Suicide, Dear Even Hansen, and Hope

It happened again.

In the last weeks, 2 students from my old high school committed suicide.

And we’re heartbroken. Again.

Last night I saw the musical Dear Evan Hansen. It was an absolutely amazing show! It reminded me of the struggles high school kids face daily. Life is so hard! Kids can be so cruel. They feel totally alone and unseen. They struggle with depression and anxiety at unprecedented rates. The message of this show is profound and hopeful and I loved it!!

I won’t spoil the plot, but we get the message that even when we totally screw up, and life seems like it will never get better and there’s no way out, we will get through it. Life will be good again.

I couldn’t stop thinking about it. This morning I talked to God about the show, and here are my takeaways:

We are all broken. Share it with 1 or 2 safe people, but more importantly, with the God of the Universe, who loves you more than you’ll ever be able to comprehend. Fall apart in front of him. Tell him everything, and then get still. Rest. Listen. Let him hold you–just picture him holding you. Stay there awhile, until you calm down, and can feel the peace that you don’t even understand. Then get back up again. You can do this. It will get better. I’ve been there. Don’t give up. Ask for help. You may think no one cares, but your thoughts are not always accurate. You may feel totally alone, but feelings are just indicators, they’re not reality. You can learn to change your reality. You can create a new reality, with help.

Reach out! To your parents, a counselor, a pastor, a friend, a friend’s parent, a teacher, a coach, a suicide hotline:

1-800-273-8255.

You don’t want to die. You just want the paint stop.

When my son was younger and struggling, we prayed asking if he should go to counseling. While waiting for an answer, we drove past a billboard for Ace Hardware that said, “Get in, Get help, Get on with your life!” God speaks in many ways!

For all who struggle, I care. You are not alone. It will get better. Please hang on.

 

 

 

Trauma parenting is NOT like riding a bicycle

“It’s just like riding a bicycle!” If you learned to ride a bike when you were a child, chances are you still know how to ride a bike. Once you learn it, your brain doesn’t forget.

Parenting may feel very intuitive to some people. Maybe they had good parenting modeled to them, and they instinctively know what to do. We all know parenting is difficult with even the best children. They are unique human individuals, after all!

What happens when you take someone who’s a pretty good parent, and bring a traumatized child into the family? It’s a lot like trying to learn to ride a bicycle backwards! Check out this YouTube video of a guy who learned to ride a bike that had been engineered backwards. I saw this video for the first time at a training for crisis responders, to help us understand just how difficult it is for people who have experienced trauma to overcome the lasting effects. Trauma changes brains. Those who have been traumatized know the challenges they face daily.

This video may give us empathy and compassion for the struggles our children have to overcome. It took this man 8 months to learn to ride the backwards bicycle! Imagine how long it may take our children to overcome their trauma.

I coach parents struggling to raise traumatized children. These amazing people are having to learn how to parent backwards! Everything they know to be true, isn’t. Their instincts don’t work with these children. They are not giving 5 minutes a day for 8 weeks to learn how to parent differently, they are thrown in the mix 24/7 without a lot of understanding. They didn’t even realize their bike was engineered backwards.

Children with a healthy attachment desire closeness, want to please, share their feelings with, love, and respect their parents. Not always, but deep down.

Children with attachment issues are terrified of intimacy, don’t want to have their parents too close, hide their feelings, and rage when they feel out of control. They would literally rather die than allow someone close to them, because love in the past meant pain.

The parents of these children need to parent backwards. It is exhausting. It is constant. It is overwhelming. It is not natural. It is not instinctive.

Now add in the fact that the parent’s own traumas, attachment issues, triggers, boundary problems, and anything else still unresolved will come screaming to the surface when your child acts out, and you’ve got a real mess on your hands.

What’s a parent to do?

First, have compassion on yourself. Watch the bike video again. Look how difficult this was without all the screaming, crying, lying, and manipulating! It’s hard. Take time for yourself to recharge. Get some counseling. Schedule a coaching appointment with me over the phone. Schedule respite a few times a week for an hour here and there.

Second, Learn more about how trauma impacts the brain and attachment. You may have been traumatized through your parenting journey. Spend some time learning more about how your children act out, and how it has impacted you. See a trauma therapist. Try EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) or Neurofeedback.

Third, start pedaling. Try to respond differently for 5 minutes a day. Try 1 new response per week. See how it works. Learn to look at parenting differently. Join a Facebook group of likeminded parents. Remind yourself that this is hard because you’re trying to change the pathways in your brain that have been set since you were little. It’s hard. Be gentle on yourself!

