Colorado Life Coach: A Special Message to Adoptive Parents

Screen Shot 2014-03-03 at 5.40.38 PMHello!

My name is Carrie O’Toole and I’ve been around adoption my whole life. My family adopted my brother from Vietnam when I was 7. In 1992, My husband and I adopted our son as a newborn, then I delivered our daughter 15 months later. In 2000, we adopted our 3 1/2 year old son from Vietnam.

Sadly, that adoption went painfully awry, and we reluctantly decided to relinquish him to another family after 8 years. Why?

Because at the time, we had no idea what kind of struggles would come with parenting a child with RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder) or PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).

Our marriage was falling apart. Our other kids didn’t invite friends over anymore. They were isolating in their rooms more and more. We couldn’t do anything as a family. We were dying. I was dying.

I know how difficult it is to explain what your life feels like while trying to raise a child who is unable to form a healthy bond with his parents. I understand how your child looks to everyone else. I get how your family doesn’t truly see what’s happening, and how teachers make suggestions they think will be helpful, but they don’t work with your child. I know how frustrating it is when every counselor you look to for answers has no clue what you’re really going through.

With a whole team of editors, I’ve written our story in a book called Relinquished: When Love Means Letting Go. It was healing for me to document my journey. It is even more healing to recognize how it is now providing a voice for those who feel too weak to even come up with the words to describe their daily experiences with adopted, foster, or step children.

This book is my offering to every person who interacts in any way with these chidren. Let it be your voice. Give it to your family members, teachers, counselors, therapists, doctors, pastors, judicial workers, mental health care professionals, and friends–and maybe we can help society as a whole understand some of the mysteries behind what adopted, foster, and step children, and especially adoptive, foster, and step parents, really need. Maybe there is hope. Maybe you can get the support you need. Maybe your child can be one of the success stories. Maybe…

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


Colorado Life Coach: God, My Kitchen, and Easter

Screen Shot 2014-03-03 at 5.40.38 PMSo many things have been written about Easter! We all have memories of Easter’s past.

Here’s a video retelling of Easter 2009 from my kitchen to yours:

I wrote my story three years ago, as therapy for my broken heart and exhausted spirit. After hearing, “Memoirs don’t sell” countless times, I put the book away and tried to write a self-help book. During this time, I wrestled with my confidence and thoughts of not wanting to write a book, just for the sake of writing a book. I could not ignore the burning in my soul about writing my story.

I believe God resurrected this book, because my story is powerful! I decided to sit down and write it again, the book practically birthed itself!

As time passed and my wounds healed, I realized my story isn’t just a memoir. It’s a MEMOIR with a MESSAGE. A message that needs to be heard by…

*foster, step, and adoptive parents-you will feel understood, heard, and find strength.

*those who have been adopted-you may relate to the feelings you’ve always struggled to understand.

*family and friends of foster, step, and adoptive families-they need you to understand what’s happening in their homes without judgment. They need support.

*counselors, doctors, teachers, pastors, judicial workers, social workers, and those in the system-please learn about Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). Please understand what happens at home is not what you see in public. Please give support to these parents, especially the moms. They are trying so hard, and can’t seem to figure this out. They are giving to the point of exhaustion, and they need help, not criticism.

*those who have or are currently struggling with infertility or miscarriage-you are not alone, and your grief is real.

*struggling parents-it’s such a tough job! Things don’t always go the way we hoped, but you will get get through it.

Easter…the time of death and resurrection.

God has given me a new life. I hope my book will inspire many to continue even when it feels like life is over, even when you don’t think you can take one more breath. Keep going. God has a plan. It may not look like YOUR plan, but he has a plan. It will be good again. It will even be great!

You can pre-order Relinquished: When Love Means Letting Go here:

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

Cecelia Jackson’s Last Chance with author Robbie Iobst

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Join me for a humorous discussion w/ author/speaker Robbie Iobst. We talk about Donny Osmond, small town Texas, her 14 year journey to publish Cecelia Jackson’s Last Chance (available on Amazon), and other delightful, but totally unrelated topics! Find Robbie at

Using Food to Solve Emotional Problems with Robbie Iobst

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Join Melinda and me as we talk to author, speaker Robbie Iobst about her struggle with weight, appearance, and insecurity. You’ll love her candidness as she talks about feeling the fear, and doing it anyway!

Names and Their Meanings

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Is your name just a generic way to differentiate your from others? Or could it be a promise from God? Melinda and I interview Jenny Presdee about how your name may be much more than just something people call us.

Cancer and Back Again

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Join Carrie, Melinda, and their guest Jenny Presdee as they talk about Jen’s struggles with health issues and hopelessness.

Dying From a Broken Heart

Black Background 1400x1400Join Carrie and Melinda and their guest Wally Wessel, as they talk about Wally’s close encounter w death. Doctor’s told him he was dying from having his heart broken too many times.

Colorado Life Coach: Do Christians Eat Their Own?

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Have you read all the blogs on people who don’t go to church very often, or have quit altogether?

