Coparenting Common Ground

by Jess Hatton, MA, LPC

I started out as what you would describe a “reluctant” teen counselor. I had never had experience as an adult being around teens until my husband, Adam and I were married. To be completely honest, they intimidated me. I was fearful of working with someone who was forced to come to counseling against their will and also feared that they would somehow judge me. My husband, however, was in student ministry and so I jumped into serving alongside him.

Then it wasn’t long into my counseling career that a  supervisor at that time told me she saw potential in me working with teens and my schedule started overflowing with teens. Over time teenage clients have been one of my favorite populations to work with. Their honesty and eagerness to have someone invest in them is refreshing and it most definitely keeps me on my toes.

Now, before we go forward let me say I do not specialize in custody conflicts, in fact if I know that it will be coming up I will attempt to refer to someone who does specialize in custody for the betterment of the client. However, it is not uncommon for me to have a client whose parents have shared custody and continue to have high-conflict co-parenting. One of the most heartbreaking and biggest struggles for me as a counselor is seeing teens who are caught in the middle of their high-conflict divorced parents. Co-parenting is key, but what does that actually look like?

Then the king said, “The one says ‘This is my son that is alive, and your son is dead’; and the other says, ‘No; but your son is dead, and my son is the living one,’ And the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So a sword was brought before the king. And the king said, “Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other.” Then the woman whose son was alive said to the king, because her heart yearned for her son, “Oh. my lord, give her the child, and by no means put him to death.” But the other said, “He shall be neither mine nor yours; divide him.” Then the king answered and said, “Give the living child to the first woman, and by no means put him to death; She is his mother.” 1 Kings 3:23-27

In the passage of scripture above we see Solomon having to impart wisdom when two women approach him both claiming to be the mother of an infant. In the previous verses we read that both women had birthed male children within 3 days of each other, while one died, the other survived. Both women were claiming that the surviving child was theirs. Solomon makes his decision by instructing that the child be divided in two. The true mother of the child sacrifices her claim on motherhood in order that the child’s life be spared while the mother with the false claim reveals her jealousy and bitterness. Solomon then gives the infant back to the true mother.

So what can we learn about parenting from this passage?

Sometimes you have to put yourself and or  your feelings about your Ex aside for the betterment of your child. This can be difficult for parents when there was so much history and sometimes hurt associated with your Ex. But try and keep in mind that your Ex is also the parent that your child needs. Trying to work together helps your child have a more stable and loving relationship with both parents involved.

For very tangible information I’ve included a resource I often use that has rules for co-parenting from the Cooperative Parenting Institute in Georgia. You can find this information as well as Divorce Rules and other helpful resources at their website Cooperativeparenting.com

Coparenting Rules

Dear Coparent:

The decision to divorce or separate was a grown-up decision. Let’s do everything in our power to minimize stress for our children by honoring these coparenting rules.

  1. Let’s keep our children out of the details of our relationship and divorce.
  2. Let’s separate how we view each other as parents from how we feel about each other as partners.
  3. When we are in the presence of our child, let’s treat each other with respect by saying hello and good-bye.
  4. Let’s remember our children benefit from a relationship with both of us.
  5. Let’s include each other in all important parenting decisions. We should each be the first person we contact to discuss our children.
  6. Likewise, if something is important to you then assume it would also be important to me. Pass along any information about our children.
  7. Let’s be flexible when important opportunities or special occasions arise for our children.
  8. Let’s not make plans with the children over the other parent’s time. We need to work these details out between us before we involve our children.
  9. Remember we don’t have to do everything the same to be valuable to our children.
  10. Let’s support each other’s discipline and consequences.
  11. Let’s always give each other the benefit of the doubt when our children tell us things that may or may not have happened. Let’s check with each other before reacting or making assumptions.
  12. Let’s share our household expectations and rules with each other so we can attempt to match each other’s whenever possible.
  13. Let’s inform each other when we are ready to introduce someone special to our children so we can be positive and encouraging.
  14. Let’s respect each other even when we have a difference of opinion.
  15. Let’s remember that our children have two homes, not just one.
  16. If we bring a stepparent into our children’s lives, let’s make sure they are respectful of the two biological parents as the primary parents.
  17. No matter how complicated things may get between us, let’s always seek to resolve conflict between us or with a mediator and do all we can to avoid litigation or other adversarial actions.
  18. When either of us registers our children for school or an activity, let’s make sure to enter both parents’ name on the registration card.
  19. Let’s avoid referring to the children as mine and remember to say our children no matter how much time they live in each home.
  20. Let’s give our children the best chance at success by putting our hurt to the side and focusing on developing the best coparenting relationship we can. Our children deserve this!

