Episode #31 Mental Illness: Growing Up Loved But Not Safe. Sara Brown

Quick Links
From Today's Episode

Sara Brown grew up with a mom who loved her deeply but suffered from Paranoid Schizophrenia. Sara, a Marriage and Family therapist (LMAFT), shares her eye-opening story of how secrecy and misunderstanding caused shame and lies to embed into her soul at a young age. It wasn’t until she suffered the first of five miscarriages as an adult that she began to process her anger with God. She elaborates on how we can notice and respond to shame in our children.

Key Moments:

03:33 Her path to become a family therapist

09:12 How she first noticed life was not normal

23:00 Coping strategies that developed as a result

29:00 Her first big trauma that made her wonder if God was for her

33:00 What shame looks like in kids

34:42 The stories kids tell themselves

37:17 Her “hope-holder-witnesses”

38:52 How we can parent well at times when our kids think “we’re the worst”

Today's Verses
  • Isaiah 58:11
Additional Resources

Mental Illness: Growing Up Loved but Not Safe. Sara Brown

Kelly: [00:00:00] Welcome to the Unshakable Hope Podcast, where real life intersects redeeming love. I’m Kelly Hall, and this is where we wrestle through faith questions, such as how do I trust God’s heart when His ways and delays are breaking mine? We’ll hear from people just like you and me, who have experienced God’s faithfulness when life didn’t unfold as they expected.

My prayer is that God would renew our hope in His Word and His love through these conversations.

Hey guys, welcome to the podcast. I’ve been hearing from so many of you about your word for the year, and it’s been so much fun to hear how God’s been speaking and encouraging you as you look to this new year. The story you’re about to hear today is really one of my favorite types of story because it contains this

beautiful redemptive arc that so powerfully reflects God’s heart. You’re going to hear from Sarah Brown. She’s a marriage and family [00:01:00] therapist who works primarily with children, teens, and young adults out of the family Christian counseling center. I met her through my friend, Louise Sedgwick, who’s been on my show before and hosts the Lifted to Hope podcast.

Sarah grew up in a home where she was loved, but didn’t always feel safe due to the far reaching impact of mental illness. I found her story and insights fascinating. She has a tender heart, a huge passion for others, so I can’t wait for you to meet her. Sarah, welcome to the show.

Sara: Thank you. Thank you so much.

Kelly: Why don’t you start by just telling us a little about yourself, but I’d also like you to include. Something that you love doing that brings life into your soul because you go into some heavy places with your counseling. So I want to know how the Lord replenishes you after you have poured out.

Sara: Thanks for asking that question. A little bit about me is I have been married for 22 years. I have 4 kids 3 boys and 1 girl. Starting to become adults. So I [00:02:00] have a 20 year old and I have an 18 year old, a 16 year old and a 12 year old. And so it has been a delight for me to raise those kids for most years.

I was a stay at home mom. And then I was a teacher for 2 years. And then realized that was not for me and so I went back to school to be able to get my master’s in marriage and family therapy. It is a place where I carry heavy stories and I walk people through trauma and I walk people through just those places where they feel.

Sometimes alone. And so where I kind of get my soul fed is a beautiful community of women that I get to regularly invest in a monthly mom night, mom’s night out. I try to at least every one or two weeks meet up with my coffee, with my closest friends to be able to share our stories. And then I really do feel vibrantly fed by my job.

So even though it’s heavy, I see God at work. Almost on a daily [00:03:00] basis when I’m sharing the stories of my clients. And so there is great, Oh, there’s just a holiness and being able to walk with people. And so I haven’t yet gotten to a place where it’s not life bringing and leaves me feeling very heavy.

It might come, but for now, those have been the places where I really find my hope and my joy. And my delight.

Kelly: Oh, I love that so much. It reminds me of that scripture, Isaiah 58, 11, that says the Lord will strengthen you and you’ll be a well watered garden

Sara: absolutely. Absolutely.

Kelly: Well, Sarah, tell us how you became a marriage family counselor and also what led you to primarily focus on the young ones.

Sara: Yeah, from the time I was young, knew that I had a gifting and teaching and that teaching was going to be focused on kids. I just. My church really invested in me.

So by the time I was 13, I was leading Sunday school classes. When I was in high school, I was an intern being able to direct children’s [00:04:00] programs. And so I always knew there was just this part that God had in me that was for kids. Part of it comes out of my story, which you’ll get to hear more of where I lived a life where I was just performing really well, but not very well known.

And so it. Drew out in me a desire to know kids. I thought for sure I was going to be a teacher. I thought for sure that was what God’s path that was for me. And I went to college to get my teaching credentials. And then my junior year of college, I had gotten married and at the summer of my scene before my senior year, I actually found out I was expecting our first son.

