What are the Five Stages of Grief?

Grief is a multifaceted response to loss or trauma. Waves of grief can hit unexpectedly and rarely follow a concrete, linear path. Professional counselors and scientific researchers use “stages” to describe the different components of grief, but these are more like guides to assist those navigating through the tangled emotions and experiences brought on by grief.

Studies can provide mourners with new insight that is based on the experience of others, but it’s important to not fall into the trap of comparing your grieving process with everyone else. The grieving process for each person doesn’t need to happen in some specified order. The times, length and phases of grief can vary widely from person to person.

However, by walking through the so-called stages, the hope is to better equip each other to cope with life and loss.

Grief and Loneliness

Grief can often isolate us from the world because it is deeply painful and overwhelmingly personal. There’s no one who can fully understand your feelings and the intensity of your personal grief. You might discover someone with a similar story in whom you find comfort by sharing, but it’s still your grief to own and process.

In 2 Corinthians 1:14 we are told, “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.”

A supportive friend can’t answer your questions, solve your problems or pretend to know precisely what you are feeling, but that friend can offer you a hug, spend time praying with you or just be with you in your moments of sorrow.

Grief and Hope

We have someone who is our hope in a world full of despair and heartache. He knows us, never leaves us and listens to our cries. Psalm 34:18 reminds us, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

God has given us the capacity for mourning and expressing our emotions. We are even encouraged in Lamentations 2:19 to “pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord.” He longs to hear from us and to be the one we cling to.

There’s a particular scene in the scriptures where Jesus arrives after the death of his friend Lazarus. Although he knew he would miraculously raise him from the dead, Jesus still wept. He experienced the pain of those around him on a deep level.

He didn’t minimize their pain or ignore it. He welcomed the opportunity to share the overwhelming burden of bereavement. He validated the poignancy of grief by participating in it during his time on earth. We, like Lazarus, also have hope after death. Jesus made known the Christian’s great hope of victory over death that we have in Christ.

Grief as the Journey of a Lifetime

It’s impossible to rush grief or force its hand. This demonstrates one major flaw in dividing grief into stages, giving a false notion that when you reach a certain stage you can leave grief behind.

Good counselors make use of techniques that help the mourner to accept the reality of the loss and to move forward in a healthy way. Even when progress is made, wounds are healed, and sadness slowly fades away, the process of grieving may never be 100% complete in this life. Although the pain can be intense, grief is should not be thought of as a disease that needs a cure.

Rather, it is a process that requires a lifetime of healing. Indeed, the effects of the loss are often felt for the rest of one’s life. There are no shortcuts to bypass this process. A good counselor will help you alleviate the pressure you might feel to “get over” the grief and help you live with it as you continue to walk through life.

Causes of Grief

Up until this point, the cause for grief has mainly been linked to the loss of a loved one. But grief occurs after many different life events and is not confined to the death of a loved one. For example, grief can also come as the result of:

  • Death of a pet
  • Loss of a job
  • Loss of physical or mental abilities
  • Separation from a loved one
  • End of a friendship or relationship
  • Serious illness of a loved one
  • Infidelity
  • Divorce
  • Leaving home

Loss is a painful inevitability in life, and grief is a natural part of the healing process. The personal effects of the tragic circumstances listed above often share similar attributes, which is why we can refer to all of them as sources of grieving. Now that we have established that there is no set formula for grieving, let’s look at some of the popular models to help understand grief more thoroughly.

The Five Stages of Grief

Elizabeth Kübler-Ross wrote what has become perhaps the most well-known study of death. In her book On Death and Dying (1969) she details five stages of grief. She has been praised for managing to enact a paradigm shift in thinking about death. Because of her work, it has become more acceptable to be open about and seek support after a loss.

The five stages of grief, as adapted from Kübler-Ross’s book are as follows:

1. Denial

This stage of denial is often trivialized but is the common reaction to the shock that happens immediately after witnessing a loss or hearing news of a loss. It’s a way to of coping with the immediate pain.

2. Anger

Some people experience a numbness during the grieving process, which makes it more difficult to identify emotions and process through the grief. Feeling anger can be a useful gateway to identifying and uncovering other thoughts and emotions.

The anger can be directed at many different things or people, but underneath always lies pain. Intense anger just shows how intense the love was for the person or thing that was lost.

3. Bargaining

Before a loss, it’s often natural to attempt to bargain with yourself or God. During bargaining, a person may want to go back in time. If only we went to the doctor sooner or didn’t drive on the icy roads. It may appear unreasonable to bargain about something that is permanent, but the state of grief is not fundamentally reasonable.

4. Depression

The depression that is experienced often feels like it will last forever and that you will never move past this state. Grief does not reach a deeper level than this as you focus on your present emotions.

Depression can feel hopeless, but it’s a normal stage when going through healing. When the reality sinks in that your loved one is not returning, a completely normal and appropriate form of depression begins to settle in.

5. Acceptance

Acceptance is when you finally face the fact that the loss is real, and you begin to learn what existing in a world without your loved one looks like. This step is critical since it enables us to remember and retain the lost one’s legacy. This does not mean you forget your loved one, in fact, it’s healthy to cherish and celebrate the memories.

Counseling for Grief

If you, or someone you know, is facing grief, a Christian counselor in San Diego can provide compassionate support, comfort, and empathy during this delicate time. Counseling provides a safe place to process your grief in your own way without fear of judgment. A good counselor will honor your grief and respect the level of love it represents. With a counselor, you can pour out your pain to a listening ear.

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Possible Causes of Depression and Suggested Treatment Options

If you struggle with depression, you are not alone. Over 300 million people around the world are affected by depression, according to WHO. Depression is more than just feeling a little “down” about life. It’s a common and serious medical illness that often remains untreated.

According to the American Psychiatric Association depression “negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act.

Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed.” It can erode a person’s ability to function at work and accomplish day-to-day activities.

What are the Causes of Depression?

Since depression impacts millions of people worldwide, the natural question most ask is, “What are the causes of depression?” While there are some ideas of the origin of depression, it is difficult to pinpoint, since depression can look radically different from person to person.

Different Types of Depression

Let’s define the terms before digging into possible causes of depression. Major Depressive Disorder consists of 14 different codes that mental health professions can use to look at different aspects of depression.

Dysthymia is usually less severe than Major Depressive Disorder but occurs over a longer period of time. The chronic nature of dysthymia can become exhausting over time.

Bipolar Depression fluctuates between a depressed low and a feel-good high. If someone is suffering from an adjustment disorder with depression, the environment is most likely the culprit for the depression and can be remedied through therapy.