Copyright 1997:  Boyan and Termini, cooperativeparenting.com

Co-parenting can be very difficult and often much of a sacrifice. But when collaborative parenting is  done well I’ve seen children and teens have great relationships with both their parents and appreciate the role that both have in their life.

Jess Hatton, MA, LPC

Songs of Ascent

by Ashleigh Beason, LPCA

We have heard it said that the Christian life is a journey of highs and lows, mountain tops and valleys. Sometimes it’s difficult; we are in the valley waiting for God to take us out. Sometimes we are on the mountain top; we have seen God move in incredible ways. But what about the in between, what about the times when we aren’t on a mountain or in the valley? What about the times when we are trying with everything we have to reach that mountain top, when we are trusting, waiting and expecting God to get us out of the valley we have been in taking one step at a time, making the ascent?

The Israelites would journey at least three times a year uphill to a place called Jerusalem, the Holy City to worship. No matter where they came from they had to go uphill to get to the city–from the valley to the mountain top– an ascent. Deuteronomy 16:16, says “three times a year you shall appear before the Lord your God at the place he will choose… they shall not appear before the Lord empty-handed, each to what he is able.”

It does not say what each person brought to the place of worship in Jerusalem but I believe that they each brought themselves exactly as they were in the season of life they were in, and that is where each of the Songs of Ascent came from. These songs of Ascent come from Psalm chapters 120 through 134 in which each Israelite on their way to Jerusalem to worship. They are comprised of Psalms that cry out in distress asking the Lord to deliver them (120), declaring the Lord is our helper (121), asking for peace (122), begging for mercy (123), celebrating what the Lord has done (124), dwelling in security of who they are in the Lord (125), hope for the future (126), complete dependence on God (127), fear of the Lord and his commandments (128), Victory in fighting an enemy (129), waiting on the Lord to move (130), asking to calm a soul in chaos (131), and hands standing raised in worship (134).

They experienced all different emotions on their ascent to Jerusalem: hopefulness, cheerfulness, despondency, distress, disgust, and bewilderment. I am not sure who wrote the Song of Ascents but they were all singing these songs knowing each person walking up to Jerusalem was in a different season calling out to the Lord in different ways. We can all relate to at least one of these Psalms in the Songs of Ascent. No matter what season the Israelites were in, just like us, they were all on the journey upward–upward to a different season, upward to a different place, upward to Jerusalem, ultimately upward to Heaven together- singing, for themselves and for each other. This is the Christian walk. Ultimately we are taking this journey here on earth to Heaven but on the way we are being formed for Heaven. 

We are always on our way to another season and although we cannot see what is ahead we can always sing a “Song of Ascent.”


Ashleigh Beason, LPCA

Beautiful Valley

by Pam Nettles, LPC

The Valley of Vision

LORD, HIGH, AND HOLY, MEEK AND LOWLY,

Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision,

where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights,

hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold thy glory.

Let me learn by paradox

that the way down is the way up,

that to be low is to be high,

that the broken heart is the healed heart,

that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,

that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,

that to have nothing is to possess all,

that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,

that to give is to receive,

that the valley is the place of vision.

Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from the deepest wells,

and the deeper the wells the brighter thy stars shine;

Let me find thy light in my darkness,

thy life in my death,

thy joy in my sorrow,

thy grace in my sin,

thy riches in my poverty,

thy glory in the valley.

Poem from (Bennett, Arthur. The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and devotions, The Banner if Truth Trust, 1975)


In our culture we often identify the ‘mountain top’ experiences as those great life experiences. However, if we observe nature, the mountain top is often rocky, jagged and void of lush greenery, wildlife, and water. Storms and winds ravage the mountain top and do not provide protection; the nutrients flow down the mountain to the valley below. The valley is typically where we see lush growth, rivers and waterfalls, wildlife, and beautiful wildflowers. Let’s take a lesson from nature and remember when we are in the ‘valleys of life’ that this is a time to rest in the protection of the Lord Almighty and to experience growth that cannot be achieved on the mountain top.


Comfort, comfort my people, says the Lord. A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” …Isaiah 40:1, 3-5 ESV

Pam Nettles, LPC

Yielding to The Master

by Boone Leigh, MA, LPC

Philippians 4:6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

This has been an interesting week for me. My wife and daughters left at the beginning of the week to go to Africa on a missions trip. I usually am not a very anxious person but I have found myself thinking about all the possible misfortunes that could befall them. The thoughts of plane crashes or rebel uprisings, kidnappings, strange and deadly African diseases, have been on my mind. Ultimately the root concern seems to be this, I don’t think I could live without my wife and daughters. The heartache of something happening to them seems intolerable and thus my anxiety over the possibility of something happening to them wants to overwhelm me. This is a reminder of what anxiety many times is, it is a desire to control what I cannot control. God was very gracious to me in providing a gentle reminder to me this week through the pen of the Puritan Samual Rutherford in a little book I have been reading called “The Loveliness of Christ”. ​

​“Take no heavier lift of your children, than the Lord alloweth; give them room beside 

your heart, but not in the yolk of your heart, where Christ should be. For then they are

your idols, not your bairns [children]. If you Lord take any of them home to his house 

before the storm come on, take it well, the owner of the orchard may take down two or 

three apples off his own trees, before midsummer, and ere before they get the harvest sun; 

and it would not be seemly that his servant, the gardner, should chide him for it.

Let the Lord pluck his own fruit at any season that he pleaseth; they are not lost to you,

They are laid up so well, as that they are coffered in heaven, where our Lord’s best jewels lie.” (p 34)

My children, my wife, and my life are not my own. The master of the orchard may do with them and me as He most wisely and graciously will. There is a great peace in not feeling like I need to control what I cannot control. The master of the orchard is in control, and he is a good master. 

Boone Leigh, MA, LPC

Type R Personality. Why You Need to Know This!

by Donna Gibbs

Type R Personality! Business professionals are talking about it. Even Good Morning America got in on the discussion last year. According to these reports, Type R Personalities are trumping type A Personalities in success. So what does Type R mean? It means resilient. And, as you know, that is a word close to my heart.

Many of you set out to accomplish something new this year. You set a goal, or a resolution. You resolved to reach an important objective. We’ve talked before about imagining, having purpose in your goal, believing beyond your perceived limitations, allowing failure to be your friend, and looking beyond the past into the future toward a “new thing”.

But more than anything, it takes resilience to reach a goal that has previously felt untouchable. Why? Because we live in a tough world. We face obstacles every day. Even when we try our hardest, we still fail. We suffer. We struggle. But our ability to bounce back, or even bounce forward, from a trial or a failure ultimately determines our success. Our success in business. Our success in life. Our resilience is the most significant predictor of our outcome.