And so I dropped out of school cause I. It wasn’t going to work for me to be able to to finish my teaching credentials. And so I changed paths. No longer was I going to be a teacher. I knew that might come later in life, but I was going to be a mom. And my husband was able to provide enough that I was able to be a stay at home mom.

And I did that for 14 years. And in that time, I got to be in Sunday school. [00:05:00] I got to be the teacher of vacation Bible school. I got to lead some of the camps as the. As the teacher at those camps, so God was still really pouring into me this realization that I am gifted at being able to share God with children at that time.

Mostly elementary school children. I also got to work with, women I started with a friend and miscarriage group because miscarriage is a part of our story. So we had 5 miscarriages in between those 4 kids that we do have. And I was able to write a curriculum with a friend and we kind of created a group for other moms who had gone through miscarriages.

So God was developing both that. Desire for teaching children, and also just this place where I was able to invest in women and have them invest in me, especially during the crises of life. So then when my youngest was old my youngest was three or four, I start, I went back to school. I wanted to get my credential.

I wanted to [00:06:00] teach my kids were starting to be school age. And so I thought this is the time and I finished and I taught and it was. So difficult teachers, you guys are amazing. If there’s any teachers listening. Oh, my goodness. I love kids. And I worked in a title 1 school, which means that most of the kids were under the poverty level or at poverty level.

And so I found that I just wanted to be able to love these kids well, but when I had 30 with all their needs in a classroom, and I was expected to teach them math and social studies and reading and writing. And I was like, these kids need something so much more for their life to be able to, for dynamics to change, for their life circumstances to change.

They need heart change. They really need Jesus. And in a classroom at a public school, I get to be light for Jesus, but I don’t get to really share him the same way that. I got to when I taught Sunday school, when I taught vacation [00:07:00] Bible school, so I taught for 2 years and it sucked my soul out of me and I couldn’t keep doing it because I would, I see the kids and I go, this kid needs me and he needs me for more than what I can offer at school.

So I, I left didn’t quite know what I was going to do. I homeschooled my daughter for a year and then COVID hit. So it was 2020. And I had a friend who was a teacher for 18 years. And she had just started a program to become a therapist. And I went my eyes blew up, like my whole head blew up of I could do that.

I could do that. When I was in my thirties therapy changed my life. I did some EMDR therapy to work on my childhood trauma and it. Moved me from moving in a really unhealthy patterns to being able to see a way to move toward healthier patterns. And therapy changed it for me. And I was like, what would have happened if in my childhood.

I had someone who could have [00:08:00] helped me someone who could have held my story, been able to say, oh, that’s hard. Here’s some ideas here’s ways for you to be able to move forward in health instead of those defensive strategies that I learned. That would have changed my life and so I was like, I want to do that.

I want to change lives and adult lives. So great. But if I could change lives before, they’ve gotten into relationships that have. Retraumatize them if before they have. Kind of entrenched themselves into the patterns of life before they’ve gotten substance abuse disorder before how great would it be to change those trajectories?

And so when I was. In my program, focusing on kids and adolescents and young adults really felt like a calling. I

Kelly: would say so, because that it was obvious that God was nurturing that calling when you were a teacher, because your heart was, I’m teaching them, but this is not what they need. They need their souls to be healed.[00:09:00]

And I love how he led you into that space, just step by step. Wow. Yeah. Well, I can see why it feeds your soul because that is your passion.

Sara: Yes. Yes. Absolutely.

Kelly: All right. We mentioned your childhood trauma and we want to hear what that was like and really when people grow up a certain way, it feels normal. So I’d love to understand when you first understood like, Oh, this isn’t normal. This is not how other people live

Sara: it’s interesting because even if you had asked me in my twenties, I would have said I had a good childhood. I grew up. It was pretty it was good. My parents were Christians.

They’re still married to each other. I’m doing well. I’m not quite graduated from college, but I was doing well in my life. So I was like, no, my childhood’s not affecting me. But really, truly, yeah. I grew up, I’m going to read the eulogy. That my brother wrote, it will give you an insight into what our childhood was like.

And then [00:10:00] I’ll tell you a story of the 2 times. I kind of the 1st time when I look back at. The 1st trauma, and then when I finally was, my eyes were open to the trauma.

So I’ll give you a little bit. My mom passed away two years ago due to a battle with cancer. And if you knew my mom, you might not have ever known that she had a mental illness. It was not something that we talked about. So when my brother read this eulogy at her funeral, You could hear some audible gasps at the at the church because there were people that didn’t know that this was her battle.

