A Relentless Hope

Rev. Gary E. Nelson. Cascade Books, 2007

Book Review by Carey Gauzens, LCSW, CP

Methodist pastor and former longtime CPC counselor, Gary Nelson, has written a book which is a “must read” for every parent of teenagers.  The teen years are filled with the ups and downs of a hormonal and emotional roller coaster, as adolescents make their way in the world, begin forming their identity as adults and finally move into completing the developmental task of making their own way in the world, and breaking away from their parents.  At best, it is a tumultuous time.  But for many teens, as Gary knows all too well, it is also a private hell, besieged with profound lows, uncontrolled anger and misguided efforts to control their pain through drug and alcohol abuse, reckless behavior and even suicidal feelings and thoughts.

Although many books have been written on parenting teens, Gary’s book is unique in that he speaks to the issue from the point of view of pastor, therapist, and perhaps most importantly:  father of a depressed teen.  In this book, originally titled, “Just Keep Loving Them,” Gary opens up the doors of his own home and family history, and allows us to see the painful, yet ultimately redemptive, journey that he and his family took with his oldest son, Tom.

Tom became depressed and school phobic in his early adolescence, and he and his family suffered through years of efforts to help him with his depression before he ultimately found his way out of the dark night of the soul that he was experiencing.  Gary’s approachable style and unflinching honesty allows the reader a look into the world of loving parents, trying desperately to help their beloved son, having to hold onto only faith and that, surely, please God, this ordeal must have some healing at the end of the journey.  As his original title shares, Gary and Tom, and the rest of the family, learned that what worked for them was to just keep loving him through all of the pain, the ups and downs, and the discouraging and seemingly endless backslides and impediments to progress.

As a therapist who has worked with countless teens, and a pastor who has worked with youth for much of his life, Gary has a unique perspective on the issue of teen depression, and he works in his book to tell the lay reader not only his son’s story, but also crucial information about teen depression and anxiety.  As a therapist who specializes in work with teenagers, I deeply wish that every parent who brings their child in to see me would read this book.  There is compassion, humor, sensitivity and plain old honesty about the frustrations, failed attempts and desperation that accompany the parents of an adolescent on the journey to get their child healing.

One final caution for the reader:  Because Gary was a therapist here at CPC and I worked closely with him during the years that he was, “going through the storm” with Tom, I am personally aware of how very much he advocates individual and family therapy for adolescents suffering from depression and anxiety.  In spite of this belief, however, it is possible for the reader to conclude from Gary’s book that “it can be done without therapy,” since there are few references to therapy in the book.  I know for a fact from working with Gary that this is NOT his position at all, and I caution any parent, pastor or teen reading the book to remind themselves as they turn each page:  “Do all of this with the help of a pastor, pastoral counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist.  Do not try to do it all on your own.”  As Gary so poignantly learned, and has so honestly shared in his story, even a trained therapist and longtime pastor, with a wife who is an excellent nurse, can still not independently “cure” their child of depression and its devastating effects.

This book is an absolute must read for parents, teens, teachers, pastors and counselors dealing with teenagers.  It opens one’s eyes to the “back story” behind many teens’ angry and seemingly unfathomable impulsive and illogical behavior.  And the drumbeat, and heartbeat, which accompany his story, steadily keep reminding us of the aspect more important than any treatment, than any behavior plan, than any parental choices:

Just keep loving them.

Just keep loving them.

Just keep loving them.

Carey Gauzens, LCSW

Carey Gauzens is a counselor in our Alexandria Center at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. She can be reached at (703) 903-9696 ext. 255