The best news of all? Resilience is not something you either have or don’t have. (That is why the subtitle of my book, Becoming Resilient, is “How to Move Through Your Suffering and Come Back Stronger”). Resilience is something you develop. Yes, you can bounce back from a failed New Year’s Resolution. You can bounce back from an unsuccessful business plan. You can bounce back from your poor decisions. You can even bounce back from a painful betrayal or an unthinkable trauma. The most encouraging news? Though there are some struggles in life that you cannot bounce back from (things will never be the same), you can bounce forward into a beautiful new normal that is meaningful and purposeful. You can overcome. You can thrive again.

Friends, let us build up one-another through the inevitable obstacles and struggles of life. Let us persevere. Let’s allow resilience to be contagious as we encourage one-another. As Jim Valvano always said, “Never give up!”

Let’s throw out the Type A and reach for the Type R!

“But forget all that – it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland”. (Isaiah 43:18)


Donna Gibbs

Donna Gibbs, co-owner of Summit Wellness Centers, PLLC, is author of the recent releases, Silencing Insecurity and Becoming Resilient. Donna has authored numerous other books, her blogs are frequently shared in various media outlets, and she is commonly featured on radio broadcasts across America, and occasionally internationally as well. Donna has been providing individuals and families the hope and help they need for more than twenty years as a national certified counselor, board-certified professional Christian counselor, and licensed professional counselor supervisor. A member of the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC), she is a leading professional provider for Focus on the Family, Christian Care Network, r3Continuum, FINDINGbalance, and Samaritan’s Purse. 

Follow Donna’s author page at https://www.facebook.com/DonnaGibbsResilience/ for daily encouragement, the weekly blog, and updates regarding events and speaking engagements.

How Can I Be Anxious For Nothing When I Am Anxious About Everything?

by Donna Gibbs

This blog is always designed to be relevant to the struggles of everyday life, and to the issues that come through the door of our counseling centers. So when I considered the most relevant topic of the week, I knew this week’s blog had to be about anxiety. Without a doubt, this is a season that fuels the sparks of anxiety. The news is full of domestic and international unrest, we hear daily of issues of violence or addiction, and… we’re approaching end-of-school year festivities, including the infamous end-of-grade testing! These triggers cause even those not naturally bent toward anxiety to experience some of the pangs of fear. For those who are predisposed toward anxiety, or those who are vulnerable due to some previous trauma, these concerns can potentially fuel a fear that is crippling.

If you are experiencing anxiety regarding anything in this tumultuous world, then you are likely experiencing some physical symptoms of discomfort: shallow breathing with rapid heart rate, nausea, headache, dizziness, sweating, and/or tingling. The genuine physical cascade of symptoms creates even more angst, often landing individuals experiencing these symptoms in the ER with concern of heart-attack or some other serious condition. I am going to share a brief checklist below of steps to take if anxiety is getting the best of you:

1. See your physician to rule out potential medical issues related to your physical symptoms.

2. Having ruled out medical complications, talk truthfully to yourself about your anxiety. A panic attack will feel like it can kill you. Truth is, it cannot hurt you. Reminding yourself of this truth diminishes the power of the bully of anxiety. Your season of anxiety will pass.

3. Avoid caffeine or other stimulants. Yes – skip that much-loved morning pick-me-up coffee, your afternoon sweet tea, and your favorite chocolate dessert. These will only increase your un- welcomed symptoms.

4. Breathe deeply. Be mindful of your breathing, and allow your symptoms to calm. You can gain control of your physical symptoms, vs their controlling you.

5. Exercise. Exercise positively impacts areas in the brain that channel serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine (the great mental health chemicals in the brain). Exercise works like a med! While you’re at it, take advantage of the self-induced increased heart-rate, and get some practice lowering your pulse so that you have more confidence when you encounter an elevated pulse due to anxiety or panic attack.

6. Reduce unnecessary stressors. Some stressors of life are unavoidable. But unnecessary stressors invite unnecessary suffering. You’re already suffering enough. It’s time to simplify.

7. Tell yourself the truth. Much of anxiety is a battle of the mind. Tell yourself the truth, not a minimized or exaggerated version of the truth that creates angst. If you have difficulty discerning truth, seek help. A professional counselor can help you discern and replace destructive thoughts.