If someone has a major depressive episode it can come on strong without an event to point to leaving most to suspect brain chemistry is causing the episode. If symptoms last longer than two weeks, it can be diagnosed as depression.

Possible Causes of Depression

Depression may develop from a complex interaction of social, psychological and biological factors.

1. Neurotransmitters

An imbalance of chemicals can affect our moods. Neurons are the cells in the body and brain that communication information. Neurons firing cause people to experience thoughts, emotions, memories, and to control certain parts of the body. The neurotransmitter serotonin, causes moods to increase when present in abundance.

When an antidepressant is administered, it works to create a new balance in the brain. Although it can take time to find an antidepressant that is the best fit, changing diet and increasing physical activity in the interim can alleviate some of the depressive moods.

2. Genes

Sometimes you don’t have to look farther than your family to see where depression originates. Genetics can make one vulnerable to depression. If your mother suffers from depression, you are more predisposed to have depression too.

Of course, genes are not a perfect predictor of depression. While they can increase someone’s probability, a person can exhibit signs of depression without any family history at all.

3. Environmental Stress

Depression normally manifests itself based on environmental causes.  Genes can set the stage, but it’s the environment that puts everything into motion. This could be stress from unemployment, the death of a loved one, the climate where you live, or severe trauma.

If someone experiences habitual unemployment or constant loss in their life, a level of depression is to be expected.

Because stress causes chemical reactions in the body. Stress has its own physiological consequences. It triggers a chain of chemical reactions and responses in the body. If the stress is short-lived, the body usually returns to normal. But when stress is chronic or the system gets stuck in overdrive, changes in the body and brain can be long-lasting.

4. Medical condition

Lupus, Alzheimer’s disease, anemia and other medical conditions can cause depression. Anemia is one that often slips under the radar. Anemia leads to low energy levels, which can evolve into a lack of motivation to do things. The psychological interpretation of the physical symptoms often causes people to become despondent and any motivation is diminished.

Because the issue doesn’t revolve around neurotransmitter activity in the brain, antidepressants won’t make a difference. If you’ve been trying to find the right medication, but are still showing symptoms of depression, it’s wise to check with a doctor about anemia as a possible cause.

5. Medications

Sometimes certain side effects of drugs can cause a state of depression. A medical professional can sort out whether a new medication, or recent change in the dosage or mixing with other drugs is affecting your mood.  Be sure to alert your therapist about what drugs you take and any symptoms you are experiencing.

Treatment for Depression

The causes of depression are varied and one form of treatment does not fit all. Depression often isolates people and pushes them away from once enjoyable activities. If serving at church or spending time with friends in the community was once fulfilling, it’s important to try to continue doing those activities. The best route to take is a mixture of therapy, medication and personal life change to curb depression.

Depression is completely treatable, but hard to navigate without accountability and therapy. A christian depression therapist can help you identify the places in your life to work on, show you how to uncover your inner thoughts, and create an action plan for defeating depression. Depression does not have to dominate your life.

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Advice for Parents on Dealing with Teen Issues with Grace

Parenting is always a very demanding task especially when your children are in their adolescent stage. Generally, this stage lasts from the age of about eight to twenty-five years and may be challenging and tough for both teens and their parents.

During this critical stage, as teens struggle to find their own footing in the world, parents and the family, in general, may find it difficult to adjust themselves to accommodate their changing child.

For the parents, surviving their child’s adolescence is never easy. To reduce the stress caused by the adolescent child, they should put into practice the following tips from Carl Pickhardt’s book, Surviving Your Child’s Adolescence.

Advice for Parents Dealing with Teen Issues

Here are five tips for parenting teen issues with grace:

Never take it personally.

Pickhardt likens the adolescent age to your dog abruptly changing into a cat. You are now enjoying the companionship of your dog but suddenly find yourself dealing with a testy cat. In this stage, parents can’t ever know enough about their child, though their contribution is of great importance. As a parent, it is always tempting to attach one’s worth to the child’s behavior and success despite the fact that your worth is not dependent on that of your child.

To link your worth as a parent to your child’s success can leave you disappointed and feeling as though you have failed since your teens will have to face challenges which may be out of your control as a parent. The best thing that a parent can do is to support them through these adolescent years. Through the help of your spouse, friends and ultimately God’s help and guidance, you can rest assured that you will achieve your best.

Set realistic goals and expectations.

All parents expect that their precious children will always a source of joy, but in this stage, the majority of the teens will always try to distance themselves from their family and parents. Defiance will also be part of this and lack of communication will follow in some cases. Unfortunately, these behaviors will affect parents in one form or another.

Ignorance is something else that manifests itself during adolescence making a child less communicative, leaving the parent in the dark about certain things. Another major reality is withdrawal. Teens want to have more time for themselves and this annoys parents who like spending time with their children.

Being aware of these behaviors in the transition from childhood to being independent adults, parents should understand and tolerate the behavior of their children. Controlling your child’s actions and decisions at this stage may not be easy and therefore parents should be accommodative.

Know what the purpose is.

In life, everything has its specific purpose and this season is meant to transition your child from being dependent to being an independent individual. This is where teens differentiate themselves from their parents and in this gradual process they develop a sense of self-independence which prepares them to live their own independent lives away from parental supervision.

The role of role of the parents is to prepare their children to become thriving and successful adults. In this adolescent stage, conflicts may occasionally arise and this will offer a chance for you to teach them how to navigate differing values and disagreements in life. This is a key thing that they have to learn as they become independent since they will have to resolve conflicts when they are. Transitions in life are difficult for everyone and they can be uncomfortable, scary and even stressful, so parents need to understand the feelings of their kids.

Boost the self-esteem of your teen.

This is something that you can easily achieve as a parent. You need to look for opportunities to build their esteem at this critical stage. Most of them always face moments of loneliness and discouragement regularly. As a parent, you should provide a place where they fell lifted up and encouraged. Always endeavor to share their joy by encouraging them to achieve their dreams and by regularly being engaged in their activities.

Eight Anchors of Adolescent Growth

In his book, Pickhardt outlines these issues which are important to parents who want to make some significant changes in how they parent their children in adolescence.

