begin in prayer and ask God to reveal things to you to be grateful for; to show you how He has been intimately engaged in your life journey and your life development. Ask for His perspective on the events of the past year or more. It will be more effective if you write things down.

At the end of the exercise, then go ahead with thinking and praying about your goals. See if this exercise doesn’t provide a new perspective on the way you go about making your goals, as well as the way you seek to carry them out.

I would love to hear from you about your experience with the exercise!

Drop me a line!


 

If you would like to schedule an appointment with me, please call our office at 407-647-7005.

 

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Friday, December 27, 2013

5 Ways to Help Manage The Stress of The Holidays


By Laura Hull, LMFT
Coping Coach
 
This time of year is filled with lights, laughter, and loads of activities.  From the week of Thanksgiving through the end of New Year’s celebrations, this is the most active/busy time of the year for many people.  Though many regard this as a time of happy celebration, there is no doubt it is also a demanding time of the year.   Between decorating, holiday parties, shopping, wrapping, food preparations, family visits, etc., it can be stressful to navigate the expectations that come along with the holidays.  Sometimes the stress is enjoyable.  For some people, the stress is more anxiety provoking than pleasurable.
 
There is certainly an added social pressure to “enjoy” the holidays.  After all, why would anyone be anxious or depressed when everyone else is partying and enjoying the festivities of the season, right?    We are “supposed “ to be happy during the holidays.  But what if we aren’t?  Depression and anxiety during this season can be an intensified problem for individuals, particularly those who struggle throughout the year.   Individuals who struggle with the stresses surrounding the holidays often suffer in silence. There is a fear of being viewed as a “Debbie Downer”  or a “party pooper”.  No one wants to be seen as the person who does not enjoy Christmas.  Grinch.
 
This is a more common issue than is often recognized.  The holidays tend to bring out both the best and worst in people.  On the one hand, people can be very thoughtful, generous and giving during the holidays.  But it can also bring out the ugly side of stress.  Look no further than the Black Friday stampedes and the obligatory fistfights that breakout, and it is obvious that the holidays sweep in loads of stress.  The holidays have become bigger, more commercial, and more expensive.  If there’s ever a time to feel the pressure of “keeping up with Jones’s”, this is it.  The financial stress of the holiday season has worsened in recent years.  Everything is more expensive.  More people are unemployed or underemployed.  We feel the pressure to buy, buy, and buy.   We want to give our children the newest video games and other electronic equipment, whether or not we can actually afford them.  We worry about how we can pay for all these things.  We worry about the bills that will come due in January.  Stress.
 
Another area, which can be challenging during the holiday season, is family relationships.  For families that are feeling the strain of emotional distance and hurt feelings, the holidays can exacerbate problems already brewing.  In fairness, this is not always the case.  The holidays CAN be a time of reconciliation.  However, if that is the expectation, that the mere fact that the  “happy time of the year” is upon us will somehow smooth over existing problems, this is a set up for disappointment.  For individuals who do not have a family or close friends to celebrate the holiday season with, it can be a painful reminder of what is missing; perhaps what is longed for.  For individuals who are grieving the loss of someone special, whether through death or any type of physical/emotional separation, the holidays can be an excruciating reminder of what has been lost. 
 
When we find ourselves struggling with the stress of the holidays this year, there are ways to overcome it:
 
  1. We can give ourselves permission to say no.  Do not give in to the pressure to buy things we cannot afford.  It is ok to say “we cannot take on this stress of this expense”
  2. Do not feel the need to be the life of the party.  It is ok to turn down holiday invites.  Do not feel pressured into participating in activities.  Again, it’s ok to say “no”.  However, that being said, find a way to stay engaged with others in a way that is personally meaningful and do not allow isolation to set in.  Perhaps volunteering at a shelter or a children’s hospital would bring a greater sense of fulfillment than buying gifts or attending obligatory parties. This is a personal choice.
  3. We are not obligated to spend time with individuals who are toxic.   Yes, that includes family.  In a perfect world, all of our family relationships would be healthy and loving. But sometimes, this is not the case.  We are not obligated to subject ourselves to relationships that are destructive, even for the “sake of the season”.  Let me say that again:  We are not obligated to spend time with those who deliberately hurt us and attempt to take our joy.
  4. If we are struggling with stress in the form of anger, depression, or anxiety, it is important to acknowledge it and address it.  If it becomes debilitating, counseling is a great way to address these issues.  Sometimes, it may be necessary to also include a medical evaluations to see if other therapies would be appropriate., as well.
  5. Most importantly, we must not lose sight of the “reason for the season”.  I can promise you that God does not care if we have the latest trendy gadgets or the perfect holiday party outfit.   We put those pressures, those stresses, on ourselves. We have the power to release ourselves from these stresses.  If we can step away, even if just momentarily, from what we “think” the holidays should consist of, and really process what it is supposed to mean, things fall into place much easier.
 