8. Assertively use meditation and repetition. Anxiety is fueled by repetition and meditation on destructive and false beliefs. Recovery is found in repetition and meditation of truth. As I often tell clients, “You get out the same way you got in”. Cling to scriptural truths. Agree with God. Test your thoughts against His. And then allow Him to “transform and renew your mind” (Romans 12:2). Your brain, and your anxiety, will literally be changed through the tools of meditation and repetition of truth. Neuroplasticity is a beautiful thing!

9. Consider meds if your anxious thoughts are obsessive and crippling (if they are interfering with daily functioning). Be cautious about use of acute meds which can be addictive if over- used. Ask your physician to provide information regarding a group of maintenance meds, or SSRI’s, that may assist you in managing crippling symptoms. Remember, meds are not a cure-all; you’re still going to have to do the hard work.

10. Don’t allow anxiety to bully you! It will shrink your world if you allow. In fear of the next episode of panic, you’ll avoid the people or places that you fear will leave you vulnerable. This only empowers the anxiety. Instead, embrace opposite action. Don’t believe the anxiety! Rebel against the bully.

Finally, let’s remember that a little bit of anxious concern is good. Yes, it can allow us to be more pro-active, more focused, and more detail- oriented. It can keep our care at a healthy level. But, a good thing turned too high… is still too high. So keep check on your concern, and when it turns toxic, take some of the steps above to turn it down.

Donna Gibbs

Donna Gibbs, co-owner of Summit Wellness Centers, PLLC, is author of the recent releases, Silencing Insecurity and Becoming Resilient. Donna has authored numerous other books, her blogs are frequently shared in various media outlets, and she is commonly featured on radio broadcasts across America, and occasionally internationally as well. Donna has been providing individuals and families the hope and help they need for more than twenty years as a national certified counselor, board-certified professional Christian counselor, and licensed professional counselor supervisor. A member of the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC), she is a leading professional provider for Focus on the Family, Christian Care Network, r3Continuum, FINDINGbalance, and Samaritan’s Purse. 

Follow Donna’s author page at https://www.facebook.com/DonnaGibbsResilience/ for daily encouragement, the weekly blog, and updates regarding events and speaking engagements.

Royalty, Spirituality, ISSUES, and Depression: Did David Have Issues?

by Donna Gibbs

Last week, we addressed the collision of royalty and depression. We’ve come to accept that even someone who has access to all the extravagant benefits of royalty can be vulnerable to depression. Even a King!

We also addressed the collision of spirituality and depression. We’ve come to accept that someone who has a rich and genuine spiritual life can still be vulnerable. Even a “man after God’s own heart”.

With those collisions established, I think it would be helpful for us to gaze for just a moment at some of the other issues going on in David’s life. Perhaps this glance could provide further explanation to his struggle with discouragement.

1. David had STRESSORS.

David had enemies. He had stress. He had overwhelming life situations and traumas. David had legitimate oppressors. Anything from wild animals to nations, David was often fighting with, or running from, someone or something. There were times in which he lived with great fear and anxiety. The angst of life’s stressors creates a path to discouragement.

2. David had DESTRUCTIVE THOUGHTS.

David often got stuck on his toxic thoughts. Many times in the Psalms we see evidence of David’s ruminations. He frequently got stuck on hopeless, defeating thoughts about God, about himself, and about his situation. He would be the first to acknowledge that he wrestled with his thoughts. It is nearly impossible to avoid discouragement in the presence of destructive ruminations, and David sometimes struggled to pull himself out of his personal darkness.

3. David had PHYSICAL CHALLENGES.

David made reference to his bones hurting, his fatigue and weariness. Of course, we don’t know what else might have been going on within his body (David likely wouldn’t have even known himself). He could have suffered injuries, diseases, vitamin deficiencies, or chemical imbalances. While we don’t know those specifics, we do know this: God made us whole. We are whole physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually – so when our emotions hurt, our bodies hurt. And when our bodies hurt, our emotions hurt. David was no exception, and his physical challenges had a ripple effect.

