De-stigmatizing Mental Health for Men

By Mike Jacquart

Anyone who’s read Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus by John Gray – or any married man for that matter! – knows how different the sexes are. And yet, when I began writing Climbing out of Darkness, I was only vaguely aware that men resist counseling and prescription medication for mental health conditions. I did not realize until later this was true to that extent.

That’s probably because, after being mired in darkness for many years, and eventually diagnosed with depression and ADHD, I was excited to learn there was a medication that would help me get better. For some reason I cannot explain, I think I innately understood that needing a medication for a chemical imbalance in the brain to treat a mood disorder, is no different than a diabetic who requires insulin for his physical health.

But this rationale is not the case for many men. As a result, overcoming or de-stigmatizing mental health for men is the focus for this new series of blog posts and podcasts.

There are a number of reasons why men resist treatment for mental health issues. Pride too often gets in the way. “There is nothing that wrong with me!” Society tends to see counseling as a signal that we are deficient in some way, unable to figure out our problems on our own. This is particularly true for men, who are hardwired to be problem solvers. We want to be macho, tough it out, figure the issue out just like any other problem in our life.

It’s understandable to a certain extent. If you are a man, conditioned to be “the strong one” in the family, the person that other people look to assistance, the idea of you being he one seeking help for a mental issue is a foreign, even unpleasant concept.

What gets overlooked is that depression and other mood disorders aren’t problems to be solved, but illnesses to be treated. It is still very difficult for many people to understand that taking lithium if you suffer from bipolar disorder is no different than taking a prescribed medication if you are prone to migraines.

There are a number of methods that mental health practitioners are using to de-stigmatize this issue that will be addressed in this series. One involves changing the view of being “tough” – that it’s not a sign of strength or toughness to avoid problems that are wreaking havoc with your life. They explain to men that it’s a sign of toughness to confront, rather than ignore, problems.

I am not a very macho guy, but I understand the idea of addressing a given issue. In fact, I venture to say that most men, myself included, would see taking on a problem -even one I may not understand like a mental issue- as a challenge to be met “head on”, not an issue to be swept under the rug.

Problems don’t go away because we wish they didn’t exist. I think most men would get that. What do you think?

Mental health for men is a new series of blog posts and podcasts developed and distributed by Fresh Hope for Mental Health http://freshhope.us. Portions are excerpted from Mike’s book, “Climbing out of Darkness: A Personal Journey into Mental Wellness.” For more information, contact Mike at mjacquart@writeitrightllc.com.

How to Beat the Post-Holiday Blues: Tips for Moving On and Making Every Day Joyful

How to Beat the Post-Holiday Blues: Tips for Moving On and Making Every Day Joyful

The holiday season is always a time of joy, excitement, and celebration. But after all the festivities are over, many people can find themselves struggling with post-holiday blues. This feeling may be caused by a sense of emptiness or disappointment as the excitement of the holidays fades away. Fortunately, you can take steps to beat the post-holiday blues and get back to feeling joyful again.

  1. Accept that it’s normal to feel a bit down after the holidays are over. Acknowledging your feelings is
    an important part of overcoming them.
  2. Get moving! Studies have shown that exercise can boost your mood, so make time for daily physical
    activity. Even walking or running around the block can help you feel better.
  3. Treat yourself to something special. The holidays may be over, but that doesn’t mean you can’t
    indulge in a bit of self-care. Buy yourself something nice, take a relaxing bath, or plan a fun outing with
    friends.
  4. Reach out to your loved ones for support. Don’t be afraid to talk to your family and friends about
    how you’re feeling. They may be able to offer words of encouragement and help you find ways to
    manage your emotions.
  5. Take time for yourself. Make sure to get enough rest and incorporate activities into your day that
    make you feel good, such as reading a book or listening to music.
  6. Give back to others in need. Volunteering is a great way to lift your spirits and give back to your
    community.
  7. Practice gratitude. Make a list of all the wonderful things you have in your life, such as family,
    friends, health, or even just a cozy home. Gratitude can help you stay positive and focus on the good
    instead of dwelling on the bad.
  8. Join a Fresh Hope support group. Talking through your blues with others can be so helpful in
    processing your feelings. You may only need the group for a short time. And your participation in the
    group may even expedite your journey back to daily living. Plus, your participation will help others in
    the group.