One day, you may feel it “click” and notice you’re getting this trauma parenting thing. You won’t feel traumatized every day. Your child may begin responding to you differently. The lying, manipulating, stealing, etc, may not be as frequent, or intense.

You might just find yourself enjoying the ride.

This post written by Carrie O’Toole, M.A.

Interactive Time With God

Many people have heard of a “quiet time” with God. I prefer an Interactive Time With God!

For years, I struggled to sit quietly with my bible, trying to tune out the distractions. Believe me, there were lots of distractions.

*Maybe I should call my friend who just got out of the hospital.

*I wonder what we’re having for dinner tonight.

*It’s freezing today!

*I hope I get everything done today!

When the thoughts came, I felt guilty. Why can’t I tune this out? Other people have learned to control their brains, but I just can’t do it. 

Finally, I quit trying to quiet my mind. I told God that He created me and He’d have to figure out how to speak to me in ways I could understand. Guess what? He did!!!

Now, when I begin my interactive time with God at 9:00 (because I’ve never been a morning person, and I got over the guilt of not waking up before dawn to sit happily with my bible), I bring along my journal, phone, and a notepad. I read a devotional and look in my bible for any scripture references. If anything hits me from the reading, I write about it. If not, I move on! I don’t sit there waiting and frustrated because nothing hit me, and God must be ignoring me, and he doesn’t care about me. I realize that God speaks when God wants to speak, and it’s OK.

I begin by saying Good Morning Lord. Sometimes he says it back. I thank him for whatever is good in my life, my new home, my health, my children, the beautiful view. As I write about my concerns, I sometimes think of someone. Instead of beating myself up  because I lost my train of thought, I go with it. What if God brought that person to my mind! When I think of them, I’ll ask what He wants me to do about it. Sometimes I feel like I should text them, so I do it. I don’t wait until later. I just do it!! God doesn’t seem to mind that I’m texting my friends or family members during my time with Him. In fact, I think He likes it!

I ask Him about all the parts of my day. I pray for the clients I’ll be coaching, the blogs I’ll be writing, or whatever else I need to do for my work. I ask him about dinner, and many times a meal suggestion will pop into my head. God reminds me to exercise (but He’s not a nag), and tells me to take a nap if I haven’t slept well. He suggests ideas for blog posts. In fact, this post came from my time with God today. I texted someone in the middle, and then wrote in my journal, “I love our interactive time together.” I felt Him say, “Tell other people about it!” I said, “Blog?” “Yep” came His reply.

My Interactive Time With God has changed my life. I don’t have to worry about what I’m going to do each day, what’s for dinner, who I should call or text, or the direction of my life and work. We chat about it each day (almost). I can relax when I’m finished with the things we talked about. I know I’ve done all I needed to do each day. I’ll talk to Him throughout the day, and know I’ll have more Interactive Time With God tomorrow.

My prayer in writing this blog is that someone who has guilt over not having quiet time, not doing it at the right time, not doing it the right way, not hearing God like others, not being good enough, etc. might be able to take a deep breath, relax, and begin to let go of the pressure they feel. I pray that you would be able to put this responsibility back on God’s big, broad shoulders, and let Him guide you. Tell Him you’re tired. Tell Him you’re scared and lonely and you don’t know what to do. Ask Him to fill your heart with His love for you, until you stop doubting.

I pray that you would experience freedom from guilt and shame, and that God’s love would permeate your whole being.

Grieving my 30th Anniversary

Today I woke up grieving.

It’s our 30th wedding anniversary, and our married life has been extremely difficult. I know anyone who’s been married more than a few months agrees that marriage is hard.

Most people are talking about the usual:

~Men are different than women-Mars and Venus stuff

~Life happens-you go through hard times, job changes, struggles with kids, etc.

It’s one thing to go through these things together. It’s another thing entirely, when you go through these things either together, but in isolation from each other, or opposing one another.

The greeting cards and Facebook posts don’t seem to fit my reality.

The month leading up to today, I paid attention to cards and posts. I know it’s not always an accurate representation of reality, but most of them said something like:

“I wouldn’t change a thing about our lives together.”

“It’s been tough, but we’ve been there for each other through it all.”

I want to gag. Not because I think they’re lying, or I’m not happy for them. It’s just not my reality.

I’ve never been someone who could casually say something if I don’t wholeheartedly believe it to be true.

