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How to Process Grief After Loss

How to Process Grief After Loss

thought about writing on the topic of grief this afternoon before I learned the news of the most recent school shooting.   Hearing of the news of the shooting in Florida today reminds us that so many people are grieving every day.  It's horrifying to hear of such news, and the tragedy reminds us that each day we live is a sweet blessing.  Our hearts break for those affected by the senseless violence.  Some of us grieve sudden and unexpected losses, similar to the one in the news today in Florida, and others grieve over time as loved ones suffer from a terminal illness or fragility from old age.  

Identifiable stages of grief include; denial, anger, deep sadness or depression, bargaining, and acceptance. 

by Gretchen Flores

Processing the Pain When a Friend Leaves

Processing the Pain When a Friend Leaves

Her phone calls seemed to get farther and farther apart.  She seemed distant and aloof and I started to wonder what was going on.  I considered her to be my closest friend.  We roomed together for years in a spacious, sunny apartment.  We had been through a lot together and had supported each other through hard times.  We also laughed a lot, and had code sentences that only we knew what they meant; private jokes built over years of closeness.  I wondered why she wouldn’t get back to me. 

by Gretchen Flores

What is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy?

What is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy?

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is defined by a commitment to change while also choosing to accept things the way they are.  The idea follows the line of thinking that, “psychological suffering” is caused by our inner language or cognition. When we are inflexible psychologically we lose a healthy connection with the present moment.

by Gretchen Flores

My top 5 Tips to battle Depression

We all have our ups and downs.  When we get down it can feel pretty overwhelming and it can be a long battle to overcome what got you there.  Life beats us down, we neglect our health, we get tired...and depressed.  Here are a few tips to battle the blues:

1.  Probiotics-  Did you know that there is a connection between poor gut health and depression?  There are many ways to add probiotics to your diet; yogurt, Kefir (fermented yogurt drink), supplements.  Make sure your brand is high quality.  Not all brands are the same quality, you could be throwing your money out the window with no good health benefit.   For example, low fat yogurts with

by Gretchen Flores


Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light unto my path.  Psalm 119:105

Was last year tough?  Did it seem like you had more steps backward than forward?  Did you feel alone in the struggle?   

God promises to lead you down a path when you cannot see in the darkness.  If you are confused or lonely or afraid, He will lead you forward if you look to him.  I remember going to a cottage of a friend of ours that was in the deep woods.  If you came in at night you had to park your car and then walk a long narrow path through the woods.  It was so dark your eyes would not adjust to the sky so you could see where you were going.  The only thing that was visible was the next step lit by a flashlight.  After stepping over rocks, roots, and along the path, eventually we would make it to the front porch of the cottage.  This experience really helped me to understand the above verse.  Sometimes you really cannot see where God is taking you, and it seems dark as night in the woods.  Only He can guide your footsteps.  

Prayer;  Lord, help me to look to you to light my life path when I cannot see where I am going.  Help me not to get distracted by things going on around me.  Help me not to give into despair but to trust that you are taking me to a better place.  

by Gretchen Flores

Mrs. Lonely and Her Rejection Complex

Introducing Mrs. Lonely:  How her core beliefs set her up for feeling badly and how she changed it.

In my counseling work I often ask clients to fill out worksheets using Cognitive techniques.  The worksheets help clients develop greater insight.  Often, what we think about life is deeply ingrained in us from early experiences.  It is called internalization which I often describe as a process of absorbing messages that influence us throughout our lifetime.  Children especially are like sponges soaking in every word and every attitude that comes their way.  If our early experiences are mostly negative we often develop negative thinking patterns.  Breaking those patterns is part of how therapy helps us move forward.  


by Gretchen Flores

Helping People with Depression

What is Depression?

“Oh, life is so unfair! Nothing ever works out for me.” 
“Nobody cares about me or my pain.”
“I am just a stupid idiot that can’t do anything right.” 
“Why did God let this happen to me?” 
“Nothing is ever going to change.” 

Such is the self talk of a depressed person. 