With a little effort and self-care, you can beat the post-holiday blues and return to feeling joyful again. By accepting your feelings, getting active, and reconnecting with the things that make you happy, you can make every day feel like a holiday.


The holiday blues are temporary feelings of sadness that some people experience at the end of the festive season. It typically lasts for a few days or weeks and can be treated with self-care and positive lifestyle changes. Clinical depression, however, is a serious mental health disorder that requires medical treatment. Symptoms of depression may include persistent feelings of sadness, guilt, or worthlessness that last for more than two weeks and interfere with daily life. If you think you may be suffering from depression, please seek professional help.


No one should have to feel down in the dumps after the holidays. With these tips and a little self-love, you can beat the post-holiday blues and make every day joyful.

How to Help Our Teens Develop Resilience in the Aftermath of the Pandemic

How to Help Our Teens Develop Resilience in the Aftermath of the Pandemic

Within the last couple of years, after the world shut down from the COVID-19 pandemic when our pre-teens and teenagers should have been going about the business of attending football games, pep rallies, school dances, summer camps, and other typical events of their formative years, they were redirected to a world of uncertainty and isolation.

While adults didn’t like it, we could at least draw upon our life experience and perspective to cope with it. Were we worried about how to protect our families from COVID-19? Yes. Were we concerned about the security of our jobs and businesses? Absolutely. But adults possess a resilience that teenagers haven’t had time to develop.

Under normal circumstances, kids are typically in the process of learning, discovering, and creating their personal versions of this vital life skill during their teen years. The current generation wasn’t prepared to cope with the onslaught of fear, anxiety, and loneliness thrown at them so abruptly. So, what do we do now? We need to get our teens back on track toward developing resilience.

Restoring Resilience

The pandemic interrupted our children’s emotional and social development with shelter-in-place orders, masks, and quarantines. Proms were canceled, sleepovers were halted, and basketball courts were suddenly empty. Sure, teens could find each other via cell phones, but it wasn’t the same as face-to-face hangouts and conversation.

What was going on in their minds and hearts during this time? We can see now that a slow build of mental health issues was brewing in our youngest citizens. According to the Surgeon General’s report, symptoms of anxiety and depression in youth doubled during the pandemic, with 25 percent experiencing depression and 20 percent experiencing anxiety. As if the teenage years weren’t hard enough already, the 14 to 18-year-olds who represent the younger side of Generation Z have grown up in a world that feels scary and unsafe. There’s a gap in their ability to live carefree and happy lives because things were anything but carefree and happy for such a long time.

Helping kids to build resilience can help them manage feelings of anxiety, depression, and uncertainty. Resilience is the ability to recover from difficulties or adapt to change—to function as well as before and then move forward. Many refer to this as “bouncing back” from difficulties or challenges, both the large ones and the everyday ones. Resilient people learn from the experience of being able to effectively manage a situation and are better able to cope with stresses and challenges in future cases.

No one can promise teenagers that their lives will be free from challenges. Therefore, caring adults in their lives (such as parents, grandparents, teachers, coaches, and youth pastors) should support and facilitate young people’s resilience as much as possible.

Connection, Conversation, and Community

Those of us in a position to encourage the well-being of today’s teenagers have an important role to play in facilitating opportunities for authentic connection, open conversation, and a strong sense of community.

Connection: One of the best ways to break down a teen’s anxiety and lift depression is to have some fun and take their minds off their fears and doubts. Yours may prefer to be with their friends rather than spend time with you but be ready to provide lots of family time for them when they need it. The most protective force in our children’s lives is their connection with their families. Young people also reap benefits from caring adults and peers in their school, community, and church. The more healthy connections they have, the better. Solid relationships allow us to be vulnerable because we know there’s someone in our life who genuinely cares. Participate actively in social outings, parties, and other shared events and activities to help teenagers bond with others. Encourage them to have fun, participate in extracurricular activities and develop new interests.

Conversation: Opening the door for communication is an important step for parents to hear directly from their children about how they’re doing. Sometimes the best time to start a conversation might be when you’re in the car together. Parents shouldn’t be afraid to talk to their children when they observe behavioral changes or signs of depression and anxiety. On the contrary, when we ignore the possibility they’re struggling with their mental health, we inadvertently communicate that it’s not something we should talk about and it’s not normal to feel. Ask open-ended questions and let them speak freely before you swoop in and try to fix it all with your wisdom and perspective. Talking about their feelings is the best way for them to process their emotions. Even if they only open up a tiny bit, it’s a start.