 
 
 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Hurt for the Holidays

Managing the major grief of those who have major loss
 
By: Dwight Bain
 
Holidays are not always happy days, especially if you have experienced major loss. Think about it – if you lost a job or a house through foreclosure can you still have a Merry Christmas this year? Some people can manage the loss of material things because they rely on their savings, or extended family for support. But what about those who don’t have access to those resources – what do they do?
What about the wife of a man who cheats and leaves the marriage with another woman before the holiday. What do you say to someone who won’t have a happy family memory on December 25th, because she will be sharing her children with a new woman and her relatives while she sits in the marital home (which is missing half the furniture) alone.
Or think about the family who have to say goodbye to a beloved family pet because of age or illness. How can they celebrate a happy holiday without a trusted animal companion?  
Think about the mom and dad who lost a child this year to death. Is there any comfort for those who have lost a son or daughter? Is it any easier for those who had to bury their parents or a marriage partner?
Don’t forget those who experienced these type of major losses a year ago are coming up on the one year anniversary of feeling these devastating losses all over again. The anniversary of a traumatic time is almost as intense as when it first happened.
Is there any hope for a person to manage all of this major loss? I believe there is.
Loss is a part of life, but that doesn’t make the hurt any better. We all know that nothing is forever, but want the painful reality to stop for a few weeks every year over a cultural holiday tradition to create a break in the pressure. This isn’t harmful, in fact it’s common because not everyone is going to a funeral before Christmas, or waiting to be evicted from the home they have lived in for decades.
Many people don’t realize how hard it is on others because they are too busy celebrating having all their family together, eating great food and sharing wonderful gifts and experiences.
Maybe that’s what makes it so hard on others – that their neighbors are so happy, because when your life is crushed it is hard to celebrate with others who weren’t flattened by the tidal wave of grief that comes after a major loss.
Should some people stop celebrating because others are having a terrible time? Should you tone down your family having a good time so it doesn’t hurt others?
No, but everyone should remember the spiritual principle to “weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice”.
If you have friends or family who are struggling, be there for them. Encourage them, help them financially if you can – and the best way to do that is to invite them over to share the holiday experience together. Take action to push them past their false pride by challenging them to be part of your community. Taking away the loneliness is a wonderful gift to someone hurting and afraid. Giving another family joy at Christmas will bring you more value than anything you could buy at the mall.
This spiritual value of kindness is a powerful tool to help others manage their painful losses and it comes right out of the teaching of the Bible. Listen to these comforting words from Psalm 34.

4) I sought the Lord, and He heard me, And delivered me from all my fears.
 
6) This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him, And saved him out of all his troubles.
 
7) The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, And delivers them.
 
15) The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their cry.
 
17) The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, And delivers them out of all their troubles.
 
18) The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit.
 
19) Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the Lord delivers him out of them all.
 
 
Do you see the pattern?
 
In desperation call out to God, trust that God will never abandon you and wait on God. This process won’t get your job or house back, but it will give you peace inside. A deep spiritual peace that will give you the strength to press on through the toughest of times. And isn’t that what the angels sang about that first Christmas…. “Peace on Earth, Good will toward mankind.”
 
God promises peace, so if you or someone you love is shattered by grief this holiday season start with God and stay with God. I believe He will see you through the tough times of loss and pain to give you hope and peace. You can sing the songs of Christmas again with real joy – if you press on in your spiritual journey and share what you learned with others.
 
Press on friend. Press on.
 
 
About the author- Dwight Bain is dedicated to helping people achieve greater results. He is a Nationally Certified Counselor and Certified Life Coach in practice since 1984 with a primary focus on solving crisis events and managing major change.