  1. Completing homework. Homework is an excellent way to practice how to complete daily tasks, even those that one dislikes. Punctuality and self-discipline are important things that kids need to have in future.
  2. Cleaning up their room. Cleaning one’s room is the hallmark of teenage years and this develops their sense of responsibility and the need to maintain their personal space and to be careful in what they do.
  3. Being part of events and family gatherings. Sometimes this may not be taken well by your adolescent kids since they prefer to spend most of their time with friends. However, as a wise parent, take your time and remind them of the importance of being close to the family.
  4. Saving money. Emphasizing the necessity of managing one’s personal finances to your teens is of great significance since it teaches restraint and the principles of wise spending.
  5. Developing proficiency. Pickhardt states that “Developing proficiency of knowledge of skill nurtures confidence that many adolescents sorely need.” The parent should always take a responsibility of encouraging peers to be committed to acquiring certain skills and developing their confidence in those areas like sports or singing in the church choir.
  6. Attending their daily chores. Completing their daily chores on time may indicate how responsible your teens are. All the mature members of the should see to it that the teens finish their chores within the set time frame. Pickhardt argues that the chores have to be completed on time without giving teens any allowances.
  7. Being involved in voluntary community service. Being engaged in community services regularly prompts the teens to think about others and the importance of assisting them in various ways.
  8. Relating to adults or mentors. This is one of the areas where parents need to model behavior and perception of things in their teenagers. They must make sure that they are linked to God-fearing adults who not only became friends but also great mentors in life. This gives your children a different focus from what is taught to them by their fellow immature peers, and hopefully, this will transform them in many ways.

Parenting through teen issues is not a simple task, but it is an exhausting process with many ups and downs. Sometimes one may feel as if it will last forever and other days as though it’s just flying by. But wherever you are on this journey of raising teens, remain focused, set healthy goals and find ways of establishing the Eight Anchors of Adolescence. Hopefully, these tips will positively impact your Christian upbringing of teens.

Surviving Your Child’s Adolescence, by Carl PickhardtPhotos
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Common Signs of Bipolar Disorder and What to Do About It

Imagine getting on a roller coaster alone. Looking down, you see a string of empty cars. You feel ready for the solo ride. You are exhilarated and breathless as you sail down the track, picking up speed as you go.

At the bottom, you reach an abrupt stop and find yourself stuck. You are alone. There doesn’t seem to be any possible way to get out or up. How long have you been there? It’s hard to tell. It seems like forever.

Without warning, the car lurches forward and jerks you upward again. You’re speeding up – and it’s exciting. You seem to be on a long, looping track, with an endless series of ups and downs. Will the ride ever end?

This is how bipolar disorder can feel.

Of all the mental health conditions, bipolar disorder is considered to be among the most challenging to identify. The symptoms are difficult to treat and draining to live with. Signs of bipolar disorder can be subtle or deceptive to family, friends, andto people suffering from bipolar disorder.

For the bipolar disorder sufferer, it often feels like a roller coaster ride. Emotions soar and exhilaration can exist for extended intervals of time. However, a deep, emotional crash and emerging depression often follow this state.

If you love someone with bipolar disorder, it may feel as if this friend or family member is changing or fading away. Sometimes, this change feels positive. Bipolar highs can bring greater productivity. But this increased activity can also bring problems, such as high-risk behavior.

Recognizing the symptoms of bipolar disorder both in yourself or those around you is crucial. This can lead to early, effective treatment. And, this treatment will be a key way to reach more successful, mentally healthy living.

Understanding Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder isn’t easily understood. Sometimes people are casually labeled “bipolar” when clinically, they are not. Someone who acts moody isn’t necessarily bipolar. Someone who often changes their mind is not necessarily bipolar. People who are happy, then alternately sad, are not necessarily bipolar. The weather cannot be “bipolar.” Bipolar signs do include extreme emotion changes, though the phases last for weeks at a time.

Each of these false assessments grows out of a simplistic understanding that a person suffering from bipolar disorder alternates between highs and lows. But the misapplication of the term promotes a hazy understanding of the true nature of the disorder. Even clinical names for bipolar disorder have different distinctions.

There are three basic diagnoses of bipolar: Bipolar I, Bipolar II, and Cyclothymia. Bipolar I is the typical designation of high-highs and low-lows. Bipolar II manifests as hypo-mania, alternating with deep depression. (“Hypo” means “less”, so this is an elevated mood, although not a complete mania.)

Cyclothymia cycles over the course of years. It includes long-termswitching between elevated, then depressed moods. It does not demonstrate the extremes of full-blown mania or the intense depressive episodes.

To complicate matters, individuals within each of these types of bipolar disorder are unique. A typically depressed person with only one manic incident fits the bipolar definition. On the other hand, a person who rides on the manic side with only one depressive incident over the course of their life could fit into the bipolar description.

Professionals have a way of categorizing these differences, but most sufferers simply speak of their varied experiences as “bipolar.” Because the experiences are drastically different, it can make people wonder if they are really referring to the same disorder.

It’s clear that bipolar disorder is complicated. For each person who lives with it, the disorder can look different. That’s why it’s important to see a professional for a correct diagnosis that will result in accurate treatment for you or your loved one.

Signs of Bipolar Disorder

If you can recognize any or all these signs either inyourself or in a loved one, please seek out a professional for a proper diagnosis:


Bipolar depression appears similar to major clinical depression, though these episodes can vary from individual to individual. Some equate depression with “a sad mood” and while this is part of depression, it’s not the whole story.

A diagnosis of depression includes one (or both) of two signs:

  • Sadness or a depressed mood
  • A serious lack of interest in pleasure

Some people are not tearful and sad, but still may be depressed. And, a “lack of pleasure” may show itself as a lack of any motivation. Some clients describe the latter experience as being in a fog or a funk. It’s a generally uninterested attitude towards life.

In addition to these telltale features, there are other factors that accompany depression. Some notice all the signs, and some only experience some of them. The list includes drastic changes in weight, sleep patterns or food consumption. Depressed people may feel constantly tired, unfocused or carry unexplained guilt. Some find themselves unusually focused on death.


The difference between depression and bipolar is the occurrence of a “manic episode” at some point. A manic episode is defined as:

“A distinct period of abnormally and persistently elevated, expansive, or irritable mood and abnormally and persistently increased activity or energy, lasting at least one week and present most of the day, nearly every day (or any duration if hospitalization is necessary).” – from the DSM-5 manual

The high part of the rollercoaster ride is called “mania” and it’s here that people often have problems. Manic episodes can include impulsive behaviors, such as irresponsible spending sprees. Being with someone who is experiencing mania can be draining.

It can be difficult to keep pace with the speedy stream of words, ideas, and plans. People with manic energy feel less need for sleep. These behaviors often make it difficult to resume a normal life when they come off the mania.

Those who encounter these symptoms often feel exhilarated. In fact, people who experience it look forward to it coming back. Unfortunately, mania tends to make a person out of control and be the worse for it. If a person experiences these high extremes, even without the depression, they may be experiencing bipolar disorder.