Community: This is a fantastic time for the youth, teen, and young adult ministries in our churches to link arms with parents in the community to provide help and resources. Teens may not prefer the term “support group,” but regardless of what it’s formally called, churches should facilitate groups for teens in the community that foster conversation with their peers about the things on their minds. Knowing they’re not alone can provide the comfort they need to build resilience. Whether they talk about pressures at school, issues with their parents, friend drama, or deeper issues like depression, having a safe place to be honest with peers who “get it” can be instrumental in helping them properly process their emotions. Peer-to-peer support plays a significant role in a person’s development of resilience and improved mental health. Programs like Fresh Hope for Teens can help churches and communities facilitate these kinds of positive relationships.

Although your teens may tell you they’re “not a kid anymore,” they’re still young and can keenly feel both the normal stresses of being a teen as well as the uncertainty in the world around them. As we strive to support them in developing stronger resilience, we are equipping them for a brighter, hope-filled future.

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/KatarzynaBialasiewicz

Brad Hoefs is a pastor, international speaker, and mental health advocate who is passionate about coaching, inspiring, and empowering others with hope no matter what circumstance they may be facing. He is best known as the founder and executive director of Fresh Hope for Mental Health, an international network of peer-to-peer Christian mental health support groups and resources. Hoefs is the author of “Fresh Hope: Living Well in Spite of a Mental Health Diagnosis and “Holding to Hope: Staying Sane While Loving Someone with a Mental Illness.”

Naomi Judd: A Champion of Hope

Naomi Judd: A Champion of Hope

If you or someone you love are having feelings of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255

As we all have learned on April 30th, one of Country music’s most beloved performers, Naomi Judd, passed away. As it has been widely reported, her daughters shared that she lost her battle with mental illness. Today, on Good Morning America, Ashley Judd how her Mother died and that she had found her. What incredible emotional strength it took for Ashely to do that interview with Diane Sawyer. Personally I’m glad that the Judd sisters are speaking out regarding their Mom’s death and her struggle with mental illness. Only when people talk opening just as they would with any other illness will we really start to breakdown the stigma regarding mental health challenges.

I was deeply honored to be able to speak with Naomi a couple of years ago for the Fresh Hope for Mental Health podcast. She graciously recorded an interview with me that, until now, has gone unpublished. We’ve chosen to release this interview now, not to capitalize on her passing, but rather to honor her strength and help others realize the common challenges that those with a mental health diagnosis must overcome. 

My conversation with her was one of honesty, transparency and hope. She was willing to be vulnerable and share details of the traumas she experienced early in her life, of which there were many. Her innocence, trust and security were abused more than once, if not stolen altogether, and it would be years before she had the resources or support to process all of it.  

In my work with Fresh Hope, we call these traumas “heart wounds.” These kinds of painful experiences can cause a person to feel profound shame, making them prone to facing their deepest struggles alone. They’re wounded and weary, anxious and exhausted. It’s so important to develop tools that can help a person process and begin to find hope and healing. When they don’t have that opportunity, it can make living well nearly impossible. 

When I asked Naomi what motivated her to push through the pain of her youth for as long as she did, she didn’t hesitate in responding that it was her daughters. “You have to have a meaning, a purpose, something to get out bed for,” she shared. “It was my two little girls. They knew we were poor; they knew we weren’t like other people, but we had joy and we loved each other.” 

In recent years, Judd was candid about her battle with suicidal thoughts, debilitating anxiety and the ups and downs of her mental health struggles. Not as many people know that while a single mother, she pursued a nursing degree with the intent of finishing with a medical degree and becoming a doctor. It was her daughter Wynonna’s talent for singing that led them to Nashville where, as we know, their lives took a very different, very successful turn. 

Still, her intellect and aptitude for science led her to learn more about the role that genetics plays in a person’s mental and emotional wellness. She described to me the interplay of heredity (inherited traits that we can’t change), environment (how we were nurtured or not) and what she called “the hopeful part,” our choices.  