4. David had PERSONAL REGRET.

It’s true – sin can create depression. David had a terrible fall. He misused his power as king, had an affair with a woman, and followed that affair with the murder of her husband. What a mess! In Psalm 51, following a conversation with a respected friend, David wrote a reflection on what is sometimes referred to as the darkest day of his life. David begged for God’s mercy and forgiveness. He was broken and disgusted with himself. His regret created deep sadness.

Can you relate to David? Do you live under the yoke of stress? Are you enduring a tough situation or trauma? Do you have enemies? Do you sometimes get stuck on negative thoughts about God, about yourself, about others, or about your situation? Do you have physical challenges? A chronic condition? Do you have personal regrets? Are you suffering the tough consequences of an immoral choice?

If your answer is “Yes,” remember that you are in good company. You are in the company of royalty. You are in the company of one who loved God.

Remember, it’s ok to realize that you are struggling. But it’s not ok to stay stuck. Reach out today to a trusted friend, pastor, or counselor for help!

Donna Gibbs, co-owner of Summit Wellness Centers, PLLC, is author of the recent releases, Silencing Insecurity and Becoming Resilient. Donna has authored numerous other books, her blogs are frequently shared in various media outlets, and she is commonly featured on radio broadcasts across America, and occasionally internationally as well. Donna has been providing individuals and families the hope and help they need for more than twenty years as a national certified counselor, board-certified professional Christian counselor, and licensed professional counselor supervisor. A member of the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC), she is a leading professional provider for Focus on the Family, Christian Care Network, r3Continuum, FINDINGbalance, and Samaritan’s Purse. 

Follow Donna’s author page at https://www.facebook.com/DonnaGibbsResilience/ for daily encouragement, the weekly blog, and updates regarding events and speaking engagements.

Depression, the Common Cold, and Royalty: What do They Have in Common?

by Donna Gibbs

Depression – it’s called the “common cold” of mental disorders, but how common is it really?

Depression impacts hundreds of millions of individuals across the world. Up to 20% of the population in America struggles with the sometimes debilitating symptoms of depression. 20%!! I’d call that common, wouldn’t you?

If depression is that common, then any of us are susceptible… a teenager, a mom, a dad, a senior adult, a person of any race or occupation. Your neighbor. Your co-worker. Perhaps even a King!

I enjoyed an invitation to speak to a local church some time ago regarding the topic of depression. Their specific request was that I address the possibility of depression in the life of David, the writer of many of the Psalms. So, we put David on the “Hot Seat” and posed two questions: 1) David, were you depressed? 2) Can a Christian be depressed?

But before we examine David, let’s first consider some general symptoms of depression:

*Sadness

*Crying Spells

*Loss of interest in once enjoyable activities

*Apathy – lost your “care”

*Letting go of self-care/hygiene

*Fatigue

*Irritability/Agitation

*Withdrawal/Isolation

*Changes in sleep patterns

*Changes in eating patterns

*Difficulty concentrating, or forgetfulness

*Chronic aches/pains

*Feelings of worthlessness

*Hopelessness

*Destructive Thoughts/Ruminations

*Suicidal thoughts/attempts

Who was David? As a boy, he was the youngest of his siblings. As a young man, he had a simple job of taking care of sheep. But God had a more extravagant role designed for David’s adult life. After a series of amazing events, David was ultimately appointed King of Israel. David became head of the royal family!

Did you watch the most recent royal wedding? Or follow the news of the recent royal birth? Wow! What a display of power, infamy, wealth, and lavishness! As King, David too experienced the extravagance of this lifestyle. But can someone who lives like that possibly experience depression? Someone who never has a financial care? Someone who never has to cook their own meal, or cut their own grass? Someone with access to the very best of all that life offers? Is it possible that even someone with this ultimate grandiose lifestyle could be vulnerable to the symptoms we identified above?