Reprint Permission- If this article helped you, you are invited to share it with your own list at work or church, forward it to friends and family or post it on your own site or blog. Just leave it intact and do not alter it in any way. Any links must remain in the article. Please include the following paragraph in your reprint. "Reprinted with permission from the LifeWorks Group weekly eNews, (Copyright, 2004-2013), To subscribe to this valuable counseling and coaching resource visit www.LifeworksGroup.org

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Relentless Pursuit of Grace: What I Learned From My Little Boy

By: Aaron Welch 

 

This will not be a fun article for me to write.  In fact, my heart hurts to even sit down and begin typing.  It's because I screwed up.  I mean.......I royally screwed up tonight.  If I could go somewhere and hide under a rock, I would.  Honestly, there was a moment tonight when I thought about packing a bag and just taking off to some hotel, rather than face my family.  In the past fifteen years or so, there have not been too many moments that I've been ashamed of....but tonight was one. 

 

If you ask anyone who knows me they will tell you that one of the greatest passions of my life is being a dad.  Honestly, it's the ONE thing I've always wanted to be.....a father.  I grew up idolizing my dad and the love and support I always felt from him was an anchor for me as I moved into adulthood.  I believe God used my dad to instill in me a deep, fiery passion to invest in the lives of my children and, additionally, into the lives of other kids as well. To that end, I have been a teacher, a counselor, a pastor, and a coach.  I love kids.  I love encouraging them, investing in them, teaching them......empowering them to grow and learn and improve.  But more than anything else....my heartfelt desire is to do that in the lives of my own children.  I do not take fatherhood lightly.  I've never been a perfect father (as if there is one) but I strive with every fiber of my being to be the best one I can be.  I want to pass on the legacy from my dad into the lives of my children, and hope that they will one day do the same.

 

And that's why tonight was just awful for me.  Without going into great detail, I will just say that I lost my temper with my son tonight and yelled at him in a way that I NEVER wanted to.  I have no excuses for it.  What he did wrong in no way merited the response that I gave.  I humiliated him in front of his peers and other parents.....something I vowed never to do.  Even as I write that, I feel nauseous and an overwhelming sense of shame.  If I could go back in time for just 3 hours, I would in a heartbeat.  But I can't.  And so my brain just keeps repeating the scenario in my head....as if one of these times it will turn out differently and I won't turn out to be such a jerk.  But every time I replay it, the ending is the same.  My son in tears, me devastated for bringing him to that point, my wife embarrassed of the situation and everyone else feeling awkward around us.  UGH!  An ugly, competitive side of me that I thought I got rid of years ago just reared its ugly head in a way that made me want to just quit life and run away. 

 

I did all the right things afterward, and meant each and every one.  I took my son aside and confessed that I had no excuse for talking to him that way.  I repented of it and asked him to please forgive me.  I emphasized that it was my fault, not his.  He is such a good-hearted boy and he told me it was okay and that he loved me and asked me to take him to get a smoothie, which I did.  But I didn't get one.....I didn't deserve one.  And the entire way home I felt like throwing up, running away, quitting life, hiding from anyone and everyone who had witnessed my sin. 

 

When we got home, I didn't feel any better.  If anything, I felt worse and ran quickly to the shower to hide.  I don't know why we think we can hide from our shame....it follows us wherever we go.  I tried to escape under the hot stream of water, hoping that my wife and son would forget about me and allow me to slip silently to bed.  Once again, my goal was to hide in the dark of the bedroom and under the covers.  But I have a good wife and she came to tell me dinner was ready and they were waiting for me to come eat.  And that's when I lost it.  Her gesture of love towards me when I felt more unlovable than ever overwhelmed me.  I began to sob, hiding my face from her and ranting on and on about how humiliated and ashamed I felt.  Through heaves of emotion I told her I couldn't go out to the living room and face her or my son....could not even eat with them.  I told her how much I didn't deserve to eat and that I had no idea how to recover from what had happened.  I honestly didn't know how to show my face.  In spite of her repeated requests for me to come eat, including telling me that my son was waiting for me, I begged her to leave and to tell him to go ahead and eat.  She told me she really wanted me to come out with them, but finally she left.  And I continued crying under a stream of hot water, not knowing how to ever show my face.