In her case, genetics included a long family line of mental health problems and deep traumas, making it even more of an uphill battle to carry the emotional burdens of her early life. Having been placed in psychiatric hospitals three times, at one point she was told, “You’re going to have to work really hard to overcome this.” 

She chose to do exactly that. Though Naomi’s life included some deep lows, she also had many wonderful years of “up seasons” as well. Those “ups” should be credited to the faith, hope and healing she pursued with fervency and the choice she made to fight back.  

One of the things we talk about in our Fresh Hope groups is that hope is a choice. With God, you can take “wishful thinking hope” and make it sure and certain. We get to choose. Are we going to set our minds on being happy? Are we going to love ourselves and appreciate what we have? As Naomi said in our conversation, “One of the most important things I’ve realized is that we’re all in this together. It’s not what happens to you, it’s what you do with it.” 

Although it may seem tragic, there’s a lot of hope in Naomi’s story. If you’re suffering, I want to challenge you to seek the help you need and get involved in a support group. It can make a world of difference. 

If you would like to hear the full conversation with Naomi Judd, please find the link for the interview here: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/naomi-judd-live-well-and-be-well/id906407226?i=1000559770889 

Our hearts and prayers go out to Naomi’s entire family. May the Lord give you comfort and in the days and years ahead may you always know how much your Mom loved you both!

Brad Hoefs is a pastor, international speaker and mental health advocate who is passionate about coaching, inspiring and empowering others with hope no matter what circumstance they may be facing. He is best known as the founder and executive director of Fresh Hope for Mental Health, an international network of peer-to-peer Christian mental health support groups and resources. 

Psalms 23: A Widow’s Perspective

Psalms 23: A Widow’s Perspective

“The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters.

He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death I fear no evil, for You are with me.

Your rod and Your staff they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.

You have anointed my head with oil, my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

During my morning quiet time earlier this week, I had one of those “Aha!” moments that sometimes come to us as we’re reading and thinking. This Psalm speaks of the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and I began to ask myself some questions. What is this Valley? What does it feel like? How do we get there? More importantly, how to we get through it? 

As I did a little research, I learned a couple of interesting things about valleys. A valley is defined as an elongated, somewhat flat area of land lying between two hills, that typically has a river or stream running through it. Since water often symbolizes life, especially in the Scriptures, it didn’t seem logical to equate a valley with Death! But maybe I needed to adjust my thinking about this.

Whenever someone we love dies, we enter the Valley of the Shadow of Death. It is not the reality of death itself, but rather a shadow cast by death into our lives. Being surrounded by a hovering, gray fog. Unable to see the way clearly ahead. Being hemmed in on every side. Feeling like my own life and purpose have died. Intense loneliness. These all describe the Valley of the Shadow of Death. There’s no escape but to go straight through it!

The Valley can bring fear – fear of all kinds of evil – sometimes totally irrational fear. What about my finances? How will I manage? Am I safe in my home? What about my children? Will I be alone for the rest of my life? In this place of shadow, the Lord, the Great Shepherd walks with us. He holds our hand to guide us. He’s not lost because He’s walked this way before. He shines a light on our pathway. He keeps us from falling. 

Perhaps this Valley is a sheltered, well-watered place of protection for me during a time when I’m in danger of losing my way, of being overcome with Shadow. Just maybe I need to change my perspective to understand the purpose of the Valley more clearly.

The Valley is the place where the Shepherd can comfort my heart. He can lead me beside that gently flowing river that drains the spacious grasslands. He brings people into my life to provide community when I’m feeling lonely. He feeds me physically and spiritually and nourishes my emotions. He anoints my thoughts so that they are transformed to thoughts of gratitude. My life overflows with His blessings, and occasionally, the sun even begins to peek through the clouds, bringing joy and gladness. My life is under His mercy, and He promises to be with me forever. That means there’s an end to the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

One day, when our hearts have been sheltered and healed for a time, we will walk out the other end of the Valley into a place of purpose and sunshine. In the middle of the fog, we cannot yet see what will be. But we know one thing to be true, God still has a plan to give us a future and a hope. An overcoming hope. Faith-filled hope that will allow us to thrive and live with a new joy.