So I will read this. My sister and I had what I would call a non traditional childhood. My mother struggled with schizophrenia all her life. To us, schizophrenia was the monster under our beds. When mom wasn’t medicated, her brain raced and life became a bit manic. When she was medicated, her brain crawled and she seemed sedated.

As a young boy, and even as a young man, I felt cheated. I [00:11:00] often wished my mother was more like the mothers of my friends. But as I matured and had a family of my own, I came to realize how lucky I was. My mother fought a battle with herself every day. There probably wasn’t a single day where my mother woke up feeling in control.

But she never gave in. She got up every morning and took care of us. She showed us she loved us, often in traditional ways. She cooked for us, made our beds, kept us clean, brushed our hair, took interest in our lives. But mom also found non traditional ways to show us she loved us. Some of us got early morning ambulance rides.

That’s me. I’ll tell you that story. We had impromptu trips to California. Letters sent to friends thanking them for being our friends, letters sent to spouses thanking them for marrying us. At the time, I didn’t appreciate these non traditional I love you’s. But looking back, I realized that the strangeness of my childhood, and the way my mom loved me, has made me the man I am today.[00:12:00]

Thank you, mom, for loving me.

That should say no. I know. My brother is a talented writer. I’m hoping one day he writes a book. Bye. Yeah. I’m glad that he wrote that.

Kelly: It’s so brave to, Just tell the truth in front of everyone in a way that he knew would leave a lot of people confused and trying to re understand her life and your story.

I can’t even imagine what that was like, but it’s such a, so much beautiful insight into her life and her heart. It was written with such gentleness.

Sara: Yeah. It is one of those things that’s really hard because we all, so there’s three of us, my brother, I’m the middle, and then I have a younger sister.

We love our mom love her. And then we tell stories and it’s Oh. Oh so loving someone with a mental illness can get really complicated and really confusing sometimes the first time I experienced my mom’s mental illness[00:13:00] in therapy. I have come up with some memories, so I don’t know if it 3 years old, which is where how old I was in the 1st time.

It kind of affected me if I really was aware of her mental illness, I doubt it, but as I now repaint my childhood, I go, oh, here’s 1 of the places where. My defensive has come in. So when I was 3, my mom woke me up 1 night and she had called the police or the ambulance. So she had called the hospital and she told me she goes, Sarah, you’re not breathing, right?

And even at 3, I can kind of remember going. I’m fine. I’m breathing fine. And I remember being in the ambulance and having oxygen put in my nose. And again, at 3 years old going, I’m fine. I’m fine. What’s going on? Why? Why do I have to go to the hospital? Why do I have to why is this happening to me?

Because I know I’m fine, but it’s my mom and my mom’s telling me I’m not fine. [00:14:00] And now I’m having to have the consequences of this belief that I’m not fine. I’m fine. And a three year old goes. I guess I’m not fine, even though there’s a battle inside of me that says no. I’m fine. It supersedes my mom superseded me and that’s the pattern that happened all of our life.

My mom’s my mom had paranoid schizophrenia. And so when my mom was paranoid about something, we just came under that paranoia. So for a while, these are other little tidbits of our story. My mom was afraid our mattresses were going to kill us. I don’t exactly remember why. And so we slept just on the boards of our bed.

We didn’t have mattresses. We just slept on boards. There was a time that my mom was convinced that our blankets were going to cause cancer. And so she took those blankets away. So at that point, I think I had a mattress, but then no blankets. And so there was just this, I love you. Bye. Nothing made sense in the fact that I was now sleeping on boards and all of my [00:15:00] friends had mattresses and I knew mattresses weren’t going to kill me, but I couldn’t insist on what was true.

I had to just come under what my mom was afraid of. When I was three, I know that’s been significant. There was a story that I told myself of, it doesn’t matter what I believe, or it doesn’t matter what’s true. It just matters what other people around me need, and I’m going to meet their needs.

I talked to my mom about that ambulance trip in my adulthood. I asked her about it before she had passed. And she goes, Sarah, I just needed to know that I could call the ambulance if I needed to. So I became a part of her being able to go, I know I can do what I need to do to take care of these kids, which must have been a fear that she had, but it was at a cost of my own sense of reality, and that was really hard.

Yeah. Yeah. And then, oh, go ahead. The story of when I actually found out and knew that my mom was sick and that it [00:16:00] was called schizophrenia was when I was nine and my mom had stopped taking her medicine. Like my brother said in the eulogy, when she was medicated, she was just like, just she moved a little bit robotic.

