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Summer 2020
A WORD FROM DON  |  Don Richards, M. Div., MS, LPC



As this advent season begins, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect all of our lives in so many ways. I am sure all of you are aware that in addition to the significant physical impacts of this virus, the concurrent tsunami of mental health issues that have arisen out of this chronic situation is sobering.

The spikes in anxiety, depression, addictions, domestic violence, and suicide are staggering! Millions are struggling with these issues in ways that we have never seen in modern mental health. The stress on mental health workers is mounting as this crisis seems to have no discernible end in sight.

“I was standing today in the dark toolshed. The sun was shining outside and through the crack at the top of the door there came a sunbeam. From where I stood that beam of light, with the specks of dust floating in it, was the most striking thing in the place. Everything else was almost pitch black. I was seeing the beam, not seeing things by it. Then I moved, so that the beam fell on my eyes. Instantly the whole previous picture vanished. I saw no toolshed, and (above all) no beam. Instead I saw, framed in the irregular cranny at the top of the door, green leaves moving on the branches of a tree outside and beyond that, ninety-odd million miles away, the sun. Looking along the beam, and looking at the beam are very different experiences.” 

                    –C.S. Lewis, The Business of Heaven

These words from C.S. Lewis offer us a perspective as we continue to face the reality of this pandemic as well as the profound social unrest which we are experiencing in our country. I trust these words will give us a valuable perspective that can assist us in persevering through these crises. May we find the grace not just to look at the beam but to look along the beam as it leads us upward toward the One who holds us and this world in His hands!
As I said in our last Compass, “let us dig deep into our relationship with God, trusting him and leaning into him as our source of security comfort and joy. Let us also be generous in extending encouragement, comfort, physical, emotional and spiritual assistance to those around us who are in need.”
Blessing to all! †



“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute,
if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”

Philippians 4:6-8

from the

William T. Wood, Chairman

As we draw near to the end of our 20th year of ministry, we are counting the many ways we have been blessed.  We are grateful for your generosity toward Trinity Counseling, especially for your “virtual” participation at our 8th annual fundraiser:  A Virtual Tacos for Trinity.  Although COVID-19 has mandated social distancing and mask wearing, your generous sponsorships and virtual silent auction bids made our benefit successful beyond what we could have imagined an online event would accomplish!  We are especially grateful, and offer a big thank you, to Gracie Small, who, with the help of volunteers from our Board of Influencers, produced an amazing event!  


In a year marked with so many life altering, unsettling trials and consequences related to COVID-19, we at Trinity have seen an ever-increasing number of those in mental health distress but without the means to afford help.   The needs are great.  We have clients who have never requested help before but in the unstable economy have now lost jobs or had a salary reduction, or whose children and marriages are suddenly in precarious situations.  Fear of the unknown can be a powerful thing.  Our prayer at Trinity is that any who walk in our door, will know that they will not be turned away.  That they will feel sheltered and offered help to walk through their circumstances as promised in Psalm 91:4: 

“He will shield you with His wings!  They will shelter you.  His faithful promises are your armor and protection.” (The Living Bible)   


It is a privilege to serve those in need and we want to be able to stand in the gap for any who ask for help.  As 2020 draws to a close, please prayerfully consider that there are many who continue to struggle and you can provide a way for them to be sheltered and helped on their way.

Thank you for all you continue to provide us through your prayers and financial support. Bless you all! †

"Grief, Interrupted by Covid-19"  | BY MARJEAN BROOKS

*This article originally appeared in The Gospel Coalition, June 3, 2020:

A letter came. The nursing home in Kansas City was closing its doors to outsiders, including family members due to a coronavirus case. My 92-year-old mother, Ella Marie, lived there in a private room.

Would that protect her?

My sister, Dalene, hurried to visit before the rule went into effect. Mom cried as she read the official letter. She listened to the news constantly and knew about the pandemic. My brother, Dwight, and I had quick FaceTime calls with her. Our youngest brother, Doug, sped on the 45-mile trip to get there in time. 

“Oh, I’m so glad you’re here!” Mom repeated over and over, holding his hand the entire visit. We all knew it could be the last time we saw her. Two weeks later, she struggled with a bad chest cold and was tested for possible illnesses. She tested positive for bronchitis on Thursday. And on Friday, for COVID-19.


Late Saturday afternoon, she was gone. 


Hearts wrenched in pain, we tried to wrap our minds around what had just happened. Nothing made sense. Nothing fit the scenario for a normal death. None of us was there by her side. Instead, we sat in our homes apart—Doug in Kansas, Dalene in Missouri, Dwight in Iowa, and me in Alabama—stunned.


A Zoom call was the only thing that brought us together. 


We knew Mom was ready to die. She’d made amends and given away possessions. She longed for heaven, to be freed from a ravaged mind and twisted body caused by two strokes. We’d grieved often over her lying in bed, immovable, day after day. She’d already lived longer than any of us would have predicted. We were prepared for her to go.


But not like this. 


We did what we could, remotely. Dalene handled calls and sent clothes she’d kept for this purpose. Dwight, a pastor, contacted the church and arranged a graveside service. I called a florist to design a blanket of pink roses and white hydrangeas for the casket. Doug prepared to make the four-hour drive to the cemetery and practiced the song he’d play. Together, we wrote her obituary.