Sheryl Gehrls

Founder and Director of Refocusing Widows

refocusingwidows.org

The Hope Factor and what it’s doing through Hope Coaching By Samantha Karraá

The Hope Factor and what it’s doing through Hope Coaching By Samantha Karraá

Have you ever felt stuck in life? What do you do when your circumstances or the pain inside overwhelms your ability to move forward? Have you ever felt like talking to someone might help, but you don’t know who you could talk to or where to begin? What does it take to go from night to light? From loneliness to feeling connected again? From pain to peace? From confusion to clarity? From fear to courage? From trauma to healing? From grief to joy? What does it take to go from hopelessness to hope?

Fresh Hope decided to take action and recruit an army. An army bearing hope. Fresh Hope. And so, we went ahead and gave away 200 scholarships (valued at $12,000 USD): 100 to Spanish speakers in Spain and Latin America in the months of March, and April and 100 additional scholarships to English speaking countries during the months of May and June 2022.

We set out on the first mission to find 100 Spanish speaking men and women who were willing to study to become Hope Coaches as an immediate response to the need. A first step. An emergency reaction to touch a hope starved world.

People started applying for the scholarships as soon as the news went out on our social media. In less than 2 weeks, we had given all the scholarships away to people wanting to become that beacon of light in the midst of the darkness. They represented 13 Spanish speaking countries, as well as Spanish speakers within the US! Perú, Venezuela, Colombia, Chile, El Salvador, Bolivia, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Spain, Switzerland, the USA, Argentina, Mexico and Ecuador; all have people preparing to become Hope Coaches in the upcoming weeks!!!

To become a Hope Coach, you don’t need to be a strong person, have specific previous studies, previous experience, or be as wise as Solomon. To become a Hope Coach, all you need to have is a compassionate heart and be willing and committed to being an instrument in the hands of the Lord.

A Hope Coach is not a counselor or a therapist. Instead, a Hope Coach is a person who has been trained to be an exceptional listener, and to ask the right questions at the right moment to help the other person process the pain and, as they do so, they can begin to see a way forward.

The actions and practices of a Hope Coach are based on 25 years of clinical research of how hope works. When this hope is infused with faith, the results are incredible…! 

“My favorite part of the training was learning how to write a biblical lament”, shared one Hope Coach. “The Stages of the Hope Coaching Process are set out so clearly that it feels as though one is taking the Hope Seeker by the hand and leading him out of a maze of hopelessness” shared another. “I particularly like to use the Mountain of Grief. I have seen people be able to move forward when they understand this truth”.

But that is not the best part! Experience has shown that where a Hope Coach is born, opportunities to make hope contagious arise: Churches asking to have other Hope Coaches trained, people inquiring about how to start a Fresh Hope Support Group. Life will never be the same for a Hope Coach, and Hope Coaching is for everyone! Not just for people with a mental health diagnosis.

A Hope Coach naturally becomes a better friend, a better mom, a better dad, a better spouse, just by using the skills learned in the training. A Hope Coach can serve at his church. A Hope Coach can serve as part of the Fresh Hope Certified Hope Coaches. There’s no limit!!!

So why don’t you take a step forward and become a Hope Coach yourself? Write to samantha@freshhope.us, tell us you read this blog and we will offer a full scholarship to you as well! Expect nothing less than to be filled with hope yourself as you set out to be a vessel of hope… 

Need to talk to a Hope Coach? Do so now by visiting https://freshhope.us/hopecoachmenu.

Click on “Hope Coach Quick Links”, and then on option number 2.

By His Wounds We are Healed

By His Wounds We are Healed

The percentage of incarcerated who have significant, unresolved trauma in their lives is extremely high. For men, in the mid 80 percent range, for women in the high 90s. There are over 2 million incarcerated in the United States.

As I was considering whether I wanted to become a facilitator of trauma healing groups at Douglas County Jail, my primary thought was whether I was capable. After all, it is clear that many, or maybe most of these men and women need therapy, professional help. A very wise person said to me, “Tony, do you think they’re going to get it?”

Well, of course they’re not. 

But here’s the thing. The same may be said for the rest of us. Trauma in our fallen world is so common, so normal, that many of us are unaware of trauma in our lives; or better stated, unaware of the effect it is having. For those who have significant trauma in childhood, it is not surprising that a lifetime of brokenness shows up in relationship issues, addiction and incarceration. Damage often is done way before the realization that a person may need “therapy”.