As if royalty weren’t seemingly enough to insulate him from depression, David also had a unique spiritual life. Indeed, he is historically known as “a man after God’s own heart”. He was far from perfect, but he had a rich spiritual life. Isn’t that enough to protect someone from depression?

David’s own words will answer our questions:

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? My tears have been my food day and night.

Psalm 42:1-3

Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy? My bones suffer mortal agony.

Psalm 42: 9-10

My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught…. My heart is in anguish within me…. Oh that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest.

Psalm 55: 2, 4-8

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts, and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Psalm 13:1-4

Yes, David lived the life of royalty. Yes, David was a man of God. And, David met the criteria for depression. He felt downcast and distraught. He wrestled with his thoughts. He had ruminations. He had crying spells. He had spiritual disconnect. He had physical symptoms of pain. He wanted to run away from everything and everybody. He desperately wanted to escape. He grew agitated and impatient. Can you relate?

If you also wrestle with depression, I want you to take comfort in this: depression really is common. No one is immune. No one is insulated from pain. Whether through a genetic predisposition, a vitamin deficiency, a thyroid issue, a hormone imbalance, or a fiery trial of life, we are all vulnerable. Even me and you.

If you are wrestling in your thoughts today, know that you are in good company. Even a king, even a “man after God’s own heart” might say, “I can relate”. Rest in knowing that you are not alone! And then reach out for help. No need to suffer in silence any more.

Donna Gibbs

Donna Gibbs, co-owner of Summit Wellness Centers, PLLC, is author of the recent releases, Silencing Insecurity and Becoming Resilient. Donna has authored numerous other books, her blogs are frequently shared in various media outlets, and she is commonly featured on radio broadcasts across America, and occasionally internationally as well. Donna has been providing individuals and families the hope and help they need for more than twenty years as a national certified counselor, board-certified professional Christian counselor, and licensed professional counselor supervisor. A member of the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC), she is a leading professional provider for Focus on the Family, Christian Care Network, r3Continuum, FINDINGbalance, and Samaritan’s Purse. 

Follow Donna’s author page at https://www.facebook.com/DonnaGibbsResilience/ for daily encouragement, the weekly blog, and updates regarding events and speaking engagements.

Infertility: Hope in a Lonely Journey

by Donna Gibbs

The wedding was beautiful. Lifelong hopes and dreams became a reality as the vows were spoken and the couple was introduced to those in attendance. The bride and groom started down the aisle, full of aspirations for a hope-filled, joyous life together. They pictured themselves living the American dream, with a beautiful home, a Volvo in the garage, and 2.4 children.

Time passed. One year turned into two, then three, four, and five years. Family and friends began to question, “When are you two going to have a baby?” “You know, youʼre not getting any younger.” “Isnʼt it about time you started having a family?” For this couple, infertility was soon becoming a harsh reality. They considered the time, energy, finances, and emotional strain involved in medical interventions or adoption. It was all so confusing and overwhelming. They prayed, questioning God, asking “Why?” Why were relationships becoming strained? Why was walking down the baby food aisle of the grocery store becoming unbearable? Why were announcements of pregnancies and baby showers so painful? Why was Motherʼs Day such a sad occasion? Why?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 11% of reproductive-aged women experience challenges in getting pregnant and/or carrying a baby to term. This is probably a low estimate of the many isolated, hurting couples with few places to turn with their grief. Infertility is a disease that creates significant grief, bombarding its victims with intense, inexplicable emotions. The grief process can be experienced from one extreme to another, all within a cycle of 28 days. Infertility attacks an individualʼs sense of self-worth, tempting them to compare themselves to peers who seem to have no difficulty achieving or maintaining pregnancy. Certainly, infertility can place great strain on relationships among family and friends who often, with no evil intent, have painful questions and expectations. An unresolved plea for pregnancy can also create stress and tension in the marriage relationship. Without question, undesired childlessness shakes our faith in a God who describes children as a blessed gift. Yet, there is hope! For we serve a God who makes promises. The promise for someone with infertility is not that they would necessarily have a biological child (though approximately 85-90% are able to conceive). The promise is that even this difficult trial will be worked for good. “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). “All things” is an all-inclusive phrase: even infertility can bear fruit!