My husband invited me out for a nice dinner to celebrate tonight. I am excited. I want to celebrate. And yet, I needed to grieve all the hopes and dreams I had for our life that turned out way harder, way more painful, and totally other than what I ever imagined I would have to endure, before I could celebrate. You know what? There are lots of things I would change!  I know they made me (and us) who we are, but I would have liked who I was without them too!

So here’s what I did. I invited my husband to have lunch with me to talk about the hard and crazy times. Through this traumatic life, I’ve learned a lot about grief, and I didn’t realize it this morning, but I needed to grieve before I could celebrate. Maybe you do too. If so, here’s how:

  1. Remember the hard times. They are as much a part of your marriage as the good times. They made you who you are. Don’t just pretend they didn’t happen. I found that by talking about them at lunch, it honored all we had been through. It gave weight to what had happened. It’s real. It’s part of our marriage. We’ve grown and healed and we’re out of the worst of it now. We can’t just gloss over the horrible and jump to the celebration. Maybe some year we can, but not this year.
  2. Grieve the marriage you hoped for, but didn’t have. I remember 30 years ago. I had so many hopes and dreams. Not of specific things or events, but of how our relationship would feel and how we would treat each other. I never imagined having to deal with trauma on so many levels. As I look back, I wish we had been able to deal with our own stuff earlier. Then we could have truly been there for each other, instead of adding another layer of pain to already difficult situations.
  3. Look to the future. Once you grieve the marriage you hoped to have, you can begin to look forward to the marriage you can have. Obviously, if there is abuse going on, get immediate help. There is no future until this is addressed and stopped completely. Look back to your wedding and see what you hoped and dreamed your life would be like. You’re not dead yet, so there’s still time to create the life you always wanted. We’ve worked so hard over the last couple of decades to heal and grow. The pain has to be worth it. We are just beginning to be able to respond in the ways we always wanted to, and to have the marriage we hoped for. The future is very bright.

The card I gave my husband said, “We’re still married, High-five!”

It’s not the most romantic, but it’s real.

p.s. I would be remiss if I didn’t thank God Almighty for the healing He has done in our marriage. He provided healing from trauma that no amount of therapy has accomplished.

When Family Turns Against You: Parenting Kids With Trauma

We had just been out to dinner with family to celebrate a birthday. Getting ready had been a nightmare with the incessant questions, observations, and nonsense chatter. The ride there consisted of arguing and trying to calm everyone’s anxiety. During dinner, my uncle scolded me for not controlling my child better, “He just needs a good swat on the read end.” They don’t understand. This isn’t how you parent a child with early trauma.

“No one believes me.”

I’ve heard this hundreds of times. Clients share their stories of parents or other family members who used to respect them, suddenly turning against them after they bring a child with a history of trauma into their homes.

Here’s how it works: Before a child with trauma entered your family, everyone saw you as a loving, skilled, intelligent human being. You were humble, in fact, you sought wisdom and counsel. When you struggled and asked for help, you examined your part in the problem, listened to the advice of others, and made changes. You did the hard work of growth. People respected you.

Then trauma entered the picture.

Please hear me. I am not attacking the traumatized child. The child did not cause this to happen. They didn’t wish it on themselves. It’s absolutely NOT their fault.

Trauma changes people. It rewires brains. It causes children who are made to connect and attach and allow their parents to care for them to fight as if their lives depend on it.

Mom is not safe, in their wounded little eyes. She is the enemy. Love is scary. Trust is almost impossible. If they let you in, they believe they will die. So they fight you on everything. But usually not in front of other people.

In front of Grandma and Grandpa (and teachers, pastors, coaches, your best friends) they are the masters of charm. Everyone loves them. They don’t show the terror inside them, which presents itself in lying, manipulating, cruelty, injury to self or others, destruction, rages, refusal to do the most basic things. They aren’t living in fight or flight mode when others are around. No one sees it but you.

So you do what you’ve always done. You ask for help. But this time, everyone thinks YOU are the problem. They don’t understand this crazy world of trauma. It doesn’t show itself to them. So you begin to wonder if they are right. You really are the problem. Maybe you are crazy. Maybe you’re imagining all of this weird stuff you live with daily. But, you know you’re right. Why won’t anyone believe you?

This is the battle so many of my clients live daily.

I get it! I know how you feel. I’ve felt it myself. Here’s what I’ve found, both in my own life, and the lives of my clients: there is hope.