Other Subtypes

Depression and mania constitute the main parts of bipolar disorder, but subtypes of the condition exist, as well. Bipolar I includes the full-blown highs. Bipolar II includes only a “hypomania” with less elevated moods where the episode length is lessened to four days instead of seven.

But the biggest difference with hypomania is that more directed energy is present, but those with the disorder are able to continue their normal life routines. A Bipolar II diagnosis is given when there has been a major depressive episode. This isn’t necessarily trueof a Bipolar I diagnosis; the person may haveonly have experienced the highs.

Cyclothymia is a condition of hypomania that includes mild depression. In this case, a person will experience a mood elevation, but not in the extreme; after which they experience depression, but are able to carry on with daily life. The person continues to function, though, overtime a pattern is noticed.

Another facet of bipolar disorder includes “psychotic features,” which are unique to each person. This may include seeing things that others cannot seeor hearing voices that say bad things. Understandably, this will be distressing.

Treatment Options for Bipolar Disorder

If you see symptoms of bipolar disorder, what are your options? Most important, seek professional help. A mixture of medication and therapy is often helpful with many mental health issues.

Finding a qualified prescriber opens your possibilities for taking a mood stabilizer. When meeting with a professional, be honest about any episodes of mania, even if you are experiencing depression.

This is important because some medications that target depression can cause mania to return. An antidepressant can trigger this mania, but a mood stabilizer will simply provide you a steadier, reliable frame of mind.

Therapy complements medication. Talking through bipolar disorder can help you gain needed control over your condition. It can also help you gain tools and skills for in times of instability.

Supportive family therapy can be especially helpful. The mania part of bipolar is often noticed by family members first. Family therapy empowers family members to help a person recognize symptoms, work together, and help someone cope.

After reading this, perhaps you see yourself or a loved one on this rollercoaster. Living with bipolar can be scary and unpredictable. Find a Christian counselor in San Diego who can help you reach a proper assessment of your symptoms and form a plan. With a mix of therapy and medication, you can reach your goals and seek to heal.

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What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and How Can it Affect Me?

What is obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)? Many people do not fully understand what it means to have OCD. The usual idea is that of someone repeatedly washing their hands or perhaps locking and re-locking the door – actions that others obviously find quite strange; but there is more to being obsessive-compulsive than just that.

While many with OCD are quite aware that there is something very irrational about how they act, others are not able to determine this. In fact, they simply believe that they are just more competitive or perhaps more concerned about their work than others.

The reality, however, is that these so-called workaholics or very perfectionist people may, in fact, be suffering from OCD which causes them much more stress than usual, disrupting their personal and professional lives.

The Case of Obsession

“[Obsessives] are self-reliant and conscientious… They look constantly for ways to help people listen better, resolve conflict, and find win-win opportunities. They buy self-improvement books… and they like to focus on continuous improvement at work because it fits in with their sense of moral improvement.” (Michael Maccoby)

While it is often usual for someone to be both obsessive and compulsive, it is not always the situation. It is possible for someone simply to have the former and not the latter. This can be seen in people who are actively always thinking about something of importance. Many philosophers, scientists, lawyers or even criminal investigators may fall into this category. It is an obsession as they spend most of their waking moments contemplating or arguing their point about something – be it an unsolved case, a scientific mystery, or a philosophical quandary.

However, unlike compulsive people, obsessive people feel no need to act upon what they’re thinking. (290) So though they may think about it constantly, they are able to control their actions, especially if they may result in unwanted consequences.

Obsessive people are often described as stubborn, meticulous, very organized, punctual and inflexible. They are also usually inclined to highly intellectual discussion. Moreover, they are usually driven by an internal standard of excellence that is often impossible to reach.

Such a combination of traits, coupled with their high personal standards, often cause obsessive people to struggle with shame as they cannot live up to their own ideals. To cope, they try to rationalize, moralize, compartmentalize, or intellectualize their undesirable thoughts.

Anger is often used to combat those emotions that make them feel inadequate. Some, however, may displace anger from its original source and focus it on a “legitimate” target so they don’t have to feel ashamed about getting upset. (293) Thus, proper emotional expression is something very difficult for them.

Unfortunately, logic cannot solve everything in life. Thus, obsessives often run into problems as they deal with the people around them.

Difficulty with Decisions

Emotional expression is not the only struggle of those with obsession – they also have difficulty making decisions. The fear of failure, of not reaching their internal standards, paralyzes them. They think through the different options, yet may still end up refusing to make a choice out of fear of making the wrong one. Indecision, however, is a choice in itself with obsessives living with the consequences of not picking something.

McWilliams presents the example of a pregnant woman with two obstetricians to choose from. Her decision process took so long that she eventually went into labor and ended up being treated by a very different doctor elsewhere.

The Case of Compulsion

At some point in time, almost everyone has had some form of compulsive behavior. For athletes or entertainers, this may be some special ritual to ensure a great game or performance.

For others, this could be an action to ward off a superstitious belief. But for compulsive people, their repetitive actions do not just seem weird to those around them, they generally interfere with life.

Though they may intellectually know that there is nothing wrong (e.g. the door has been locked), they are still compelled to repeat the action over and over.

Similar to people with obsession, compulsive people also wish to avoid the embarrassment of a wrong decision. But instead of mulling over a decision for hours or days, they rush into the first option that presents itself and deal with the consequences afterward. An example is jumping into bed with a friend or a new acquaintance simply because the situation has become sexually charged.

Very compulsive people do not want to think too much about things. In fact, they often prefer activities that may require less deep thinking, opting for something quite straightforward and possibly mechanical (e.g. craftwork). What characterizes their actions as “compulsive” is not necessarily whether they are detrimental or beneficial, but that they are simply irresistible to the person. “Florence Nightingale was probably compulsively helpful; Jon Stewart may be compulsively funny. People rarely come to treatment for their compulsivity if it works on their behalf, but they do come with related problems.” (295)

Why the Two Disorders are Often Together

Though an individual may have one disorder or the other, many times they come hand in hand as the compulsive behavior is an attempt to deal with the obsessive thoughts. Though others may view their actions as very irrational, those with OCD have to do what they do for peace of mind.

Someone obsessed, for example, with ideas of being hurt by an intruder may constantly lock and re-lock the doors and windows of their home repeatedly before going to bed or even before leaving home. A person obsessed with their partner leaving for another may constantly check up on their partner’s whereabouts through frequent texts or calls.

Dealing With Such Behavior Through Christian Counseling

Illogical as such thoughts and actions may be, people with OCD cannot help but deal with their circumstances. It is a constant burden in their life, but something they are forced to deal with.

