In the brokenness of 2020, I picked up “ From Burned out to Beloved” by an author unknown to me, Bethany Dearborn Hiser. Within the first few chapters, she captured my heart and it felt like she’d been watching parts of my life, I related so well to her story. She tells it better than I could, so I won’t try and summarise it, but in essence, her work as a social worker, jail chaplain and justice advocate exposed her to a lot of vicarious trauma.

“It is the trauma that comes with repeatedly hearing the stories of and working with people in crisis.”

From “From Burned Out to Beloved” by Bethany Dearhorn Hiser

This trauma, coupled with the need to help others, brought her to burn out. It is her journey from that low point through to beloved which she explores in this book with deep compassion and so much empathy for others like her, She explains the outline of the book as follows

“We will first look at the importance of living out of our identity as beloved children of God and of welcoming our woundedness. In part two, we’ll look at some barriers to caring for ourselves: the effects of secondary trauma, codependency, unmet needs, and personal beliefs. In part three, we’ll delve into ways of pursuing recovery. In part four, we’ll focus on learning to thrive in our work. Each chapter includes exercises to choose from in order to take small steps toward change. In the appendices you’ll find grounding practices and listening prayer exercises to aid in your work of recovery and healing.”

From “From Burned Out to Beloved” by Bethany Dearhorn Hiser

Bethany delivers on each of these and more. Her life experience and training give her unique and poignant insights into the difficulties experienced in working through these symptoms. She explains the impact of continuing to work instead of heeding the warning signs

“When such patterns continue, they often lead to utter exhaustion and even symptoms of post-traumatic stress. Some feel so disillusioned and disheartened that they leave their work or ministry—and even their faith.”

From “From Burned Out to Beloved” by Bethany Dearhorn Hiser

Having built a rapport with the reader, once she has you nodding and saying “me too!”, she gently takes one’s hand and explains how to move forward. I loved these lines:

“Our own angst at seeing someone in pain may drive our actions, instead of us being led by God. We’re invited to grieve with and not try to fix others..”

From “From Burned Out to Beloved” by Bethany Dearhorn Hiser

It is far easier to try and fix than to weep with those who weep. This has been a year, now more than 2020, of not being able to fix anything or control much. COVID-19 has run roughshod over our desires to be with others and make their world better by doing something. We have been schooled in being. In the absence of doing, and in the pause, we’ve had to face the trauma of past and present.

“At times, we may experience rapid change and inner healing, but more often we grow through incremental change. We extend grace to ourselves day by day as new layers are revealed. We forget, make mistakes, and even relapse into old behavior. All of this is part of recovery.”

From “From Burned Out to Beloved” by Bethany Dearhorn Hiser

It is this incremental change that Bethany shares many practices and guidelines on. Meditations, reflections and books are offered as options. She invites us to choose one small thing to incorporate, that fits with us. I love the tailored and nuanced approach. Before I concluded reading the book, I started following Bethany on social media and have enjoyed her take on the ever more surreal news reel we have seen.

If you love the first 10% of this book, you’ll love all of it. It is challenging and caring in equal measure and I highly recommend it, it’s a five out of five on the enJOYment scale.

From the back cover:

As a social worker, jail chaplain, and justice advocate, Bethany Dearborn Hiser pushed herself to the brink of burnout—and then kept going. Stress, despair, and compassion fatigue overwhelmed her ability to function. She was called to serve the abused, addicted, and homeless people in her community. Yet she was emotionally and spiritually exhausted. Something needed to change. Searching for answers, Hiser learned that trauma affects everyone who is exposed to it—not only those experiencing it firsthand. Psychologists call it “secondary trauma.” She realized that she needed the very soul care that she was providing to others. From Burned Out to Beloved is Hiser’s story of burnout, self-discovery, and spiritual renewal. But more than that, it’s a trauma-informed soul care guide for all Christians working in high-stress, helping professions. Whether you’re a social worker, therapist, pastor, teacher, or healthcare professional, From Burned Out to Beloved will equip you to confess your limitations, embrace your identity as a beloved child of God, and flourish in your vocation.

I received a complimentary copy of the book from InterVarsity Press through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

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