Her laughter was a little bit less. She was kind of muted, but when I was 9, she had stopped taking her medicine. And so she had gotten into a pretty manic state so much. So that we had an incident where. My dad had finally gotten fed up with one of my mom’s paranoias, the blanket one. So he was insisting that we could have blankets and he locked us in the bedroom with the blanket and my mom was outside and my mom was terrified because we were now with blankets that were going to kill us.

And so she. Just manically this is a weird story to tell because if, you know, my mom, this would be so out of character, but she punched a hole in the wall and unlocked the door and was so mad at my dad. And so the police had to be called, and my mom had to be taken to an institute and put[00:17:00] in a place where they could force her to take her medicine for a while to get her back to a re a regular state.

So that was our first time, my first time of really realizing. Okay, my mom is sick. Her brain’s not working. Right? And she needs help. And then it was also the first time that I was all alone without my mom, which came with its own. My dad wasn’t the caretaker. My mom was we went to friends and friends get tired of having whatever.

There’s more to that story of where it really made me feel different than everyone around me. My defensive strategy was no one is ever going to know I’m not going to tell anyone that this happened. I’m not going to talk to anyone anymore about my mom’s schizophrenia. It makes me feel like they’re going to look at me.

At 9 years old, I knew my mom was sick and I was never going to tell anyone about it.

Kelly: Yeah, well, you tell us what happened when you were nine. I remember your friend said something hurtful about that.

Sara: [00:18:00] Yeah, we’ll just share that. Yeah. So the reason I decided to never tell anyone was my dad was working, so he was a faithful provider for our family and he was working every day.

And when my mom wasn’t home, we needed places to go. We had a lovely church family and I had a good best friend. And so I was. Going regularly to that best friend’s house and being kids and being only nine at one point, she wanted to do something different than have me at her house. And so she unkindly, but probably just because she was young, said something to the effect of I hate that you have to come over here because your mom’s so crazy.

And in that moment, the shame of having to need someone, the shame of having to feel like I’m a burden. And I’m a burden because my mom’s crazy changed my way of interacting with people. I really did close off. I really did say I’m never going to my friends are never going to think that I’m a [00:19:00] burden.

I will do whatever it takes to never be in this situation again. And a lot of my defensive strategies have come out of that. That moment, that trauma, that feeling rejected and feeling like I was rejected because I was too needy, too much. Yeah.

Kelly: I’m just curious, if an adult had been there and witnessed this happening, is there anything an adult could have said?

I mean, from your viewpoint now as a therapist, is there anything that could have been said that would have kept that moment from becoming such a shame point for a


Sara: Yeah, I think if my family had been more open about it and it had been something where they could even have just held the space for me of Oh, that’s really hard, Sarah, man, that must have felt really rejecting giving me words for what I was feeling inside.

Cause I was wrestling with it all internally with not expressing it out loud at all. If my dad or even someone from the church or someone could have just said, [00:20:00] Oh that’s so sad. I wish that didn’t happen to you, Sarah, and that’s not how everyone feels about it. It was just that moment. That would have been really helpful to me, but my dad didn’t even tell his parents that my mom was schizophrenic. My dad didn’t tell his family. So there was a top down secretiveness about my mom’s schizophrenia that I just ended up coming under and going, I guess we don’t talk about it. I guess people don’t know.

And that’s the best way to do it. Yeah.

Kelly: So that’s part of the shame was just the

Sara: secrecy. Yeah. We don’t talk about it. We don’t talk about it with anyone.

Kelly: 1

of the gripping ways I heard you describe your situation is that you were loved, but not safe. And I’d never heard that description before. Now, you described a lot about why that was true, but I guess I would like you to explain a little bit more.

When a child is growing up. And there’s this sense of, I never know what’s going to happen in the next moment. I’m not in control of the [00:21:00] situation. My voice doesn’t matter. Is that the kind of not feeling safe you’re talking about?

Sara: Yeah, so I was kind of even in preparing for here. I was trying to wrap my head around the idea of safety and I was just thinking about how we really do have physical safety and then we also have emotional safety and.

Those both need to be there in order for a sense of safety in your, in yourself to be felt. And so I was thinking about that piece of my childhood. I was being told I wasn’t safe by my mom, so I had an active sense that I wasn’t physically safe because mattresses could kill me. Blankets could kill me.

My family might be trying to poison me. Things like that, because of her paranoia, I had an active communication that I’m not safe. Then there was this sense of there wasn’t space for me to be emotional. There wasn’t space for me to be scared. There wasn’t space for me to be angry or sad because we didn’t talk [00:22:00] about it.