As an adoptive parent, there are steps you can take to overcome misunderstandings with your extended family.

  1. Remember you are a normal (somewhat) human being living in a crazy situation. People are not going to see what they can’t see. Trauma does this to people. Remember who you are. Understand that this is the nature of the beast. Don’t lose yourself in the process. Your heart hasn’t changed. If you are dealing with RAD (reactive attachment disorder), it goes with the diagnosis. No one will truly see what’s going on.That’s why the diagnosis depends on parents reporting what happens in the home.
  2. Until your mom, sister, uncle, or whoever they are live it, or study it, they will not understand. I’m so sorry. That’s just how it is. It stinks. Before I lived it, I never would have believed it either. It’s so much easier to just judge the parents when their kids are either misbehaving in public, or when their kids are behaving like saints in public, but the parents are stressed, anxious, angry, and exhausted.
  3. Remember…You are grieving. It’s so hard when those you love, and have always believed in you, suddenly don’t like what they’re seeing. And they blame you. You need to grieve their inability to understand. Grieve that they aren’t willing or able to go there with you. Grieve that you need to seek help outside of what you thought would be a great support system, when you’re already taxed to the limit. Grieve that your family isn’t as open minded as you thought they were. Grieve that they are judging you and you’ve lost the closeness you used to have (or did you?). Grieve that this is one more area that trauma has impacted.

Hang in there parents. This is a tough season you’re in. I’ve lived it. It’s heartbreaking. Now I coach other families struggling with the effects of trauma in their homes. Click here if you’d like to contact Carrie O’Toole, M.A. for a coaching appointment or speaking engagement.

Life After Trauma

We had family over for Memorial Day.

So what? Lots of people do this very thing.

For survivors of trauma, it’s a big deal.

For many people, large groups trigger big feelings. Memorial Day can trigger memories of loss and grief, trauma and craziness. Families trigger feelings of anxiety, depression, the way it used to be, the way it’s supposed to be, etc.

Having lived with, and overcome my own post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), I can tell you I’ve experienced all of these things. It is so difficult when you want to be around family, but you can’t. Or you want to invite people over, but you don’t know how kids from trauma backgrounds will be able to deal with it. The tension in your own home is so thick, you don’t know if it will be a good day, or if it will all fall apart.

Have you ever been hurt or sick for an extended period of time? You know how all of a sudden one day, you don’t hurt anymore? You may not even notice at first, you’re just so happy to be able to move and live your life. That’s how it was this weekend.

We went to a family birthday party on Saturday and it was fun! On Monday, we invited family over for a BBQ. I cooked all the food (which I haven’t been able to do for several years). We all got along. There was no drama. No trauma. No chaos.

I woke up today thanking God for a chaos-free 3-Day weekend.

If your life is filled with trauma and chaos, I hope this will bring you hope. Hang in there. Continue to seek help and healing for yourself. Life does move on. People grow up. Wounds heal.

If you need help, and don’t know where to turn, click here to schedule a phone appointment for a Life Coaching session with me. I’d love to walk with you as you move to a life after trauma.

 

Tears Of Strength

“Just because I’m crying, do not think of me as weak.”

The words sobbed out of my throat last night.

I cry when I’m happy, sad, scared, hurt, and sometimes just because there’s a touching commercial (thanks Kleenex and Budweiser). I’m a crier.

Sometimes I feel embarrassed at how freely my emotions show. It’s one thing to cry when it seems like there’s a good reason to other people. Your dog died. You hit your funny bone. You know, something tear worthy.

My tears can sneak out at the littlest things:

~a song about kids growing up too soon

~a touching text from a friend

~the slightest reminder of a pain still carried

~the olympics (any sport)

Last night it came out of nowhere. I was doing just fine. I wasn’t upset, hurt, scared, or sad. My husband and I were just talking. It was a tough subject having nothing to do with our marriage. We’ve talked about it many times, and I’ve worked through so much pain and grief on the topic. Then the tears snuck out again.

I found myself saying, “Don’t think this means I’m weak, It means I’m strong. I’m gathering up courage to do what I need to do.”

It got me wondering about how other people see tears.

Are you a crier?

Do tears mean you’re weak?

What are your thoughts?

This post written by Colorado Life Coach, Carrie O’Toole, M.A.

 

What To Do With Enormous Pain

When emotional, psychological, relational, physical, or spiritual pain lasts for an extended period of time, what choices do you have?