Depression brings up a lot of questions:

How do you know if you are depressed? 
How do you know if a loved one is depressed? 
If you are depressed, what should you do about it? 
Why can’t people just snap out of it?
What is the difference in depression in men versus depression in women?  Why do men commit 80% of the suicides committed each year? 
How do you help someone who is severely depressed? 

Some statistics:

Mood Disorders (National Institute of Mental Health Statistics)
Mood disorders include major depressive disorder, dysthymic disorder, and bipolar disorder.

Approximately 20.9 million American adults, or about 9.5 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year, have a mood disorder.

The median age of onset is age 30.

Depressive disorders often co-occur with anxiety disorders and substance abuse.

Major Depressive Disorder
Major Depressive Disorder is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for ages 15-44.

Major depressive disorder affects approximately 14.8 million American adults, or about 6.7 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year.

Major depressive disorder is more prevalent in women than in men. (although some say depressed women are in treatment and many depressed men are in jail).

Dysthymic Disorder
Symptoms of dysthymic disorder (chronic, mild depression) must persist for at least two years in adults (one year in children) to meet criteria for the diagnosis.

Dysthymic disorder affects approximately 1.5 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year.

This figure translates to about 3.3 million American adults.

Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder affects approximately 5.7 million American adults, or about 2.6 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year.

In 2006, 33,300 (approximately 11 per 100,000) people died by suicide in the U.S.

More than 90 percent of people who kill themselves have a diagnosable mental disorder, most commonly a depressive disorder or a substance abuse disorder.

The highest suicide rates in the U.S. are found in white men over age 85.9

Four times as many men as women die by suicide; however, women attempt suicide two to three times as often as men.

Where Does Depression Come From?

Depression can come along for a variety of reasons.   When someone grew up in a controlling or abusive home a child will feel a sense of helplessness to change their circumstances.  That child will grow up and be pre-disposed to depression due to an ingrained belief that their circumstances are hopeless and they are powerless to change it.  Then, a series of unfortunate circumstances will affect their sense of well-being.  The person may be convinced that they are always going to be a victim of life’s cruelty. 

The hallmark characteristics of depression is a sense of hopelessness or helplessness.  Events such as going through a divorce, losing a home to foreclosure, losing a child, learning a spouse has had an affair, getting laid off from work, are just a few of the circumstances that can lead to or increase feelings of hopelessness and despair. 

Sometimes the feelings of despair are so strong a person can feel convinced that the pain will never end.  Often, due to learned helplessness in childhood, due to abuse or neglect, a person will lack some of the skills needed to weather the storms. 

In helping a person with depression, infusing hope into their lives and building a sense of resiliency will help them get to the other side.  Helping someone recognize that their feelings are normal based on what they are experiencing is helpful.  Many feel isolated and that they are an abnormality.  Because they feel their pain is abnormal they won’t reach out for help. 

Dysfunctional families operate with “family secrets” that no one talks about.  The individual learns that talking about the pain is not acceptable and the isolation increases the depression.  The smiling depressed is a phenomenon of someone who feels they need to maintain a certain public image.  The false image of being okay on the outside keeps the person from attaining the help they need. 

A depressed person left alone with their negative thoughts is a combination for deepening depression and suicide.  Suicide is an attempt to end the suffering.

Clinical Depression Symptoms (From the The DSM IV):
5 of the symptoms over the course of two weeks or more

  1. Depressed mood (e.g. feels sad or empty)
  2. Diminished interest in activities once enjoyed
  3. Weight loss or weight gain
  4. Insomnia or hyper-somnia (sleep too much)
  5. Slowed body movements
  6. Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness or helplessness and/or excessive guilt
  7. Diminished ability to concentrate, indecisiveness
  8. Fatigue or loss of energy (simple tasks become difficult)
  9. Thoughts of death or suicide (mild and fleeting to severe with a plan)                   

Chemical Imbalance in Depression:

  • Reduced availability of neurotransmitters like Serotonin, Dopamine, Norepinephrine, GABA and Acetylcholine.
  • Increased levels of toxic neurochemicals such as Homocysteine
  • Lower levels of serum Magnesium, Zinc or Potassium
  • Unhealthy, or deficient levels of essential vitamins like B6, B9, B12 and Vitamin-C
  • Undersupply of key cofactors like amino acids that are used to help transport neurotransmitter precursors into the blood-brain barrier.
  • Increased cortisol stress hormone levels