Fortunately, though you may have OCD, do not despair – you do not have to be a slave to the disorder. Though Scripture reminds us not to worry but to trust in the Lord, OCD is a medical condition and not a sign of weak faith. God would not have inspired verses such as Matt. 6:27, 31 and Phil 4:6 if He wanted you to live in fear. Something can be done about it.

If any part of this article pertains to you or someone you love, do not struggle on your own. Contact Christian Counseling San Diego, who can help you overcome this condition. By discovering the root of the problem, those suffering from OCD can learn how to manage such undesirable thoughts and compulsions through research-based treatment and God’s healing power. You or your loved one can find that freedom from fear as the Lord gives you rest. (Matt. 11:28)

Psychoanalytic Diagnosis, Second Edition: Understanding Personality Structure in the Clinical Process by Nancy McWilliamsPhotos
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Common Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety in Children

Can you recall what emotions bubbled up on the first day of high school? Or maybe the first day on the job or the moment you walked through the door for a major interview? For most people, those fears that trickled into their mind can’t be remembered. It was all just a fairly normal response that’s chalked up to first-time jitters.

Can you imagine what it would be like if those were a part of you all the time? If you are a parent of a child who struggles with anxiety, it can be overwhelming just trying to decipher what’s happening inside their mind and body when they think about a social setting.

It’s hard to experience life with a certain set of emotions that are often misunderstood by teachers, friends and even parents. Some teachers are unable to recognize the signs of anxiety, which is why it’s important for the parent to become involved in the school system policies and advocate for support.

There is a difference between anxiety and an anxiety disorder. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) defines anxiety disorders as being different than normative fear or anxiety because they are excessive and last beyond developmentally appropriate times.

Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety in Children

Let’s cover seven different ways anxiety can affect a child’s education and, ultimately, their life.

Extreme worry about themselves, their parents, or family members

Children with anxiety disorders may overestimate the danger of a situation or avoid it completely. They may have irrational thoughts about their parents encountering danger, such as them dying in a car crash, getting lost, or a sibling being kidnaped from the home. Because of this extreme worry separation anxiety can form. If separation anxiety is present, it makes it difficult for a child to focus and participate in class.

Having nightmares and lacking sleep

Children with anxiety disorder often have active imaginations and extreme emotions. These two components combine to create vivid nightmares and lack of sleep. Without proper sleep, a child can’t perform well at school or remain clear-minded. Their concentration will deteriorate as the day progresses.

Experiencing panic attacks

For those who have an anxiety disorder, the panic attacks can be a response to the thoughts that cause extreme fear. Let’s say the child forget their homework at home.

This could cause a panic attack as they wonder if there will be consequences from the school or from home. Their thoughts could lead them down a path of receiving a bad grade on their report card.

Inability to focus and concentrate

How can a child focus or concentrate when anxiety is overstimulating them? Separation anxiety is the most commonly diagnosed anxiety disorder in children. Children with separation anxiety normally have some disruption in their education by refusing to go to school. Children who do make it to school may still endure complications due to lack of focus. It’s difficult to focus on what is being taught when your mind is in a constant state of worry about someone elsewhere.

Loss of social experience

If a child is constantly worried about something unfavorable happening to her or a family member, this will spill over into their social life. A child with anxiety may be reluctant to sleep at a friend’s house or go anywhere away from the home. This behavior will negatively impact healthy social interaction.

Lack of communication in social settings

Selective mutism is fairly rare and children often outgrow it. It usually appears in children before the age of five but isn’t recognized until a child goes to school. If a child has selective mutism he might fail to speak in social settings where it’s expected. Does your child talk in the car, but once he gets to school completely stops talking?

This is one indicator a child could be struggling with selective mutism. The high level of social anxiety keeps the child silent in situations with people outside their immediate circle. A child’s isolation can cause them to have social impairment in adulthood if not treated.

Being misunderstood

It’s a scary world for a child to live in when they are constantly misunderstood. Teachers and other students may not completely understand the needs of a child with anxiety. Frustration can boil below the surface, or worse, the child can be mislabeled as being defiant.

What children with anxiety need are support, comfort, and understanding. Without fully understanding what is happening to your child in the anxious moment, you and others may struggle with how to be of constructive use.

While you can’t cater to your child’s every need, there are steps you can learn in therapy to help ease anxiety in your child and prepare them to separate from you.

All of the worry and fear that a child with anxiety experiences can be exhausting for a child who is just simply trying to manage those feelings. If you think your child could be struggling in school due to anxiety, it’s important to reach out to a Christian Counselor in San Diego you can trust.

Once anxiety is understood, it can be better managed. Scheduling an appointment with a counselor is the first step toward healing for your child and your family. Everybody can come together to learn how to navigate anxiety and attack it as a team.

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Three Vital Stages of Spiritual Growth for Women

Just as there are identifiable stages of physical growth, there are likewise stages of spiritual growth that Christians must pass through. Using the book “Lies Women Believe, and the Truth that Sets Them Free” by Nancy Leigh DeMoss as a template, this article explores the stages of spiritual growth that women pass through on their way to spiritual maturity.

Stage One: Seeing the Consequences of Eve’s Sin

We can only imagine the flood of thoughts that raced through Eve’s mind when she was kicked out of Eden with her husband, Adam. Looking at the desolate land they now stood in, it is likely she regretted her earlier decisions.

It was only that morning that she had been leading a perfectly harmonious life yet now everything had fallen apart. Eve experienced firsthand the reality of failure, defeat, and isolation, feelings that women from all walks of life relate to.

Ms. DeMoss describes today’s Christian women as being in bondage, “They are not free to enjoy the grace and the love of God.” This lack of freedom has resulted from regret over bad decisions made in the past or bad things they have experienced. Bondage also takes the form of “fear of man” and the need for to be approved of by others.

We need to remember that the Bible tells that we have been set free. Bondage has no hold over us, we are supposed to be joyful, radiant, full of peace and a whole lot more

Unfortunately, women are not experiencing this freedom and the root cause is that we have believed lies that we have been told our whole lives.

These lies started in the Garden of Eden when the serpent lied to our First Mother, Eve and the web of lies in all its forms was passed down to every generation after her.

My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover a multitude of sins. – James 5:19-20

We can trace all the problems in the world back to that first deception, the consequences of believing an untruth. It is time to reclaim our lives!

Stage Two: Seeing the Lies for What They Are

Ms. DeMoss lists eight lies that have been told and although the list is not exhaustive and not every woman wrestles with each of them, these are the most common eight.

Lie #1 – God: Are there lies about God that you have believed? A common question heard during counseling is, “If God is a good God why did ___________ happen to me or someone I love?”