I’ve discovered people tend to do 1 of 3 things:

  1. Medicate
  2. Numb
  3. Feel

Each of these choices comes with side effects.

Medicate. People medicate in all sorts of ways.

Drugs (prescription included)

Alcohol

Food

Work

Sex

Working Out

Church activity

Control

Money

Choose your poison. You’ve probably heard this phrase, and it’s true! Each of these things may temporarily bring relief, but they ultimately lead to destruction, if abused. We all know people who have struggled with drug or alcohol addiction. I used to think people could only become addicted to substances such as these. WRONG! All sorts of chemicals or activities can end up controlling our lives, and taking our focus off the pain we so desperately want to go away.  Did you know that the hormone released during sex dulls pain with the same impact as morphine? Is it any wonder 70% of men ages 17-34 admit to viewing pornography in the last week?

We don’t want to feel pain, so many people begin an addictive cycle, thinking it will keep them from hurting.

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When we act out instead of feeling the pain, we fall into this cycle. We want the pain to end, so we do something. The pain ends for a time, but we feel guilty for acting out. This causes us to feel more pain, and the cycle goes round and round. Obviously, we’re not actually dealing with the pain, we’re just running from it. So it never gets healed, and we stay stuck in the cycle. We’ve now brought another pain into our life. We have to recover from addiction, and then heal from the pain we originally thought we were “dealing with.”

How about another choice?

Numb. If addiction isn’t your thing, maybe you can just shut down. I know many people who seem wonderful when you first get to know them. They are friendly, sincere, funny, and seem to have it all together. Unless you poke around a little.

If you hit on a topic they haven’t healed from, they will either lash out at you, act as if they’ve never had problems in their life, or make you think you are crazy. They don’t remember. They tell you it’s not important. They try to get you onto another subject. Something isn’t right. Healthy people know their history and have come to terms with it. Avoiders don’t want to talk about it, minimize it, or try to make you think there’s something wrong with you for desiring to talk about such things.

Pain hurts. That’s why we don’t want to talk about it or deal with it. But the unintended consequence of numbing is that you shut out amazing people from your life. When you only deal with surface things, life never goes to the depths of friendship and relationship that are possible when you’re not so busy defending yourself, or hiding from pain.

Feel. No one likes to hurt. Could it be that the very thing we avoid like the plague is the thing that could bring healing and freedom?

Years ago when my life was truly a daily struggle, I made a decision. I didn’t want to turn to an addiction, because I had seen it ruin people’s lives. I didn’t want to shut down, because I watched people become hardened, angry, and resentful. I knew it might lessen the pain if I shut it off, but I sensed I would become someone I didn’t like. So I chose to feel it.

And feel I did! I felt deeply. My heart literally hurt. I ached. The pain was almost too much to live with. In fact, I remember driving on a two-lane country road thinking, “If I just swerved the wheel in front of this oncoming truck…” I wasn’t suicidal, but the pain was enough to mess with my mind. I wanted it to stop. I would have done just about anything to make it stop.

Instead, I learned to grieve. It stinks, I know. John Townsend and Henry Cloud wrote in their book, How People Grow, that grief is the toughest pain we have to deal with because we have to enter it willingly. “Grief is the one (kind of suffering) that heals all the others. It is the most important pain there is.”

The healing continues. The pain is mostly gone, but when it flares up I think, “This is grief. I know how to do that.” It’s not fun, but it is the pathway to a healed, healthy life.

“Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” psalm 30:5

Have you found other ways to deal with enormous pain? Please comment here!

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.carrieotoole.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/carrie-otoole-headshot-sm-150×150.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Carrie O’Toole, M.A. is a Board Certified Christian Life Coach, Speaker, Author of Relinquished: When Love Means Letting Go, and Producer of the Documentary Film: Forfeiting Sanity.[/author_info] [/author]

 

When You Can’t Quite Get It Together

 

Do you ever think “everyone else seems to have their lives together? “

What’s wrong with me? Why do others have happier families, better marriages, kids who love them, careers they enjoy, better health, and more money?

It’s not just Facebook, it’s everywhere.

-Pictures of happy couples welcoming their new babies, when you struggle with infertility.

-People celebrating long marriages, when yours is loveless and cold, you’ve been single for longer than you hoped, or you’ve just been divorced.

-College acceptance letters, when you (or your child) struggle with mental health issues, and will be lucky to finish high school without being expelled or incarcerated.