Specific Symptoms Men Experience:

  1. Irritability
  2. Anger
  3. Aggression or rages
  4. Substance Abuse
  5. Risk-taking (gambling, reckless driving, sexual liaisons)
  6. Withdrawal (“I don’t want to talk about it” or “I just want to get away”)
  7. Reduced libido
  8. loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  9. Thoughts of suicide (Men tend to follow through more quickly than women)
  10. Escapist behavior such as working too much, or watching lots of TV
  11. Body aches and pain


Around 32,000 suicides occur each year and men complete 80% of the suicides.  The reason men commit most of the suicides is that men are more likely to use lethal means such as firearms or jumping out of buildings.  Men are less likely to talk about it with anyone beforehand, and tend to decisively act on thoughts quicker than women do.  A woman told me about the time her dad walked past her in the front yard and said “I’ll be right back.” and then shot himself at the park after getting laid off from his job. 

Women make more attempts and will try overdoses and slitting wrists more often.  Attempts are considered a “cry for help” and some will recover from their attempt and then get the help they need. 

Specific Symptoms Women Experience:

  1. Difficulty caring for their children
  2. Thoughts of harming their baby or child
  3. Low Self-Esteem/ Worthlessness
  4. Agitation or getting upset easily
  5. Weepiness (Crying without knowing why).
  6. Worsening symptoms during menstrual cycles (PMDD or Pre-Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder)
  7. Body aches and pains

Social Pressures:

Men are much less likely to admit that they are depressed, most likely due to social pressures to be strong. Social pressures for men include being a provider, being strong, being a leader.  A man is likely to become depressed when he struggles to provide for his family or loses his home to foreclosure, for example.  Men identify with their career or employment and will be left reeling after a layoff.  I heard one story of a family man who went to a park and shot himself after he was laid off from work. 

Social pressures for women include the pressures of being a homemaker (a complex and multifaceted job), if women also have a career or job there is pressure to keep up with both and women often feel burdened by the two full time jobs (the second shift at home).  Women tend to take primary responsibility for the demands of caring for children or elderly parents. 

Both Women and men who have been sexually abused as a child are more susceptible to depression (girls are sexually abused 2-3x more often than boys).  Women also suffer depression after a miscarriage, infertility, or a pregnancy they weren’t ready for.  Post-part-um depression is very real and can be severe. With a first child, a women’s identity shifts and they go from being a career woman to a woman with a child who needs them around the clock. Hormones are out of balance after a pregnancy and mom’s are often sleep deprived. Power imbalances in the home can also lead to depression. 

A lack of social support increases the risk of suicide and is a hallmark component of depression.  Depressed people will tend to isolate themselves or lack the energy they need to get out around people.  If you notice someone is beginning to isolate after a loss, reaching out to them and encouraging getting out can help. 

A Manic Episode (Bi-polar Depression):

1. Decreased need for sleep (2-5 hours of sleep)
2. More talkative then usual with pressure to keep talking
3. Flight of ideas (thoughts racing) and/or grandiosity
4. Distractibility
5. Increase in goal directed activity
6. Excessive involvement in pleasurable activities that have a high risk potential (i.e.Spending sprees, foolish business investments).

Someone who has a bi-polar depression will swing back and forth between depression and a manic episode.  The mood swings can vary in intensity and length.

How to help a depressed person:

1. Infuse Hope
A depressed person feels hopeless.  Help them to see “the silver lining,” or the good in things around them, “It’s not all bad.”  Help them to see and focus on what is going well.  Rejoice in small accomplishments. 

2. Break the Isolation
Encourage being around people or reaching out for support.  Participation in activities, groups, church attendance, Celebrate Recovery, having coffee with a friend all apply. 