So you couldn’t say, Hey, I’m really scared by what’s happening with mom because we didn’t talk about what was happening with mom. And so the, where I really lacked safety was in that emotional. Ability to say, this is what’s going on internally for me. This is what’s going on in my experience and to have that validated and.

Acknowledged they didn’t know that I needed that. And really truly 1 of the things that I’ve learned about schizophrenia is. The things that some someone who has schizophrenia, what helps them in their community is when people have. Don’t express their emotions as strongly. So if you mute your emotions, you can help a schizophrenic not have as many ups and downs and naturally me and my family learned that if we stayed.

Centered and stayed okay, mom didn’t have as many highs and lows. We all did that.

Kelly: Okay, so you weren’t free [00:23:00] to process your emotions. You weren’t free to state them and that’s always what brings healing.

So you’ve explained how the shame how shame entered the picture and I’d love for you just to explain what that was like for all 3 of you as siblings, because I’m curious what the lies were that were at the root of the shame. You’ve said a few of them, but I’d love to hear how that played out.

Sara: Yeah. We all did it differently. So my brother and sister and I all have our own story and we all have our own protective strategies. And so my brother, you’ll get to hear some of these things.

If you do any work with anyone who’s grown up in addiction or But my brother became the clown, so my brother is hilarious. Oh my goodness. He doesn’t take things very seriously. He’s quick to joke. He is so capable of just bringing levity and light to any situation. And so that was his coping strategy.

As long as I don’t have to feel my feelings, I’m okay. I’m okay. And [00:24:00] my strategy became, hey, as long as everyone around me is okay, I’m okay. There’s a little codependency in there, a lot of people pleasing. And so as long as my mom’s okay, I’m okay. As long as my dad’s okay, I’m okay. And I got really good at making the people around me okay.

And having feelers out for what anyone needs to hear. Anyone needs to know. I’m still really good at that. .

Kelly: That’s exhausting.

Sara: It is. It is really exhausting. I in one of my therapies, I just realized that I have these, like Spider-Man is my favorite superhero and I have a spidey sense that just moves out of my body.

It was kind of like I closed my eyes and just realized that there’s all feelers that go out into the world and there were very few feelers that go into my internal experience. And sometimes that feels like a superpower, like Spider Man. Okay. I can calm him a room. I can do this, but it really left me and still leaves me unaware [00:25:00] of what’s going on inside of me and unaware of because of what’s going on inside of me, how I’m affecting those outside of me. And then my sister was the one that actually has. She has been able to express the feelings. I don’t know if it’s being the baby or if it was that just the way she was built.

She was able to handle it differently than to me. It felt like she was able to handle it in a way that she talked to people. Her friends all knew she used them as support. She could express her feelings. She was able to get mad. She was able to get sad. And so she’s like a hero. She’s, I’m like, where did you come from?

How did you get freedom to do all of these things? Come on. And I, there were ways that it affected her for sure. There were ways, but it seemed like she could call it out better. Yeah. That she could say, this wasn’t, this doesn’t work for me. Yeah,

Kelly: it’s such a good picture of how we heal. Pay attention to your soul.

Say it out loud. Tell the truth and then [00:26:00] bring that before the Lord. Let him deal with it. I know that unprocessed feelings just get stuffed and that makes us react in ways that don’t make sense.

Sara: Yeah.

Kelly: As you walk through all of this, I want to know in your faith walk. How you learn to trust God with all the suffering and if you were offended with him,

because that was a lot for a kid to go through. And at 20, you didn’t even realize you needed healing.

Sara: Yeah. I think there was a grace and I think one of the ways that God really did help is that I grew up in the church. My first Sunday school class, I went with my big brother when I was two and there was just this sense, this like this, I don’t know it’s supernatural. There was just a concrete sense that there is a God. You’ll hear that. I wrestled with him, but at least from two. And then when I asked him into my heart, when I was seven and through all of it, there was just this reliance on the fact that there was a God and that this was something that was like, it was felt [00:27:00] in my soul.

That he existed, so I never questioned that and still haven’t to this day question that now. I’ve questioned if he’s good and I’ve questioned if he’s for me. There’s a sense when you go through something as hard as that, where you’re like, God how do you call this good? And you were the only one that had the power to change this.

And you didn’t, When I was a kid, I didn’t question as much, I got told and I just believed, got told and I just believed, it was what was going to make everyone around me feel better is if I believed, and if I honored and followed God’s plan, God and I, okay, I had a deal with God, God probably wasn’t so much on board, but I was like, okay, God, I’m going to do these things, I’m not going to do these things, and you’re going to give me a good life, so from a young age, it was like, okay, you don’t want me to do that, I won’t cuss, I’m I won’t do that.