 

And then I saw him.  My little boy.....standing outside the shower silently.  I asked him if he had eaten and he said no.  I knew he was starving and told him to go ahead and eat.  He said, "that's okay" and stayed right there beside me.  Now I felt even worse and told him that I was okay and that I wanted him to go eat because I knew he was really hungry from working hard at practice.  He said he was okay and that he didn't want to eat without me.  I repeated that I was okay; that he should go eat and I would be out in a bit.  But he stayed and said, "daddy, you don't have to feel bad about what happened tonight.  I love you.  Won't you come eat with me?" 

 

What could I say?  His love wouldn't let me alone.  His grace was relentless.  In fact, just this very minute (while I am writing this article) he just came over and asked me if he could give me a hug.....and he did.  It was a long, heartfelt hug from a little boy that doesn't hug often.  He pursued me......while I was hiding in the shower.....while I was hiding behind this laptop.  I didn't deserve his grace, or his hug.....but he offered them anyway and I'm thankful he did. 

 

And then it hit me.  God had just used my little boy to teach me about His grace.  I can't tell you how many times I have royally screwed up spiritually.  Repeatedly, I have let God down and sinned against Him.  In my worst moments, I have been the biggest jerk (spiritually speaking) that you could ever imagine.  And, afterwards, I have tried to hide.  Just like Adam and Eve in the Garden, I have tried to slink off into the forest and avoid God when He came calling.  But His grace is relentless.  For years, I hid from God; rebelling against the responsibility that comes with holiness and running from His call.  And in my shame I also fled from His presence.  But He pursued me.  At every turn, I knew He was right there with me.....in the midst of my shame and humiliation, He was standing at the door knocking.  I didn't deserve it.  I told Him to go away; that I didn't deserve His love or presence but He wouldn't leave.   I would often urge Him to go help other people; others who were more deserving of His attention.  He would just smile and say, "that's okay" and stay there waiting. 

 

Eventually I realized that He wasn't pursuing me because I deserved it, but because He simply loved me too much to let me go.  He was relentless with His grace because His love for me had nothing to do with what I had done....it had everything to do with what HE had done.  It had everything to do with how much He valued me in spite of my idiotic moments. 

 

Tonight, I was reminded of relentless grace.  It came to me in the image of a little boy, stubbornly standing next to a shower until his jerk of a dad responded to his call to dinner.  But it caused me to remember another act of stubborn love.......of another Son.......who came to this earth and died for me.......in spite of my sin.  Of another Son....who relentlessly pursued me (and you) with His love....not because of what I have done, or what you have done....but because of what HE has done. 

 

You know, my son's name is Joshua.  That is ironic because, as I understand it, the name "Joshua" in the Hebrew is similar to the name "Jesus" in the Greek.  Ironic because tonight, in my Joshua......I saw a picture of Jesus. 

 

So thank you Joshua.  Thank you for reminding me that God's love for us is not about our worst moments........it's all about what we mean to Him.  Relentless grace.......not what we deserve......but what we get anyway.  Amazing. 

 

 

 

Aaron Welch is a licensed mental health counselor and nationally certified counselor who specializes in issues of masculinity, parenting and relationships.  He strives to fight for the hearts of his clients and empower them to build a legacy that impacts the world.  He is part of a team of experts at “The Lifeworks Group, Inc”.  For more information about Aaron or Lifeworks, please visit www.lifeworksgroup.org or call us at 407-647-7005.

 Reprint Permission- If this article helped you, you are invited to share it with your own list at work or church, forward it to friends and family or post it on your own site or blog. Just leave it intact and do not alter it in any way. Any links must remain in the article. Please include the following paragraph in your reprint.

"Reprinted with permission from the LifeWorks Group weekly eNews, (Copyright, 2004-2010), To subscribe to this valuable counseling and coaching resource visit
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Wednesday, December 04, 2013

There's No Place Like Home for the Holidays...Unfortunately



By Aaron Welch, LMHC, NCC

 

 

For much of the world the holidays are a time of joy, peace and goodwill towards men.  We have songs like "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year," "I'll Be Home for Christmas," and, as the title says, "There's No Place Like Home for the Holidays."  However, for more people than we'd like to admit, this last title reflects the emotions of sadness and anger, rather than peace and good will.  The truth is that a high percentage of people see the holiday season as a time of year when they battle depression, when old feuds re-emerge, and when they feel more stressed than any other time. 