3. Provide Empathy
Be empathetic and try not to minimize their pain.  Just saying to them “look at the positive things” will increase a sense of isolation.  Any effort to look at the positive must include empathy and concern or it will seem disingenuous.  Statements that validate such as, “I know this is really difficult for you” will help.  Just listening and showing empathy can go a long way. 

4. Challenge Negative Self-Talk (Improve inner self worth)
Find out what they are thinking about themselves, such as “I’m stupid,” “I can’t do anything right,” “Nothing is ever going to change.” You might be surprised at how people abuse themselves in their thoughts.  Ask them to catch their negative thinking at replace the thought with something more balanced.  Some may even need to tell themselves opposing statements such as, “I’m not stupid.” to break the habit. 

5. Understand Grief and Anger
Often depression is grief stuck in a mud pit.  The person may have something to grieve but lack the understanding or time to process it.  The stages of grief are; denial, anger, bargaining, sadness, and acceptance.  Also, there may be anger or hurts that are unresolved as well.  Help the person through the process of forgiveness. 

6. Temporary State (many depressed people will recover eventually on their own).

Depressed people feel convinced it will never end.  It feels terrible and seems unbearable.  Suicidal thoughts are an effort to end the suffering.  People often think it is selfish but the person is convinced other people don’t care and won’t miss them when they are gone.  Sometimes they need to be shown the big picture and reminded that they do matter. 

7. Encourage Physical Exercise
Exercise can be a more effective anti-depressant than anti-depressant medications.  However, many depressed people can’t get themselves to go for a walk.  To be effective, exercise must be frequent and vigorous several times a week.  You have to start somewhere so encouraging a short walk is a starting point. 

8. Anti-depressants

Many people shy away from anti-depressants but they are a useful tool in the process of recovery.  Never ever tell a depressed person they shouldn’t be on their anti-depressants.  That could trigger a manic episode or a deepening depression. Often there is a significant shortage of important neurotransmitters in the brain, such as serotonin that need a boost (similar to a person with diabetes or a thyroid condition).  People are often afraid they will be on them forever, but I know of many cases where people improved their self care and worked through issues and were able to discontinue the medication successfully. 

9. Psychotherapy
Talk therapy can really help a person identify and overcome entrenched negative thinking.  Often it takes time to peel away the many layers and resolve old hurts.  Finding a therapist you can trust to talk openly to can be instrumental in overcoming depression. 

10. Hospitalization
If a person is severely depression and a risk to themselves or others then it is important to be in a hospital setting.  This setting will provide safety and rest.  A doctor will determine when the individual is safe to go home. 

11. Natural Supplements (for Mild depression)

  • Sam-E and St. John’s Wort have anti-depressant properties
  • Kava Kava and Valerian Root have relaxing properties 
  • Melatonin is a natural sleep aide 
  • Vitamin B complex vitamin
  • Vitamin C
  • A multivitamin
  • Probiotics can help with absorption of nutrients

12. Diet
Foods rich in magnesium, Tryptophan (increases serotonin), Vitamins C, B complex, and minerals are important for recovery.  Omega 3 fatty acids (Fish oil or Flax seed oil) help the brain function at its best.  Most westerners are not getting enough.  Avoid simple sugars and simple carbohydrates (White breads, white rice etc...) Simple carbs will increase sluggishness and irritability.  Foods that can help treat depression: Oranges, red bell peppers, sweet potatoes, dried apricots, nuts, turkey (L-Triptophan increases serotonin), spinach and leafy green vegetables, Salmon and other fish, avocados. 

13. CBT  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Help person identify extreme thought patterns and modify them to be more balanced.  Challenge All or nothing thinking, Catastrophizing, Personalization.

14. Journaling
The $3.00 therapist.  Often when hurts and negative emotions are held inside the person becomes a type of pressure cooker without a proper vent.  Vents can be destructive behaviors such as alcohol abuse or spending too much. A healthy way to vent can be to write out all of your thoughts on paper.  It is private and no one is grading you.  Your handwriting can be sloppy and your thoughts random.  It can be a big relief to put it somewhere else besides deep inside.