-Spring Break pictures of smiling families on beaches, when you can’t figure out how to pay your rent this month.

-Friends telling of amazing family reunions, when your family is fractured.

-Celebrating someone’s promotion, when you try so hard to love your job and the people you work with, but every day is challenging.

-Posts of people at the top of mountains, waterskiing, or running marathons, when your body is in chronic pain.

Since I began blogging, I’ve tried to be authentic. I’ve shared my struggles because I was sick of feeling like I was the only one striving. I knew there were others like me, but I didn’t see many people sharing their battles. There were plenty of feel good stories, but not many truthful, raw stories about the pain I understood. I shared because it gave a voice to my wounds.

I went through a very difficult 15 year period. As I healed, I found I really enjoyed being on the other side of the agony. I earned my masters degree and became a Life Coach. I liked the feeling of helping others through their strife. I wanted to be the expert, and guide others from my position on the OTHER side of the pain.

In the last 6 months however, I found myself back in the middle of it. No longer the expert, but the co-struggler again. You know what happened? I couldn’t blog about it.

Miss Authenticity found herself hiding and quiet. I didn’t want to be back there. I didn’t want to share. Some of it was not mine to share. Some of it was embarrassing to share. I just didn’t have the energy to craft a message, think of a topic, or figure out the technology involved (minimal as it is). I was back in survival mode.

Well, I’m back. Not as the expert, but as your friend and coach. 

I’m working on a way to share what I’ve learned that may help when you can’t quite get it together.

A major thing I’ve learned is that if you wait to have it all together, you’ll never do anything. So even though I have great plans to improve in the future, I’m still going to do this today.

Please click here to sign up for my blog. You’ll receive a FREE pdf “10 Traits of Emotionally Healthy People.”

 

 

Colorado Life Coach: Me Too!

I just returned home from the Refresh Conference for Foster and Adoptive Parents in Redmond, WA.

It was amazing!

Unlike anything I’ve ever seen, this conference tackled the topics needed by parents of kids from hard places.

I don’t have connections to the adoption community in WA, but was contacted by the conference organizer to see if I’d be interested in speaking. The panel I joined was called, “Navigating the rough waters of a failed placement.” It’s not exactly my story, and I wasn’t really sure if I would fit on the panel. After discussing my concerns with the panel leader, we determined I absolutely needed to be there.

Please understand, disruption is not a topic the adoption community, counselors, or the church likes to discuss. It’s ugly. It’s not the happy face of adoption they want to promote. We’d all like to believe that every adoption ends with a healed child, and a happy family. This is just not reality. The reasons are many:

~Children’s histories are often unknown, or withheld from prospective parents, leaving parents unprepared for the challenges (violence, sexual acting out, mental illness, extreme behavior issues)

~Resources and support are lacking

~Finances prevent receiving the level of help needed for children from trauma backgrounds

~Trauma brought into the home (at no fault of the child) ends up traumatizing other family members preventing healing.

~Trauma brings out unresolved and sometimes unknown issues in parents, which are extremely difficult to heal with ongoing trauma in the home.

~Parenting traumatized children requires skills that are totally counter-intuitive to parenting children without trauma. This is not known to the general public. Unless a foster or adoptive parent happens across this information, they could potentially spend years with no improvement connecting to their child. This is not their fault. They don’t know what they don’t know. Many therapists and medical professionals do not understand this issue, so unless parents run across professionals who understand and can lead them in the right direction, parents are left to figure this out on their own.

I arrived at the conference not knowing what to expect. All the attendees were met with amazing compassion, understanding, support, information, and connection with other parents. One theme of the conference was “Me Too!”

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Buckets with buttons saying, “Foster parent,” “Adoptive parent,” “International Adoption,” “Birth Parent,” and others helped connect people to others who could relate.

There were places for pampering…

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and resources: Oh look! That’s MY book in the bookstore 🙂

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My panel was on day 2 of the conference. As I suspected, at the end of the session, many people approached the panelists with the same message: “Me too!” They were so thankful we spoke on this difficult topic. They felt like the failures of the foster/adoption community. The stigma of so many issues was diminished by the general sessions of the conference, but the grief from disruption and relinquishment is still taboo. This was the first time these parents felt they could finally relate.

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I met some amazing parents.

None of them hoped to be in their situation, but it was great to find others and say “Me too!”

This post written by Colorado Life Coach, Carrie O’Toole, M.A.


Contact Carrie O’Toole to schedule a confidential telephone call or appointment for coaching.