While leading trauma healing groups I have heard stories that are, a number of adjectives come to mind, but heartbreaking may be the best. I do not know how folks walk around and function on a daily basis with what has happened to them. 

It is surely by the grace of God. He is sustaining them.

And that is what a trauma healing group can do for a person. It shows them the grace of God. It reveals trauma in their lives (some of it unknown) and gives them a chance to face it. And it gives them an opportunity to place it in the hands of our Savior.

It’s easy, for me at least, when thinking of Jesus, to focus on the atonement. The theology. In other words, I’m a sinner in need of a Savior, and that’s what Jesus did when He died on the cross. He saved me! And of course, it is right to think on this. But we should also remember that Jesus spent much of His ministry healing people; He took are illnesses and bore our diseases. He healed the sick. He cast out demons. (Matthew 8:16-17) And when He saw people suffering, He had compassion on them.

Jesus says about Himself that He is gentle and lowly (humble) in heart and if we will but go to Him, we will find rest for our souls. (Matthew 11:29)

And when you see a person give their pain to Jesus, maybe for the first time ever in a trauma healing group, you witness the beginning of change and hope. There’s no magic cure and no excuses. There’s walking through your pain and suffering with God, who knows exactly what it means to suffer. He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:5

Tony Stella- Married to Lori for 38 years. Retired Nuclear Power Plant Operator Master Facilitator with the Trauma Healing Institute since 2018.

When was the last time something like this happened to you?

When was the last time something like this happened to you?

A few years ago, I came across a Google review of our church. It started off great. The author was complimentary about the kindness of our community, the hospitality of our people, the ministries of the church, etc. He even threw some praise my way. Then, the message turned nasty.

I wouldn’t have been so surprised by the negative shift in tone and content had I noticed that this post was written by someone who was using a fake name. It was shocking to read the false assumptions and half-truths. Even though this treatise was mostly misinformation, misinterpretation and misrepresentation, the words still hurt.

After the initial sting, I realized who wrote the review and knew what had transpired that inspired this scathing report. In the end, it turned out to be an immature response to an offense inflicted by someone other than me. And yet, I (and my wife) were cruelly and unfairly criticized.

To be fair, there were a few unflattering statements that were actually true. Ultimately, the vast majority of the message was inaccurate. Regardless, it triggered a shame response and opened up some wounds. The truth is: we all enter into ministry as flawed and fallen people. Our stories are filled with bumps and bruises. We’ve all faced bullies along the way. We’ve each borne our fair share of trauma, grief and regret. Our hearts have been broken and all our scars aren’t fully healed.

We have heart wounds that are perpetually exposed as we experience the insults, hardship, persecution, and difficulties that occur in pastoral ministry. The struggles and burdens of ministry aggravate old injuries AND cause new wounds. Personally, I long to be like the apostle Paul. I want to wholeheartedly believe that the grace of Christ is sufficient for me and that God’s power is made perfect in weakness. I would love to be relentless and resilient when the thorn digs in and my soul feels weary. Throughout my years in ministry I haven’t always had the resources and support I needed.

That’s why Fresh Hope for Pastors is introducing a new program for ministry leaders called Healing the Heart Wounds of Ministry. We know that serving the Lord in vocational ministry can be overwhelming. Too often, pastors try to put their heads down and power through. Most of the time, we do so in isolation from others. After all, the sheep have teeth and it is sometimes your own congregation that does much of the damage.

You need a safe environment where you can share your story with peers who understand. It’s ok not to be ok. Our Heart Wounds retreats offer the unique opportunity for pastors and their spouses to drop their guard and be honest with folks who will be empathetic and encouraging. And, participants won’t simply benefit during the time that we are together. Our goal is to send you back onto the field with tools and resources that will help you remain hopeful and joyful even as you encounter the challenges of ministry.

Sadly, pastors and spouses endure rejection, criticism and attacks. We go through cycles of grief and loss while carrying the weight of the people we love and serve. It’s a hard job that results in a lot of hurt. It is critical for pastors and their families to stay healthy despite the heart wounds.

Our team of pastors, spouses, trauma experts and behavioral health specialists are committed to caring for you as we explore ways that you can enjoy fruitful ministry and increase the longevity of your calling.

What are some of the most significant wounds that ministry has exposed or inflicted?

How has past hurt emerged as you’ve faced the challenges of ministry?