15. Music
Music can be a soothing way to relax if you select calming music. 

16. Light Therapy

Studies show that using broad spectrum lighting or being outside in the sun can help alleviate depression.  Reveal lights have a broader spectrum than traditional bulbs.  Replace your old ones with Reveal lights.  Stronger bulbs can be purchased online. 

17. Massage
Massage can help to relax tension and get rid of toxins.  Be sure to drink lots of water before and after. 

18. Scripture
A person of faith can write out meaningful verses for memory and meditation on to assist in gaining perspective and a sense of hope.  I tell clients to find some verses that encourage them and write them on notecards and place on their mirror, by the kitchen sink, in their car. 

John 16:33
"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

Deuteronomy 31:8
The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged."

Psalm 46:1
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.

2 Corinthians 12:10
That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

The National Suicide Hotline 1-800-SUICIDE (748-2433).

I hope some of this was helpful.  I welcome any comments and always read them. 

Blessings to you, 


by Gretchen Flores

Your Mood and Diet: Eat These Foods and Feel Better Naturally

You may not realize that your diet may be to blame for suffering mood swings. Diet can affect your moods very quickly. Once you learn to follow these principles you will start to feel more emotionally stable throughout the day.

Mood swings can be caused by shifts in blood sugar levels even if you don’t have diabetes. Eating too many simple carbohydrates such as white bread, pasta or white rice can metabolize into sugar and doesn’t really have what your body needs. These simple fillers can be culprits for irritability or mood swings. Allergies or food sensitivities can also be to blame for irritability.

Not getting enough important vitamins, minerals and fatty acids can also affect mood negatively. Do you wonder why you feel so lethargic and moody? Do you wish you could just “snap out of it?” Do you lose your temper sometimes and wish you hadn’t? Check your diet.


Foods that help you to reduce stress:

Turkey- L-Tryptophan is notorious for everyone wanting a long nap after Thanksgiving dinner because of it’s relaxing properties. It also helps your body release serotonin an important brain chemical lacking in people with anxiety or depression. So eat more turkey to increase your serotonin levels and to relax a little. Bananas and dark chocolate also have some Tryptophan as well.

Spinach and green veggies- Has lots of Magnesium in it, which has been known to help combat fatigue and reduce migraines. Fresh spinach is best to avoid cooking out some of the best nutrients with heat. Vegetables are important for your body to function well and have a wide variety of vitamins and minerals needed for energy. Keep your veggie diet diverse and experimental. You might be surprised what you like. I like to add lots of seasonings and herbs to make them flavorful.

Salmon and other fish with omega 3’s- Omega 3 fatty acids are good for you for several reasons. When combating stress, these valuable nutrients help reduce the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. This will help your body return to normal after a stressful event. Also, your brain cells rely on fatty acids to maintain optimal functioning.

Sweet Potatoes- Sweet potatoes not only satisfy your craving for carbs they are full of good for you nutrients; beta-carotene, vitamins, and fiber. Their sweet flavor may also satisfy a sweet-tooth (Even the hard-core sweet tooth should try it).

Oranges- The vitamin C in oranges and other similar fruits can stabilize your blood pressure and also lower the stress hormone cortisol. Too much cortisol can lead to weight gain and fatigue. Vitamin C can also strengthen your immune system. Kiwi fruit, red bell peppers and many other fruits and veggies can also provide vitamin C.

Avocados- This delicious food has loads of potassium and healthy fats to help your body. Go ahead and indulge in some yummy guacamole sometimes! I personally like to spread a little bit on my turkey sandwich with a pinch of salt. Yummy.

Nuts- Nuts are usually packed full of nutrients such as vitamin E or B and help your body stay at it’s best. Nuts also contain Omega 3 fatty acids that are important for brain functioning. Small handfuls are best since they do pack a lot of calories.

Whole Grains- Grains offer many beneficial properties but one is to aide in digestion of the foods mentioned above. Fiber helps your body’s digestive system work well.

Protein- If you find that you have had too many simple carbohydrates and your energy and mood starts to tank then quickly eat some protein. Protein is important to give your body the energy it needs.