You don’t want me to lie. I won’t lie. I’ll be real honest. You don’t want me to do all of that. Okay. God not doing that. Okay. You want me to read my Bible. You want me to be able to live out of my gifting. You [00:28:00] want me to do these things. I got it. So God, you got to give me a good life.

Kelly: So it was a plus B equals C formulaic approach to theology.

Sara: Yep. And so I I’m sure God was on board with that. At least from the time I was a child, I was like, I got it. God and I got a deal and things are going to go well. So really it took into my adulthood and suffering in my adulthood for me to question God’s goodness and question his faithfulness.

When I was 23, we had our 1st miscarriage and we lost a little one. His name was Elijah and we lost him at 18 weeks. And so it was a pretty, significant loss in my adulthood, and I previous to that thought my A plus B equals C was going super well. And it was the 1st time I kind of had to come to grips with.

Oh. This A plus B thing isn’t working, so God, I need you to show up in a way that is different than you and I have experienced with each other, because [00:29:00] I am so mad at you. And at this time, I still wasn’t thinking about my childhood. I thought I did well, I survived it fine. It was fine. So at 23, the first big trauma that made me go, this doesn’t feel like God’s for me was losing Elijah.

And so honestly, I had to draw really close to God and let him see my anger. Let him see my sadness, which was probably the first time that I got in touch with those feelings and was willing to let him see. And I let one friend in and my husband got to see some of it, but I let one friend in she got to see it for a moment.

She actually tells a story where she goes, Sarah, you cried for one moment and I asked you a question, what happened? Do they know what happened? And you shut off your tears and you never cried with me again. So I got a moment, a very small moment where I expressed my [00:30:00] feelings with her. But I really had to cry out to God and I really had to, wrestle and then we didn’t get pregnant right away again, and I wanted to it took us 9 months before we got pregnant again. And I was so mad because in my mind I could have had Elijah and gotten pregnant again. So that I’d have my next 1. it was like, God, you had to have made this worth it that.

That this next child, which is my daughter, Ella, couldn’t have happened if I hadn’t lost Elijah. And I know timeline things like, but in my mind, I was like, God proved to me, you have something better or something good. And it felt like he, I wasn’t pregnant by the time. My due date came. Yeah. Yeah. And it felt like God wasn’t going to redeem it.

And now I have years that I get to look back and I get to hold my daughter Ella and I go, Ella wouldn’t have been here Zane wouldn’t be here. Indy my son, my youngest wouldn’t be here if not for the loss of [00:31:00] Elijah. And I see that there was a plan. But in those moments I was like God this doesn’t seem fair.

God gave me a promise. As I was reading and really diving in with him. Hey, I read the story of Abraham and Sarah and. God said, you’ll have a child within a year. My, I tell my husband this and he’s he kind of missed the mark, Sarah, but on October 11th, which was the due date for Elijah, God gave me that promise.

You’ll have a daughter or you’ll have a child within a year. And my daughter was born one year and eight days later. So it wasn’t quite within the year, but she’s October 19th, a year after where Elijah would have been born. And so there was getting to see his promise fulfilled and that he was willing to even give me that.

Assurance. He spoke to me. He called me his daughter. He called me worthy. He called me and said, I know this is hard. I know that this is painful. I know that you don’t trust me, but I’m going to [00:32:00] give you a promise that you can rely on. And it just developed some of my faith.

Kelly: I think that when we experience God’s personal love for us, It heals our hearts.

That’s what we need. We need to tell him what’s hurting and we need him to speak to us about those places in our heart. We need him to deal with those tough questions we’re experiencing and we feel seen, heard, loved, affirmed,

Sara: yes, yes, absolutely.

Kelly: That’s just beautiful. Thank you for sharing that. You mentioned that you had 5 miscarriages. Where did they occur in this story?

Sara: Yeah, so I had my first son Wade, and then we had a miscarriage and he was we lost him at 18 weeks. It was a cord accident. So he had wrapped himself up into the cord and then we had Ella and then we had Zane.

Zane and Ella are just 21 months apart. So we got to have them really quick. And then I was going to finish my family. I wanted four kids. I knew it was going to happen. And we ended up having four miscarriages [00:33:00] every six months for the next two years. Yeah. When Zane turned one, we had our first miscarriage and then for every six months from there, we had, we lost for unknown reason there wasn’t really and then we got pregnant one last time.

And I said, this is our last attempt. I’m not going to do this again. And we had friends pray over us. I and he’s here and he is a miracle and he’s so sweet and one of the kindest boys that you’ll ever find. Wow. Yeah.