The Devil asked Eve a similar question. He created doubt in her mind in her mind, diverting her attention (and our own) from the abundant blessings she was already enjoying. This doubt causes us to justify holding what God says up to our own ideas of what is right and wrong.

Psalm 119:68 reminds us “God is good, and everything He does is good.” In spite of our knowledge of this Scripture, we often doubt God’s love for us. This is especially true when God does not answer our prayers as we think he should, or the answers are delayed. The doubt magnifies until it becomes bondage.

Our misconceptions about God lead us to compare Him to the men in our lives. We expect him to fix all of our problems and even consider him unresponsive, inadequate and far too restrictive. If any of these lies sound familiar, then you should study DeMoss’s book in-depth. Our view of God is key to the way we live our lives.

Lie #2 – Self: We often believe that our poor understanding of God is reflected in His understanding of us. Ms. DeMoss writes, “If we do not see Him as He really is – if we believe things about Him that are not true – invariably, we will have a distorted view of ourselves.”

When we view God as unable or weak it further affirms the various lies we have believed. We consider ourselves to be worthless. DeMoss reports that 42 percent of the women surveyed in preparing to write the book reported that they believed this lie. These lies started in our childhood and continued into adulthood, lies that have resulted in bondage and even caused mental health afflictions.

Jesus is acquainted with our sorrows, he understands our pain. 1 Peter 2:4 tells us that Jesus was “rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to Him.” Jesus knew who he belonged to and how much the Father loved him. It is because of the love that flowed from the Father to him, that Jesus laid down his life for us – truly amazing love!

Other lies in this section of the book include the lie of needing to love ourselves, the lie that we cannot change the way we are, the lie that we are entitled, the lie that physical beauty is more important than beauty on the inside, and the lie and all of our longings should be fulfilled.

Every chapter includes specific Scripture passages that provide truth to help fight against the lies. There are also questions for reflection to help you think about whether these lies have a foothold in your own life.

Lie #3 – Sin: Because we live in a fallen world sin continues to be an inevitable part of our lives. As Christians, we know that Christ died for our sins but there are some lies that we have believed about sin.

Part of Satan’s lie to Eve was to deny the consequences of sin. God had expressly told Adam and Eve that the day they would eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil they would die but Satan countered this by saying, “Did God really say?” he (Satan) went on to add “you will surely not die”

The book spends quality time on this particular lie, expanding it to cover lies such as my sins aren’t really that bad, my sin is beyond forgiveness, my actions and reactions aren’t my fault, and overcoming over sin is a myth.

In order to combat these lies, we must: 1. Align our thinking with God’s; 2. Take full responsibility; 3. Believe what is true; 4. Do what is true; and 5. Pray for help.

DeMoss concludes by addressing five other lies that relate to our priorities in life, marriage, children, our emotions, and our present circumstances. Like the other chapters, these end by dealing with specific lies, and the Truth of Scripture.

Each chapter concludes with a written prayer to help you seek God’s help in finding the truth. Our goal is to ultimately live free of Satan’s lies!

Stage Three: Walking in the Truth

The two big ideas in this book are: 1) Believing Satan’s lies enslave us, and 2) God’s truth has can free us. As we mature in our Christian walk and pursue intimacy with Christ, the yoke of lies begins to slip off.

As a final step, DeMoss takes us through a series of Bible verses that deal with bondage. We will keep the review of this section light because you should study these steps prayerfully. Galatians 6:2 tells us as believers to help carry each other’s burdens, Christian Counseling San Diego can be a good option for help if you find yourself believing a lie or need help breaking some sort of bondage.

I can do everything through him who gives me strength. – Philippians 4:13


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Signs of Childhood Sexual Abuse and What to Do About it

Not only is sexual abuse traumatic for victims, but for parents, educators, and caregivers sexual abuse is their worst nightmare. Knowing that sexual perpetrators live in your neighborhood could, and should, be an eye-opener to any parent.

Taking advantage of the public records of local law enforcement is a good place to start to locate sexual perpetrators that live in your area. Below is a list of other characteristics of a sexual perpetrator, their behavior, and the victims of sexual abuse.

The Profile of a Sexual Offender

Sexual perpetrators come from all walks of life. In fact, they can look like anyone. They can be of young age or old, from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, and rich or poor. Inappropriate sexual behavior can be seen in children as young as eight.

Sex offenders identified as having a high risk of offense, or Level 3, can be children as young as ten. It is imperative to teach a child that if they ever sense something is wrong, regardless of how old the person, they should pay attention to their instincts and immediately cease contact with that person.

Childhood Sexual Abuse: Know the Signs

It is important to pay attention to patterns in a child’s behavior to identify the presence of sexual abuse. Behavioral changes can often be attributed to sexual abuse. Children who have suffered from abuse will often manifest combinations of any of the following symptoms:

Becoming reserved and unnaturally quiet

If your child is normally chatty, and suddenly turns reserved, it is time to take notice of the reason for this change.

Heightened fear and apprehension

Among the most obvious signs that a child has been abused is fear. They can gradually become hyper-vigilant, continually on the alert for threats. As evening and the time for bed, this fear normally intensifies.

Victims of sexual abuse can be hyper-focused on making sure they feel safe and protected. They may possibly sleep with their backs to the door, or insist on checking to make sure that everything is locked up tight. They may also sleep with some sort of weapon next to them or under their pillow to defend themselves if necessary.

PTSD symptoms

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder was first identified by professionals when war veterans returning from combat were undergoing overwhelming fear, panic, anxiety, and stress related to the trauma of combat. Abused children often display these exact symptoms and disturbances.

Heightened sensations of panic, anxiety, and stress are a few of the symptoms that victims of abuse can experience after the trauma occurs from various stimuli, caused by emotional “triggers”. Triggers include (but are not limited to) such things as sights, smells, movies, and songs, or people who resemble, behave like or remind them in some way of the offender.

Bad sleep, nightmares, flashbacks, and continual memories of the assault

Related to the above symptom, abused children will often have interrupted sleep or difficulty sleeping. Difficulty falling asleep and/or remaining asleep can leave them overly tired the following day. Bad dreams and fear of the dark are also common in those abused.

Flashbacks involving strong memories of the abuse can occur unexpectedly. The sexual assault can overwhelm their thoughts, making it hard to focus while at school or to feel motivated to do school work. These reoccurring thoughts can make it tough to think of anything else besides the abuse.


Children who have been the victims of sexual abuse can often show symptoms of depression. Additionally, they are (depending on the severity, frequency, and duration) more likely to experience suicidal thoughts and to make actual attempts at suicide.