It is important to eat a balanced diet. I know, I know, you have heard that so many times before that now it just goes in one ear and out the other. If you are having mood troubles it is important to pay attention this time. Ask yourself what you are eating and how much. Have plenty of fresh fruits and veggies around for snacks. Try really hard not to binge snack on simple carbs (anything with refined sugar and white flour). Graham crackers have been a favorite of mine but I started to notice that I became grouchy about a ½ hour after I had indulged. Sometimes I even felt angry. Now if I have clients who tell me they feel angry and don’t know why, I often start with diet.

If you want to make sure you are getting enough good stuff then you may need to supplement your diet. Here are some supplement suggestions:

Vitamin B Complex- There are several B vitamins that are important. A deficiency in B vitamins has been implicated in individuals with depression. Research by Schimelpfening noted that vitamin B1 (thiamine) is a primary vitamin needed to treat depression symptoms. There are 6 B vitamins, so supplementing with a B Complex is a good way to cover your bases.

Calcium- Calcium is an important mineral not just for your bone health. It also helps you to sleep at night, which is also important to function at your best.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids- Fish oil tablets or Flax seed can provide this important fat to help your brain function at it’s best. Some research has shown that a lack of Omega 3’s is to blame for an increase in depression and bipolar disorder. Taking Omega 3’s will help increase the neurotransmitter Serotonin needed to relieve mood disorders.

If you don’t take fish oil because of the unpleasant phenomenon known as “fish burps” then stick with flax seed tablets or ground flax seed. I put mine in yogurt and spaghetti sauce (that way my family gets some too). I have also found fish oil tablets made to dissolve in your intestine so you won’t experience the flavor later. Don’t miss out on the benefits of Omega 3’s in your diet! Even if you don’t have depression it is an important nutrient for your body.

Green Tea- This herb has several beneficial properties. For this article it is important to note that it helps with easing anxiety symptoms. If you need caffeine Green Tea can be a better option than coffee because it is less likely to make you jittery.

Cinnamon- This delicious spice can help your body metabolize sugar. You can take it in pill form or just shake some on your oatmeal or put some in your coffee.

Fruits and Veggies- Believe it or not you can take your veggies in a pill. For those of you who just can’t seem to get your veggies into your diet take them in a pill or powder. A company called Juice+ has these supplements, whole foods or other health food markets have them as well.

So hopefully this helps to improve your mental health and lead to better moods. If we are all in a better mood than this place is a more pleasant place to live. Take better care of yourself and your family and friends will thank you.

Blessings to you, Gretchen



by Gretchen Flores

When Forgiveness is Hard to Do


“Reaching forgiveness takes guts. It also takes wisdom, patience and imagination. It can be the most complex psychological journey you’ll ever take.”


Dare to Forgive, by Edward M. Hallowell, M.D.

Minor offenses are easy to forgive for most of us. They happen all of the time. The examples are endless; someone merges in front of you, friends show up a few minutes late, or someone borrows your book and forgets to return it. We often choose to forgive and not hold grudges for the minor things. What about the major things? They seem much harder; a neighbor steals your belongings, a loved one is killed in a careless accident, someone chooses to ruin your reputation by spreading lies, a disagreement results in insults and grudges held for years.


It’s a topic that stirs up many questions. How do we go about forgiving the big things? Why do some seem able to forgive and others proudly state they will never forgive? Is forgiveness the same as tolerating mistreatment? When is it okay to set boundaries or keep a distance? What happens when we stuff our feelings rather than truly forgive?

Choose to Forgive

Forgiveness is a complex issue filled with a wide range of potent emotions. It can be a very difficult process. It can take time to forgive even after you have chosen to. It is both a moment in time, and a lengthy process. Once forgiveness has occurred, it must continue to be chosen. A memory, a comment, a bad day can all trigger re-living the moment and going over it again and again in your head.

Forgiving just doesn’t seem fair. Justice doesn’t seem to get served. The offender walks away unscathed and unaware of the depth of pain caused. Somehow, keeping the bitterness active keeps the memory of your pain alive. The bitterness, a desire to be understood. If you forgive, doesn’t the offender walk away free?