If you are wrestling through this tough journey, I pray you will look for fruit, and don’t lose hope! There are others who share your pain. You are not alone!

Wondering what the grief process of infertility looks like? Here are some expected experiences of grief. While grief is better described as “waves” vs “stages” these are some of the typical places that you may find yourself, based on where you are in your monthly cycle, and where you are in the overall process of infertility.

The Waves of Infertility Grief

*Denial/Shock: “I canʼt believe this is happening to me.” *Desperation/Panic: “Iʼll do whatever it takes to have a child.”

*Anger/Resentment: “What kind of God would allow me to go through this?”

*Sadness/Depression: “Why me?”

*Inadequacy/Guilt: “What is my purpose now?”

*Hope/Peace: “Iʼm OK.”

*Reconciliation/Integration: “May Your will be done.”

If you have concerns that you are stuck in your grief, please reach out to a trusted pastor or counselor. You are not alone, and you don’t have to walk this tough road alone!

A Note for Pastors and Counselors

In all likelihood, if you are a counselor or a minister, you have encountered couples who are experiencing the trial of infertility. Below, Iʼve listed a few tips for working with these couples and hope that these assist you in providing a supportive and effective atmosphere for them.

*Be well versed regarding the emotional, relational, and spiritual challenges of infertility, as well as reproductive treatment options. Just as we would want to be aware of cultural differences that can impact our clients, we need to be aware of the life and challenges of the couple experiencing infertility. *Normalize and validate the common struggles at each phase of infertility grief (see “Processing Infertility Grief”)

*Educate regarding gender differences in infertility grief and assist the couple in processing their grief without divisiveness.

*Refer couples to support groups if available, at minimum mentors who can relate in a non-threatening and supportive manner. This is particularly important due to the isolation that generally accompanies infertility. If no resources are locally available, advocate for the development of these resources.

*Educate couples regarding stress management techniques. Infertility is known to be as stressful for individuals as a life-threatening condition.

*Assist couples in making deliberate, well-processed decisions regarding their treatment options, taking into consideration spiritual convictions, financial obstacles, family dynamics, stress-levels, etc…

*Assist couples, through role-play, in communicating their struggles, needs, and hurts to family, friends, and co-workers as it relates to infertility. Assist couples in determining what they are comfortable sharing with others and in explaining what they prefer to be kept private, how they will respond to announcements of pregnancy, invitations to baby showers, etc… This type of rehearsal assists couples in overcoming isolation and resentment.

*Have couples journal their experiences and emotions and process in session.

Excerpts from this blog are taken from Water From the Rock (2002), co- authored by Summit Wellness Centers co-owner, Donna Gibbs.

Donna Gibbs

Donna Gibbs, co-owner of Summit Wellness Centers, PLLC, is author of the recent releases, Silencing Insecurity and Becoming Resilient. Donna has authored numerous other books, her blogs are frequently shared in various media outlets, and she is commonly featured on radio broadcasts across America, and occasionally internationally as well. Donna has been providing individuals and families the hope and help they need for more than twenty years as a national certified counselor, board-certified professional Christian counselor, and licensed professional counselor supervisor. A member of the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC), she is a leading professional provider for Focus on the Family, Christian Care Network, r3Continuum, FINDINGbalance, and Samaritan’s Purse. 

Follow Donna’s author page at https://www.facebook.com/DonnaGibbsResilience/ for daily encouragement, the weekly blog, and updates regarding events and speaking engagements.