Possible signs of abuse in teenagers and even older adolescents include wearing dark clothing, experimenting with cutting (and other forms of self-harm), and excessive amounts of piercings or tattoos.

Tearfulness, crying, detachment, or apathy

It is common for children who have endured trauma to be characterized by excessive crying and being easily moved to tears. Should the abuse continue for a long period of time, as the victim gets older they can develop the opposite of this behavior. Behaviors and attitudes can become more calloused and hardened.

Sexual abuse can make children appear to be emotionally deadened because the struggle with the unwanted sexual actions can simply hurt them too much emotionally. Children may detach emotionally as if someone else had experienced the abuse rather than them. This can lead to dissociative disorders developing later in life.

Aggravated aggression, hostility, and agitation

The abused child sees the world as an inherently hostile place. Lack of trust and frustration can lead the victim to develop explosive anger over the simplest things. Thoughts that others are intent on harming them, can leave the victim suspicious of everyone that they meet.

Because most sexual offenders are male, it’s common for victims of sexual abuse to react to most males with distrust and dislike. If both parents are still together in the home, the victim may become increasingly hostile or aggressive even to the non-abusive parent.

Children of abuse will develop grudges and sometimes hatred towards the non-abusing parent and other non-abusing caregivers out of the subconscious feeling that those individuals did not protect them from the sexual abuse. They may engage in fights, they may hit things, destroy others’ property, yell, and get into heated arguments.

Guilt, shame, hurt

These sorts of feelings are normal for child victims of sexual abuse. They will often blame themselves for the sexual abuse and develop guilt and shame that is misplaced or inappropriate. Often these feelings will be instilled in them by the perpetrator, telling them that they bear responsibility for the perpetrator’s actions.

It can even happen that the perpetrator will blackmail the abused, threatening to hurt or tell someone important to them if they do not continue to be compliant. The perpetrator may try to rationalize the abuse and claim that the abused even enjoyed the actions they were subjected to, or even that it was the abused child’s idea.

In these situations, child victims may blame themselves for everything and for everyone else’s behavior.

Persistent enuresis and/or encopresis

Enuresis and encopresis are the inability to control urination or bowel movements. Bed-wetting or defecating in the bed (that are not related to normal potty-training issues) is seen in children (even among those who are teens) who either are currently, or have been abused sexually.

However, these aren’t sure signs, and one should not automatically assume that they indicated that a child is a sexual abuse victim. However, if seen in older children who are beyond the normal potty-training years that are experiencing this issue, a further medical inquiry is warranted.

Genital or anal pain or trouble swallowing

This sign should raise huge red flags, especially in the cases of young children, because it is a potential indicator of a recent abuse. If it is unexplained, a medical investigation is highly recommended.

Fear of closeness and intimacy

Children who have experienced abuse normally find it difficult to develop intimate relationships. Though they might be very extroverted, likable, friendly, and a lot of fun, they tend to be withdrawn emotionally and maintain a distance from others.

The child may think that doing so prevents them from coming to any future harm. Also, children that have experienced sexual abuse often struggle to accept intimacy or physical contact. Their dislike of such contact may lead them to divert attempts at affection or react strongly to innocent touch.

Excessive and irrational pursuit of touching, intimacy, or hugging

At the opposite end of the spectrum, the victim can be extremely clingy and crave physical affection. These kinds of victims display a poor understanding of both social and physical boundaries, struggling to distinguish between appropriate and inappropriate physical displays of affection.

They might wrongly assume that anyone offering them any kind of physical affection (event the appropriate kind) is really expressing romantic love to them, and so they may respond in turn with types of touch that are inappropriate.

Aversion to sex or sexual promiscuity

These two extremes are commonly seen in children and adults that are victims of sexual abuse. Teenage girls that have a history of sexual abuse are more prone to impulsive sexual encounters with males. The strong need for physical attention brings them to such encounters as a means of satisfying their need for affection in the only way that they know how.

In one study, more than half of women in the sex trade reported having experienced sexual abuse as a child. The opposite is often true, especially in males with a history of sexual abuse. These men may be repulsed by the idea of sex or any kind of physical affection. This struggle within males tends to lead to marital conflicts where sex and affection are desired by their spouse.

Sexual acting out

History of sexual abuse can surface in preschool children as they struggle with the social skills required for early development. It is very common to see inappropriate boundaries with others and substandard social skills with regard to inappropriate public behavior (i.e. exposing their bottom, touching a friend’s privates, etc.). Boys with a history of sexual abuse are noted to have higher displays of inappropriate sexual displays than girls.

Also, children that have been abused can display forward and even aggressive behavior with regard to sex. These children struggle with thoughts and actions motivated by power, control, and dominance over their victim, which can follow them into adulthood. Sexual acting out toward others, wherever noticed, requires immediate, careful investigation, confrontation, and correction.

Acting much older or younger

Children with a history of abuse may struggle with displaying social skills that are age-appropriate. They may have difficulties relating to other children their own age or they may socialize with or befriend much younger children.

They may behave in a way that is less mature than other kids their age. Older adolescents may still display an attachment to “blankies” or stuffed animals. Some teenagers may continue to suck their thumbs.

However, the opposite types of behavior may also be seen, in which victims act much older than their age, relate better to adults, and even carry on adult conversations. Girls even as young as six may try to dress like adult women (doing their nails, wearing makeup, etc.).

Advanced knowledge of sex

It is not difficult to imagine that a child of abuse can have considerable and precise knowledge about sex that is greater than that of their peers. If your child is of young and discloses to you that a peer has exact knowledge of sexual acts, it is time to intervene.

Disturbing types of play

In young victims of abuse, conflicts that they have experienced may be acted out in the form of play. If you notice a 5-year-old girl playing Barbie in such a way that Barbie and Ken are being inappropriate, it is time to notify the necessary professionals and to investigate the situation.

Disturbing types of creativity

You will often see the ups and downs of children’s daily lives being expressed in the art that they create, such as in paintings or drawings. These sources of mental revelation are viewed as useful by therapists when counseling possible sexual abuse. As an adult, you should pay attention to:

  • Drawings, paintings, and sculptures

These creations may carry dark, aggressive, or disturbing themes

  • Stories, songs, poems, social media, or journal entries

Older children, adolescents, and teens may write stories or poems, or compose songs that either refer to or clearly tell about what they have struggled with since the abuse. Social media accounts are a popular outlet for teenagers today in which to express their internal struggles in an attempt to seek help from someone that they can trust. Leaving these things where they can be found may not always be accidental.