Fantasies of revenge are common when there is bitterness. Thoughts of harm coming to the person who hurt you brings a sense of sinister satisfaction. The fantasies really don’t solve anything, but they do keep the pain alive. Possibly justice will come to them and getting to see it would be a delight. It would ease the pain. Where is the pain? In you own heart. The one who pays the price for anger and un-forgiveness is YOU.

Benefits of Forgiveness:

What are the benefits of forgiveness? There are many health benefits such as avoiding a variety of stress related health problems. Unforgiveness can cause long term psychological distress and lead to anxiety, depression, ulcers, or heart problems, to name a few.

The emotional benefits of forgiveness include peace of mind and lowered psychological distress. If you choose not to forgive, you may suffer ongoing unresolved anger that gets displaced into many other areas of your life. Some that you may not want to be affected.

I saw a woman on Oprah (Yes, I do watch her sometimes) who had forgiven the woman who had killed her child in a reckless car accident. The woman had been drunk. To the astonishment of everyone in the room she had befriended the woman who had caused her so much pain, and extended true forgiveness to her. She had shown this woman true grace and grit for choosing the path of forgiveness. Would I be able to do the same in the face of such loss? Not without a lot of prayer and help from Heaven. It always amazes me when someone forgives at that level.

How to forgive:

“It is impossible to forgive unless you first acknowledge what has hurt you.” (P. 101 The Journey Out, Anger vs. Forgiveness chapter). If you minimize your pain, or stuff your pain deep inside, then you cannot get in touch with what needs to be forgiven. We really cannot forgive, I believe, unless we truly admit to ourselves how much we are hurting and why. Writing it out, talking to a friend or counselor can help. Sometimes we feel afraid of the strength of our own emotion so we suppress it. You cannot lash out, but you can verbalize how much it hurts.

The next step involves making a decision that you want to forgive even if it is hard to do. In the words of Sarah McLeary in her book Choosing to Forgive; Learning to Love; “It’s a choice we make, and making the decision is half of the battle.” Often there is fear and uncertainty if we choose to forgive. Holding onto anger makes more sense. Forgiving doesn't feel right.

Then comes the hard part. Letting it go. Choose to lay down your grief, hurt, and fantasies of revenge, and stop wishing ill toward the person who offended you, no matter how horrible the offense. Sarah McLeary put it this way’ “Forgiving others meant that I had to give up the right I thought I had to punish those who had hurt me.”

Once you have forgiven, you need to keep laying it down. I know personally, that at any moment of any week the anger can resurface full force. You must choose to continue to lay it down and refuse to mull over resentments in your thoughts. I can feel my body’s physiology change when I start to think back on past hurts. Suddenly, I feel anxious, uneasy, my heart rate goes up and my stomach starts to turn. It is rather unpleasant.

Anyone who has truly forgiven knows that forgiveness is more for you than it is for the offender. It sets you free from the burden of carrying the pain in your heart. A burden the heart cannot handle on it's own.

I know, personally, I couldn’t do it without God’s help. I pleaded with him to help me forgive. I could not do it on my own. It was too difficult a task. I had to rely on God to help me get there. Once I had made the decision it took months before it finally clicked in. It was a moment I knew God had answered my prayers.

If you are having trouble forgiving on your own ask God to help you. Ask friends to pray for you. Talk to people who will help you along (some will help you foster resentments, so choose wisely). Keep wrestling with it until you get there. The result of freedom will be worth it.

We all need to be forgiven

"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." Colossians 3:12-13

We are able to truly forgive because we have been forgiven. We need to forgive so we can continue to receive the great and complete forgiveness that is a gift to us from Heaven. Do not forsake your gift by harboring resentment. Choose to forgive, no matter how difficult. I know you can, even if you think you cannot. I am not saying it is easy. I am saying that it is worthwhile.


Some books may also help you:

Dare to Forgive, by Edward M. Hallowell, M.D.

Choosing to Forgive; Learning to Love, by Sarah McLeary

The Journey Out (Anger vs. Forgiveness Chapter), by Gretchen Flores, LCPC

Blessings, Gretchen



by Gretchen Flores