How do you cope with the pain and find hope in the midst of your struggles? Who reminds you of the resurrection and restoration of Christ?

Jason Moore is the director of Fresh Hope for Pastors. He is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church in America. Jason is a former church planter and a certified peer coach. He lives with a mood disorder and walks alongside pastors who are facing the challenges of burnout, anxiety, depression, and other mental and emotional health concerns.     

It Begins With a Story

It Begins With a Story

Every life is a story. Moment by moment, the sentences and paragraphs come together, telling a much bigger story of a life lived. One day the story reaches the final period.  Each of us has a story to tell of how we became a widow. Each story is unique, and each one of you is still writing your story. The amazing thing about these stories is that each one has a surprise ending for you to discover!

Writing a blog is a new venture for me, so I’ve decided to begin by sharing a bit of my personal story. Dave and I had been married 48 years when a malignant cancer appeared under his tongue. Like many men, Dave had put off going to the doctor thinking there was an irritation that needed to heal on its own. At his first visit to the ENT specialist, the doctor scheduled a procedure to remove the affected area and surrounding tissue. That day began a series of surgeries to remove additional small sections of his tongue until we got clear margins.

In January of 2018 the surgeon pronounced him cancer-free with no need to check-in for 6 months. At 5 months Dave became concerned about a small lump he could feel in the side of his neck. The PET scan was moved up, and sure enough — a new cancer appeared in a lymph node in his neck. The ENT surgeon began another surgery to remove it, but decided it was too complex for him. So, he closed and referred us to a Head & Neck specialist at the Buffet Cancer Center in Omaha. And that’s where this present story began.

In August 2018, Dave underwent a 16-hour surgery that removed about half of his tongue, 3 inches of the jugular vein, and most of the muscle on the left side of his neck, as well as a large malignant tumor and 40 lymph nodes. He nearly died twice more during that weekend, had two more emergency surgeries, and spent 5 days on a ventilator. A team of over 30 people worked on him, including a truly brilliant head and neck surgeon, and an equally brilliant reconstructive surgeon. They assured me it was a textbook procedure, that all had gone perfectly, and that Dave should make a complete recovery.

Eight months, 33 radiation treatments, 7 chemo treatments, countless surgical procedures, and hundreds of appointments later, the oncologist stood by Dave’s bedside with me and said, “I don’t know what to tell you. Everything we tried didn’t kill it! There’s nothing more we can do.” That was probably the worst day of our 50 years together. Five days later, Dave heard the Father call his name, and he went right around the cancer into the arms of Jesus.

So, suddenly I became a widow.

That changed every single thing about my life. Every. Single. Thing.

I had more questions than I had answers. A veritable mountain of paperwork stood before me. I suddenly felt like the most intimidated, incompetent person ever to live on the planet. An unending path extended before me, and I had to walk it alone. My kids and grandkids were wonderful…no doubt about it. But I still had to adjust to being alone and making ALL the decisions. Fifty years of marriage had created a comfortable division of labor, and now that was gone. I was now half of a couple learning how to be an “I” after fifty years of being “We”.

As I researched resources for widows, I found lots and lots of grief groups. However, I found very little that actually focused on moving a widow from looking at the past to anticipating the future. One night I saw the fascinating image of a kaleidoscope. As I watched, a slight twist moved a beautiful pattern, and it went completely out of focus. When things turned slightly again, a new and just as beautiful pattern emerged. And suddenly, Refocusing Widows was born in my heart and mind.

In these posts I’ll be speaking from my heart to your heart about the issues that we face as widows. From a faith-based perspective, I know that each of you reading this has a joyful, fulfilling life ahead of you. Faith-filled Hope will motivate you and catapult you into thriving in spite of the trauma of losing your spouse.

What does your story of becoming a widow look like? There are nearly 285 million widowed individuals in the world. You are not alone in all that you’re experiencing. I’d love to hear your story and watch the surprise ending unfold with you. Please feel free to send your thoughts and comments or share your journey with me at sheryl@freshhope.us. I look forward to hearing from you!