Kelly: That is a hard story and a beautiful story all at the same time. So I want to get into this before we run out of time.

All of us encounter people with shame, and I just want you to help us understand what shame looks like in kids. I found that fascinating . And what are the underlying lies in play? How do we know it’s shame and a question that I have along those lines is when you see an emotional response to something that’s sort of over the top and doesn’t seem to fit the incident. Is that a [00:34:00] sign of shame? So just try to explain that to us.

Sara: Yeah, absolutely. Over the top emotional reactions are typically out of shame or fear. Those are going to be your two places where kids especially react out of. It’s hard because it comes out as anger a lot and it comes out as un, like behavior that you have to stop.

Like you just, they can’t do what they’re doing, but if you understand that underneath it is. There’s a need that needs to be met. There’s a story they’re telling themselves. When I work with clients, I call it an unhelpful thought. So I’m stupid. I’m too much. I’m not enough. I’m not loved.

Kids start to tell their selves, those unhelpful thoughts. And those to me is just the story of Shane. And every kid has their own story of what comes into their head, and it’s surprising because you’ll walk into these sessions and their parents love them and want what’s best for them. [00:35:00] And these kids are still telling themselves the story of, I’m mean,

I’m not loved. I’m ugly. And those stories are in eight year olds. Those stories are in 10 year olds. Those stories are in 15 year olds for sure. And so shame kind of comes in and just says, there’s something wrong with you. There’s just something wrong with you. And when you think there’s something wrong with you, your behavior comes to prove it so that other people will see that thing that’s wrong in you.

And so you’re, it’s kind of a self fulfilling prophecy. I. I’m exploding. That’s going to come out. And if a parent can go. They’re exploding. I need to get curious. I need to get curious that what’s underneath this. I need to get curious if what’s the story that they’re telling themselves. What’s the fear that they’re having?

What’s the need that’s coming? Instead of insisting and it’s so hard [00:36:00] insisting on the behavior change, which. Also needs to happen, so it’s the balancing of how can I get them in touch with what’s going on internally so that it can help them change what’s happening externally. The hard thing is you have kids and adults who externalize it.

So those are the ones that are going to fight. Those are the ones that are going to hurt the people outside of them. And then you have those that internalize their shame, and those are the ones that are going to have eating disorders, substance use disorders, they’re going to be the ones that isolate and pull away from their people.

And they’re a little bit sometimes harder to know, because they may be super compliant and super on the surface doing all the right things, but inside there’s the story of. Shame the story of I’m not. I’m not enough, I’m not loved that one sometimes only comes out in whether or not it’s self harm, suicidal ideation, eating disorders.

But I would say sin in this world, the sin we [00:37:00] do, and the sin we have done to us almost always breeds shame unless, like you said, it comes out into the light. It’s spoken out loud one of the podcasters that I listened to says brief needs a witness. And so those feelings that you have inside need a witness.

They need someone who will listen, someone who will hold your story with you. And hopefully that’s your parents. Hopefully that’s your siblings. Hopefully that’s your closest friends. But I feel in our society, we’re a little more isolated and. And we don’t want people to witness our story.

Kelly: I love that.

We need a witness. I’ve heard it said that when you’re wounded in relationships, God uses a community of relationships to bring about healing. And that’s what you’re describing, right?

Sara: Yeah. When I was going through those miscarriages for those two years, I was a part of a close knit Bible study group.

And what I called them were my hope holders because I couldn’t hold. Hope I couldn’t hold even faith [00:38:00] in God. I needed them to hold it for me. They knew my story. They knew me well enough to go. God’s got her. We don’t have to be afraid of her faith journey, but we’re going to hold the hope for her right now.

We’re going to be the ones that when she rages at God, we get to just hold that space. So I could come into Bible study going, I don’t get this. The Bible says this, that God says this, and I’m not seeing that. And they’d be like, yeah, isn’t that so hard? And then they’d cover me in prayer. And I knew they were praying for me outside.

And they walked those two years with me. And celebrated my, my, my baby and celebrated my journey and celebrated that it got to turn into helping others through their journey. They were my hope holders and I needed that.

Kelly: I love that

hope holders. And that was a beautiful explanation of what that can look like and how we can bring that to other people.

Thank you. So we’re getting to the end of our time and I’d love for you just to give us a hopeful word. We’re all flawed. We bring our baggage into [00:39:00] these relationships and, we have kids who are flawed, and then they perceive our flaws through a lens that says, this is my fault. And so how do we, parent in a healthy, hopeful way that honors the Lord?