 

It is safe to say that the holidays are a time when all emotion tends to get amped up to new levels.  If you're happy, you tend to get happier during the holidays.  If you are struggling with anxiety, what time of the year can be more anxious than a season where traffic is a nightmare and finances are tight?  If you lean towards sadness, the holidays can throw you into out-and-out depression.  The holidays seem to magnify whatever we are feeling in general. 

 

So this article is for those of you who struggle through the holiday period.  I just want to offer some simple suggestions that I hope will get you through and might even make the days a little better.  Here goes:

 

  • Allow yourself to mourn:  The holidays can be especially rough if they remind you of loved ones who have passed away.  I admit that I fall into this category as my father died right after Thanksgiving and before Christmas.  When this happens (and more people die during the holiday season than any other time) it can make the holidays pretty melancholy.  Christmas just doesn't feel the same.  In fact, it can get downright lonely.  Many people try to shove those feelings aside or bury them under a load of presents or plenty of eggnog.  But I suggest that you embrace your mourning instead.  Give yourself permission to think about whomever you have lost.  In fact, pull out their pictures, write them a letter, and remember them.  What better way to honor their memory?  In the process, you also are handling your own emotions in a much healthier way and getting them out (at appropriate times and places) might free you up emotionally to enjoy the holidays more.  You can also mourn things besides people.  You can mourn what WAS.  In other words, it's okay to think about and mourn they way things used to be, if those are fond memories for you.  It's not a bad thing to get sentimental about the past...as long as you don't stay there.  You can also mourn the way things currently are.  Maybe life is not the way you planned for it to be or even the way you WANT it to be.  You can grieve that...without getting stuck there.  The point is that it is better to face your emotions than avoid them.  Get them out in healthy ways so you can...

 

  • Focus on what is good:  I absolutely believe you should embrace your sadness or grieve your losses.  However, it is not beneficial or even accurate to only focus on those things.  You must choose to also take account of the blessings in your life.  Things may not be exactly they way you want.  Maybe you have lost someone very important to you.  But don't forget about the good things in your life.  Children, grandchildren, good friends, a home, a job, food on the table.....if you choose to, the list would probably be longer than you think.  If you struggle through the holiday season, maybe it would be a great idea to sit down and make a list of the positive aspects in your life.  Don't stubbornly hold on to your negativity so much that you can't adjust your perspective and see the beauty in your life. 

 

  • Do your part to make things better:  Don't check out of life.  Don't be the person who complains about everything but never makes an effort to improve things.  Every situation is different but do your part to make the holidays better than they currently are.  Maybe that means you need to forgive someone who has wounded you.  Maybe you need to reconcile with that relative that you haven't spoken to in years.  Maybe it just means that you proactively reach out to start new traditions or just bring an element of joy that is currently missing.  Perhaps things are not as good as they once were but you can make a difference in that if you want to.  The "way things were" were that way because people made them that way.  You have the same opportunity and I would encourage you to be that person who makes a difference now. 

 

I'm sure there are so many other suggestions I could offer to get through the holidays.  These are only a few but I hope and pray that they help.  I know it is not easy to "snap out of it" as many people say.  If it were that easy, we would all do it.  However, I do believe you can balance mourning over the past with embracing the future....and, in so doing, experience healing for yourself while adding newfound joy to those around you.

 

Happy Holidays......and God bless.

 

Aaron Welch is a licensed mental health counselor and nationally certified counselor who specializes in issues of masculinity, parenting and relationships.  He strives to fight for the hearts of his clients and empower them to build a legacy that impacts the world.  He is part of a team of experts at “The Lifeworks Group, Inc”.  For more information about Aaron or Lifeworks, please visit www.lifeworksgroup.org or call us at 407-647-7005.

 Reprint Permission- If this article helped you, you are invited to share it with your own list at work or church, forward it to friends and family or post it on your own site or blog. Just leave it intact and do not alter it in any way. Any links must remain in the article. Please include the following paragraph in your reprint.

"Reprinted with permission from the LifeWorks Group weekly eNews, (Copyright, 2004-2013), To subscribe to this valuable counseling and coaching resource visit
www.LifeWorksGroup.org or call 407-647-7005"