The reasons are varied, but most often include:

~Hurt by pastors or church teachings

~Don’t feel challenged

~Don’t enjoy worship time

~Feel like they’ve outgrown it

The responses have been varied as well:

~You should go to church because it’s not about you, it’s about God and being in fellowship, being held accountable, being of service

~God never lets people down, but people do. Don’t put your trust in people, but in God.

I get both sides. I’ve been on both sides. What keeps going through my head (like with most issues that cause controversy) is WHY. What happened to the people who don’t want to go to church? What happened to the people criticizing those who don’t want to go to church? Where is the grace for those who have been hurt? Why aren’t those in church reaching out, instead of judging?

Donald Miller wrote one blog on this subject, received hundreds of comments, wrote a 2nd blog, and received hundreds more.

Some comments were supportive: “Thank you for speaking what so many of us feel, but don’t have the courage to admit.” “The church isn’t a building, and we can worship God everyday of the week.” “I struggle attending church, and find God intimately outside the church walls.” “I’m a pastor and love the church, but don’t judge people who don’t attend.”

Many were negative: “You’re arrogant to think you’ve graduated from church.” “The Bible is clear that we must attend a local church regularly.” “Where does Don tithe?”

My heart has been struggling with this topic for several years. I run a ministry, but I’m not under the umbrella of a local church. I don’t like talking about it. I speak for several different ministries. On the comment card, they ask where I attend church regularly. I leave it blank, and hope they don’t bring it up. Friends from my old church keep asking where I attend now. I’m actually pausing with each word I write in this post, wondering whether I’ll dump it, or post it. I don’t know, yet.

When someone has been hurt, or just doesn’t fit in with the local church (they don’t like the music, sermon style, programmatic feel, etc), where do they turn? Sometimes they get loaded down with a bunch of “shoulds.” You should want to go to church. You should want to serve because it’s not about you, you’re selfish. Stop being a baby and get over yourself. You should be over the hurt by now.

My entire family was seriously hurt by members and staff of the church we attended for 7 year. I taught women’s bible studies, attended others, tithed, supported and taught at the school connected to our church, enrolled our children in youth group (one child attended the school) and encouraged them to volunteer. We attended regularly. It was our family…until our family fell apart. I look back and still don’t know exactly what happened. I needed my church family so desperately, but felt we kept getting passed to someone else. No one really wanted to deal with us. The lead pastor told us to take it to our small group. The small group leader told us we needed to take it somewhere else.

We felt like we were in the spiritual ICU, and few came to visit. I know many people who have experienced similar things. They’ve been hurt, but members rally around the leader, leaving them on their own. I read an article on titled, “Is Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome Real?” It states,

PTCS is “a severe, negative — almost allergic — reaction to inflexible doctrine, outright abuse of spiritual power, dogma and (often) praise bands and preachers.” She lists both emotional and physical symptoms, such as withdrawal from all things religious, failure to believe in anything, depression, anxiety, loss or desire to walk into a place of worship. Physically, sufferers of PTCS may have sweats, nausea, heart palpitations—as she notes, “the symptoms are as varied as the people who suffer them.”

I don’t know whether this is a real syndrome, but I have felt the symptoms.

We heard the gossip, and felt the judgment. We had served. We had given. We loved. Now it was our turn to ask for help, but we were denied.

We stopped attending because the anxiety about walking in the door to our own church became too much to deal with. Life was so difficult through the week, and the added tension on Sunday became too much to handle. God met us at home, through friends, through recovery groups, counselors, books, Christian radio, music, camping, bike rides, etc.

After about a year, I made an appointment with a different pastor. He apologized for how the church handled our situation. I felt such relief…until he told me we’d be welcome back at any time, “But it would be a tough road for you.” I still don’t understand. Why? Why wouldn’t he help us walk through that? Why would it be so difficult for a broken, but recovering family to make it in a church that claims to meet people where they are? Why?

I am a Board Certified Christian Life Coach (BCCLC) with training from the American Association of Christian Counselors and a masters degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. Many of my clients have been horribly hurt through experiences in church (spiritual abuse, guilt, opening up and having their vulnerability used against them, pastors who didn’t deal with their own emotional, spiritual, or relational growth). If I talk to them about church, they get quiet and defensive. If I talk about God the Father, some won’t come back, because their own earthly fathers were abusive, and they haven’t worked through the pain, yet. It doesn’t mean they won’t, they just haven’t been able to, yet.

Back to my point: Could we have compassion for hurting people, instead of piling on guilt and judgment? Could we ask “WHY,” and try to become part of a solution? Could Christians who attend church regularly love those who don’t unconditionally? We’re all the church anyway. Could we act like it?

This post written, and maybe posted, or maybe tossed in the trash, by Colorado Life Coach, Carrie O’Toole, M.A.






Attachment Part Two (guest host, Forrest Lien)

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Join Carrie and Melinda as they speak once again with Forrest Lien, Attachment Specialist. This time, they discuss the adult side of things, and the effect that growing up unattached has on people.

The Passion Principles with Shannon Ethridge – Episode Four

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