Stolen from us were the normal steps of grieving. We couldn’t gather as a family. We couldn’t receive hugs from adult children and grandchildren, even if they lived nearby. Everyone was sequestered in their homes for fear of an invisible enemy. A few family members and friends chanced a visit, but most stayed away due to social distancing. 


The sense of isolation was crushing.


I learned a term for what we experienced: interrupted grief. This happens when circumstances separate family members, not only from the dying, but from the normal processes of grief. Those who lost loved ones in war, natural disaster or on 9/11 hold memorial ceremonies for some closure. Others, whose kidnapped children are never found live with open-ended grief with no resolution. Friends often don’t know what to say or not say. It’s bereavement overload. Communal loss. Exaggerated grief.


And COVID-19 branded its own form.


We couldn’t gather around Mom’s bedside to say goodbye. We couldn’t meet to talk about her final wishes, to decide how to bury someone in the midst of a pandemic and honor her edict against cremation. We couldn’t go to her room, pack remaining belongings, and reminisce about her peculiarities and wry sense of humor. Both her room and her physical body were contaminated—another blow. Her body was placed in a sealed casket. The room was fumigated and closed for days before suited attendants packed everything for pickup. 


Cold, impersonal, devoid of comfort.


A few mercies came in the midst of mourning. A caring hospice worker attended Mom at the end and shared the story of her last minutes with us on another Zoom call. The funeral director from the small midwestern town arranged to transport her body on the five-hour trip and bury her next to Dad. 


A service in Mom’s childhood church was postponed. Only Doug would attend graveside. Because of national restrictions, a pastor and eight mourners comprised those present. Nieces and nephews who lived nearby stood six feet apart in the graveyard, a stark picture of social distancing. Photos came to us one by one—due to unavailability of WiFi, the service was sent in live snapshots and on video when concluded. 




My siblings and I sat alone at a computer or followed the service on our phones in various locations: a home workshop, a living room, and a Chick-fil-A line. I tried to eat but threw away half the food. How could we be sitting in our homes as our mother was buried? We couldn’t comprehend it, even though our reasons for staying away were serious. Travel was discouraged. 

Several of us were immunocompromised. 


We couldn’t chance the possibility of catching the virus ourselves. 


After viewing the graveside video, three of us gathered on Zoom with a glass of wine while Doug traveled back. We shared our relief that Mom was no longer suffering. We talked about the anguish of not standing on the Kansas soil, listening to the words and music as the wind swept our grief across the plains. Not being able to revisit Dad’s grave. Not walking around the cemetery, once again noting how many ancestors shared common ground. Not shedding tears as her body lowered to its final rest.


Not saying goodbye, again.


During the short service, Doug stood with shirt sleeves rolled and his dog, Wyatt, at his feet. He used to take Wyatt into Mom’s room in the nursing home, making her giggle. The pastor spoke words of comfort through Scripture and liturgy and offered a prayer. Then Doug lifted his autoharp upright, fingerpicks on his right hand.


He spoke: “I learned this hymn while sitting next to Mom in church. It seems fitting.” 

The melody of “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling“ pronounced a benediction on bowed heads. The youngest of the family stood alone, representing us all. Simple. Poignant. Honoring. 




As I looked at the photo of the mourners standing six feet apart surrounding her grave, my perspective began to change. Instead of appearing stark, I saw them encircling her with love and respect.  


It fit her personality. No frills. Only her side of the family present. Her youngest son serenading her homecoming to Kansas, back to the side of her husband of 70 years. They’d shared everything in life and now in death. A single headstone with both their names and an etching: “Our children—Dalene, Marjean, Dwight and Douglas.” 


We were there, after all.

Client Reflections

The ministry provided by Trinity as well as its scholarships for counseling, make an authenticated difference in individual lives, relationships, families and consequently to the community at large. The following are reflections on things learned as well as letters of thanks from some of those who have received the scholarships that your gifts have enabled!   We pray that as you read them, you will be moved to continue your support of this valuable ministry.

"I was in counseling with Trinity 20 years ago.  It was a long haul. Not only did this experience increase my faith.  It taught me coping skills and ways to navigate thru deep waters, how to live life better. I am 75.  Within the past 8 months my husband of 20 years has left, I have dealt with COVID19, and have just been diagnosed with two debilitating diseases. More than ever, His blessings are new every morning.  I have much work to do before I join Him. I meet every day with gladness, and thank Him for the years to come, as I intend to make the best of them."

•     Trinity Counseling is one of the most unique counseling practices I have seen.  Providing help for those who are unable to pay for the services has always inspired me about Trinity.  I want to help someone to  find the hope, security, and peace that only God can bring through the counselors there at Trinity.


•     You all were a great influence on my life at a pretty critical part of my development, and I have always appreciated that.  I’ve been in therapy off and on over the years as needed, and I’ve seen good and bad examples of how it ought to go.  You should know that as my first therapist you set the bar really high, and only a couple of other counselors have reached that high water mark.  I think the inclusion of the spiritual side of life in your counseling was a hallmark of why it has always been so meaningful to me.

For more information on services and programs, forward inquiries to: 

 Trinity Counseling • 1025 Montgomery Highway, Suite 214 • Birmingham, Alabama 35216

Phone: 205.822.2730  Website:

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Trinity Counseling, Inc · 1025 Montgomery Hwy Ste 214 · Vestavia Hills, AL 35216-2830 · USA

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