Sara: Yeah, that is a difficult question to answer because. I have 4 kids and I had to learn to parent each and every 1 of them differently. And so the answer doesn’t get to be as clean as oh, here’s your 3 steps to good parenting. But I’m going to give you 3 steps to good parenting. I, the way that I talk to the parents of the kids that I work with is.

Every child needs to be heard needs to be seen. And needs to be validated. Heard means you give them space to just talk to you. It could be that they do it in a way those externalizers, they’re going to be like, I hate you. You’re the worst mom ever. I can’t believe you did that. This is so stupid. I hate this.

And you have to hold space to be able to hear them. [00:40:00] And then the scene means that you are willing to go, Oh, it sounds like you’re really angry. It’s the going underneath and kind of being curious and a little bit of an archeologist or like a digger dig out what’s underneath this. Okay. I heard you.

I want to know what’s underneath it. And then when you unravel what’s underneath it going, Oh, now it makes sense. That makes sense. If you believed that I like loved your sister more than I love you. And then I was grounding you and making you do her chores because that was the punishment of whatever discipline you were getting.

But you thought it was because I like, I love your sister more. Oh, it makes sense why you’d feel like you hated me. That makes sense. Now, can I tell you what’s true? Yeah. A mom’s love doesn’t get divided by her kids and I absolutely adore and love you. So it’s, there’s the validating. It doesn’t validate that he yelled at me and told me that he hated [00:41:00] me.

It doesn’t validate his behavior out of it, but it helps him go, I’m not crazy. I’m not just a bad kid. I’m not innately just flawed. It’s I had an unhelpful thought and I was able to get my mom or parent or grandparent or teacher. Helped me understand why it went so big it just by valid hearing me.

Seeing what was underneath it and getting curious about that and then validating it that it made sense. Oh, that’s

Kelly: a beautiful way to explain all that to show us what it looks like. We need you to come into our homes.

Sara: I have clients that will say that she’s I had a client who I was talking to and she’s you always say the right thing.

And I was like, well, when my daughter went through this is what I, my daughter popped her tire on her birthday. She popped her car tire. And the first thing I said to her was like, well, you’re going to have to buy a new tire and she burst into tears. And she’s You don’t always say the right things to your kids, huh?

And I was like, no, I do [00:42:00] not say the best things to my kids the 1st time, but I try make repair when I do it poorly. I tell parents this and this has been my 2 things that have been my saving grace is we only parent. We can. At the parent, we parent good 20 percent of the time, we repair good 80 percent of the time and that’s a good enough parent.

If I can do it and then do the repair work, I can parent. Okay. And then the other thing is just what my kids need is my humble heart and my willingness to say, I’m sorry. I messed up and. Ask them for forgiveness and be willing to humble myself to their experience, even when it’s so hard. Oh, yes.

Kelly: Even when it’s so hard.

Is that the repair you’re talking about being

And say, I’m so sorry. I was angry. I shouldn’t said that.

Sara: Yeah. And it’s letting them say, this is what I felt. This is what I experienced in you like to put, have them put a mirror up and [00:43:00] go, mom, your face gets ugly when you talk to me like that.

It’s you don’t even like me or you don’t see me. I don’t know what your kids might say. I’ve had to say, yeah, you’re right. I am sorry. I shouldn’t have done that. I did it at your cost because it made me feel better in the moment, but it was not worth it.

And I’m so sorry. Next time I want to do it this way. Yes. Thank you,

Kelly: Sarah. That’s really helpful. I love all of the techniques you’ve given us, even just helping us be aware, , just being aware of what’s going on inside, being aware of what’s going on with the people in your family and responding in a way that.

Helps them feel seen or validated and then also the part about repairing, you know, just because you messed up doesn’t mean it’s over. You can step back in and repair and then that becomes a really special time and not a place that this child will look back on and say, [00:44:00] my mom didn’t love me.

Sara: Yeah, absolutely.

And it restores that connection, which is what we all want is the connection with our loved ones and repair is where that connection when it gets. Broken gets remade.

Kelly: Well, I’m fascinated by how all of this works out and having you on to shed some light on the way these things can play out in real life has really been encouraging. Thank you for being here.

Sara: This is such a gift. Thank you so much. And thank you for being easy to talk to.

Kelly: If you were encouraged in your faith today, it’d be great if you’d help get the word out by subscribing, sharing with a friend, or leaving a review. I’d love to hear from you. You can reach out through my website, kellyhall. org, and pick up some free resources while you’re there. Thanks for listening to the Unshakable Hope Podcast.

Subscribe to the Podcast
  • Apple
  • Spotify
  • Android
  • Email
  • RSS