Sheryl Gehrls

Founder and Director of Refocusing Widows

Embracing Your Purpose in the Midst of a Pandemic Hit World

Embracing Your Purpose in the Midst of a Pandemic Hit World

I had to look twice, blink and open my eyes wide when I first read the news: “Cheslie Kryst: Former Miss USA dead at 30*”. She died by suicide this last weekend of January 2022 in Manhattan. The sad news featured a contrasting picture of Cheslie- beautiful, smiling and radiant. Among other things Chelsie was lawyer. A sister. A daughter.

 

As one who has dealt with anxiety, depression and even suicidal impulses myself, my heart was racing as I read the devastating news. It was filled, not only with the sorrow that such news brings, but also with a deep sense of the urgency to reach out to those who are being hit by mental health issues.

 

A follower of Christ, diagnosed with bipolar disorder some years ago, I had tasted the bitter waters of mood disorders and what they can do to a person and to a family if they remain undiscovered or untreated. I love Jesus with all my heart and the gospel is everything for me, and still, I had experienced the hopelessness of depression in my own skin. It was only by God´s grace that I was led to “Fresh Hope for Mental Health” and had come to know their recovery principles as well as the real life stories of those who were living full and rich lives in spite of mental health issues.

 

And now here I am living in a world hit by the COVID-19 Pandemic, with strong wake up calls such as Cheslie´s tragic death.

 

Although we do not know exactly what was going on for Cheslie in particular, it is nothing new to say that the COVID-19 Pandemic has caused a mental health pandemic. Fear of death, isolation, financial stress, are just some of the examples of things we are now having to deal with on a daily basis. The Lancet reports that cases of mental disorders have skyrocketed during the pandemic, including 53 million new cases of major depressive disorder and 76 million new cases of anxiety disorder.** At the same time, mental health services have become more and more scarce.

 

But this is not a blog to highlight how dire the situation is- instead, I would like to speak in the name of Hope. It is not by chance that you and I are alive during a time like this! And it does not matter if your life´s circumstances are not perfect. The truth is, the Lord wants to use you just as you are. Just like Noah, Moses, Ruth, Esther, you and I have been born for a time such as this…! We are meant to make a difference in our little corner of the world.

 

First of all, take care of yourself: spiritually, physically, mentally and emotionally. We cannot help others unless we first help ourselves. For instance, when you travel on an airplane you are instructed to make sure you get your oxygen mask on first should oxygen levels drop in the cabin. You then help those around you. Similarly, you must make sure to take care of yourself so that you can then be of help to those around you.

·        Don´t isolate. Connect with other people through meaningful relationships.  

·        Keep strong communication with God.

·        Feed your mind with the truth of His Word.

·        Make exercise a part of your daily routine.

·        If you take medicine for your mental health, don’t miss a doctor´s appointment and take your medicine as prescribed.

·        If you still don´t attend, consider attending a Fresh Hope Group. Here you can find a list of available groups www.freshhope.us Or you can email me at samantha@freshhope.us so that I help you find one online.

·        Request connecting to a Hope Coach. You can do so by going to https://freshhope.us/hope-coach-connector/ and filling out the form so that a Hope Coach contact you.

 

Once you have taken action to care for yourself, go ahead and embrace your purpose by spreading the hope! This might mean for example that you:

·        Keep your eyes and ears open to opportunities to help those around you.

·        Are intentional about checking in with your loved ones.

·        Say a prayer for those who are sick

·        Do an act of kindness for somebody working in our Health System

·        Send a basket with basic items to that neighbor who has lost a job.

·        Become a Hope Coach. ´Fresh Hope offers a Hope Coach Training. We train you to become an exceptional listener who knows how to ask the right questions to help the other person process their pain and, in doing so, go from a place where they are feeling stuck and hopeless, to a place where they can actually see a way forward. Visit https://freshhope.us/product/hope-coach-training/ to access our training today!

·        Offer a Processing Together Group.

Processing Together is a curriculum by Fresh Hope consisting of a 4 Sessions Study in order to help overcome a shared crisis or natural disaster. You can access it here for FREE https://freshhope.us/product/processing-together/

 

Embrace your purpose…!! In doing so, you will be strengthening not only the mental health of those around you but your own mental health as well! I propose you start now by taking a moment to say a prayer for Cheslie`s family, and by sharing this blog with people you love.

 

How are you Taking Care of Yourself? How are you Embracing your Purpose?

 

 

 

*https://www.bbc.com/

**Institute for New Economic Thinking (ineteconomics.org)