  • Disproportionately coarse sexualized language

The state of today’s culture makes this sign difficult to really identify. Children from the inner-city grow up in a culture that is radically different from those who grow up in, for example, an upper-class suburb. However, if your 5-year-old swears like a drunken sailor or uses language that indicates that he has been exposed to pornography, this should send up red flags.

Dramatic changes in appetite

Children and teenagers that have experienced sexual abuse can also struggle with their relationship to food. They may eat either too little or too much. It is possible for children who have been sexually abused to develop an eating disorder in response.

Behaviors such as starving themselves or binge eating and purging can be a result of distorted body image. On the other hand, they may eat too much as a way of coping with difficult emotions.

Issues of power and control

Kids who are the victims of sexual abuse commonly have issues related to both power and also to control. Since sexual abuse can leave a person feeling powerless and afraid, they may display an over-compliance with the other peoples’ demands, they may be non-assertive, and they may always try to put other people’s wants before their own. However, it’s also quite common for child sexual abuse victims to relentlessly fight for control and to argue with others frequently.

Evasiveness, dropping hints, seeking attention

Attention-seeking behaviors are quite common in older kids that have experienced sexual abuse. They may hint at previous abuse to friends or other adults with whom they have a strong relationship in order to test the waters before fully disclosing the abuse.

They want to be seen and noticed, but they can instantly flip the switch and turn evasive, elusive, and completely shut down. They can display secretive and/or manipulative in order to hold on to even a scrap of power or control in their lives, which they see as out of control.

Hygiene problems

Hygiene issues in children are another clue that, when taken with respect to the symptoms listed above, can hint at a history of sexual abuse. If a child is wearing clothes that are dirty, or their appearance is unkempt, or they constantly smell, this could be a personal preference.

However, children or teenagers dealing with sexual abuse may use this coping mechanism as a way to prevent themselves from being seen as desirable by the perpetrator, thus making them feel safe from the abuse.

Excessive socializing with a much older friend

Children having older friends is not always a sign of sexual abuse. However, it is important to note your child’s social interactions with older peers in person and online.

Although there are relationships with older friends or adults that can be innocent and positive for the growth of a child, they may not always be innocent. Whoever you are, you should remain vigilant and carefully assess whomever the children in your life are friends with, in order to prevent them being subjected to sexual abuse.

Receiving gifts, money, and/or possessing pornography

Perpetrators of abuse may use such items to lure their victims into engaging in sexual acts with them. Children may not understand what may be happening to them and be influenced by the tactics of the abuser such that they come to believe that these kinds of activity are normal.

Abusers hook their victims with pornography in order to make these sorts of sexual relations seem normal. They may even hope to get them addicted to the lifestyle.

Running away

The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that nearly 50% of runaway or homeless youth claim to have been abused sexually.

Gender rejection or confusion

Struggles with sexual identity confusion or rejection are products of sexual abuse that are not mentioned as frequently as the ones described above. However, it is not unheard of for young victims of sexual abuse be confused about their sexual identity.

Sexually abused girls may think of themselves as ugly, damaged or ruined. Sometimes they may see their beauty as something that has led to the abuse and may begin to view physical beauty as more of a curse.

As a result, they may cut their hair short, dye it unnatural colors, and begin to dress in unflattering or socially unacceptable ways. Also, they may see begin to resent their female identity as something that is threatening or weak, so they begin to adopt male qualities and behaviors.

Sexually abuse males, however, may start to question their manhood. Confusing (perhaps even pleasurable) physiological reactions during the abuse, they may wonder if they are homosexual. The way in which childhood sexual abuse affects the evolution of same-sex attraction has been noted by many.

In a study by the National Institutes of Health on sexual behavior, Roberts, Glymour, and Koenen (2013) found that there is a positive correlation between childhood sexual abuse and adult same-sex attractions. Homosexuals reported 1.6 to 4 times more occurrences of childhood physical and sexual abuse over that of heterosexuals.

If you notice any of these signs in any of the children in your life – report it immediately!. Call your local CPS Office or the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD.


Andrea L. Roberts, M. Maria Glymour, and Karestan C. Koenen. Does Maltreatment in Childhood Affect Sexual Orientation in Adulthood? Arch Sex Behav. 2013 Feb; 42(2): 161–171. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3535560/.

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Dealing with Grief After the Loss of Your Spouse

Experiencing the trauma of losing a spouse is one of the deepest griefs known to humankind. The bereaved spouse is left in a world that seems familiar but is devastated by a loss that impacts every other aspect of life. In dealing with grief after the loss of a spouse, it’s helpful to understand the grieving process and all its components.

Acknowledging the Loss When Dealing with Grief

The most common first reaction to losing one’s spouse or other loved one is denial. It seems impossible that this person is gone, never to come back. Eventually, reality sinks in and the grieving person’s mind accepts the truth of their loved one’s death.

Their emotions also become accustomed to the loss and they lose their instinctive impulse to speak or reach to their loved one.

Instead, those impulses become reminders of grief. It’s common for a bereaved person to think they caught a glimpse of their loved one in a public setting when they were really just reminded by someone who resembled them. This glimpse of a seemingly familiar face triggers a moment of hope that the loved one isn’t really gone.

The Need to Feel & Express Grief

It’s essential to fully feel the devastation of the loss, allowing the painful emotions to be experienced and expressed. Overwhelming sadness in response to loss is painful yet necessary.

Experiencing all of this grief and pain is the foundation for moving forward in the grieving process. Every aspect of the loss will impact the grieving spouse in a specific way, from a sense of loneliness and isolation, even to feelings of anger or resentment at the deceased spouse, and frequently, anxiety, regret, despair, guilt, or depression. Any areas of the relationship that were difficult or unresolved before death can trigger these negative emotions.

Feeling Pain, Finding Hope: The Comfort of the Cross

According to a Christian worldview, death is an unnatural interruption in our original destiny, which is to live eternally with the Lord. Because of sin and the fall, death became a part of our human experience. Not only will every one of us die eventually, but we will all experience the loss of loved ones. Because of Jesus’ death on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins, and his resurrection where he conquered death, we can have hope beyond this life and know that there is a future beyond the grave.

Christian Counseling for Those Who Grieve

It’s crucial for a widow or widower to have a solid support system to help them as they’re dealing with grief, including family, friends, and church relationships.

Unfortunately, sometimes it is hard for support people to understand why the those dealing with grief have not adjusted better once several months have passed since the loss.

It’s impossible for those outside the relationship to understand the depths of grief the bereaved spouse is experiencing. This means that the support may lessen just as the initial crisis has passed and the bereaved spouse needs more encouragement and fellowship instead of less.

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