FATHER’S DAY – TAKING STOCK

As Father’s Day approaches, it is a natural time to take stock. It can be a day of joy and time with family. For many it can be a time of beautiful memories of one’s own dad. Or, on the other side of that, the day can dredge up past hurts, missed moments, or missed opportunities.

This day, and others, can be especially trying if you have loss due to abortion. Unhealed and unrecovered, the day can bring up memories of what might have been and the pain associated with such a loss.

Whatever emotions and thoughts and memories come to you as a result of Father’s Day, one commonality exists: A Better You is a Better Dad. 

IMPACT OF PAST ABORTION(S) ON FATHERS

See, dad’s matter. Dads play an important role in the lives of their children. This is true whether you are intentional or play life on defense, simply reacting to life as it happens until one day you wonder where the time went. And it’s important to note here that you have dad value whether your kids are small and at home or grown adults living on their own. For men who have abortion(s) in their past, know that unhealed grief can impact how you parent your children. 

It did for me. 12 years after my first abortion loss, I was married and had two small children. It would be another nine years before I entered healing for my past abortions. Through that process, I began to chip away at the grief and pain and loss and shame. In time, I realized how my unhealed abortion losses were impacting my parenting of my three sons. 

Remember the line above about playing life on defense? That was me. Because of the pain and shame from the abortions, I wasn’t the dad I could have been. I was overprotective of my children. There was a deep, almost hidden place inside me that felt tremendous shame because I didn’t protect two children. 

I was also a perfectionist. Not directed at my sons, but at me. In my own eyes, I was never good enough as a dad. People would tell me what a good dad I was, and I’d wince internally. I thought if they knew about the abortions, they wouldn’t think that. And so I parented and lived on defense. I merely reacted to whatever happened. I hadn’t made the connection between my parenting shortcomings, my anxiety, and sometimes despair to the abortions from so long ago. 

The key is to be intentional. 

UGLY MONEY VERSUS PRETTY MONEY

Think for a moment about flipping a house. Even if you’ve never flipped a house yourself, you’ve seen the shows and understand the idea. When I was a contractor and worked with flippers and investors, we spoke often of where to spend the money. Do we spend the ugly money first or just focus on the pretty money?

Ugly money is the work that is essential for the health of the property, but not necessarily seen by potential buyers. Think of things like foundation work, mechanical systems, plumbing, roofing, insulation…you get the idea. We NEED to spend that money first. It truly is a matter of quality and longevity. 

Pretty money is the things that show up in photos online. New flooring (gray vinyl plank, please), Agreeable Gray walls, granite countertops, and new cabinets. I’m not saying these things aren’t important, but I am saying the pretty money shouldn’t be of first importance. 

It’s the same with you, dad. 

You can focus on six-pack abs, $75 haircuts, expensive clothes, and white teeth. Nothing wrong with any of that. But how’s your mental health? How are you doing emotionally? Do you talk to anyone about your problems or feelings? How about your physical health? Do you think about what you eat and getting regular exercise?

If you answered no to the ugly money items, your decisions are impacting your kids. 

MODELING MENTAL HEALTH – OR NOT – IMPACTS YOUR KIDS

To quote Charles Kettering, “Every father should remember one day his son will follow his example, not his advice.” 

Said another way, Dr Craig F. Garfield, MD, in an article titled “Modern-Day Fatherhood and the Health of Dads” said, “There’s a small but definitely growing body of literature on fathers that shows that, cognitively, children who have involved fathers have better linguistic abilities, they have higher academic readiness. And, ultimately, higher academic achievement. Socioemotionally, they have better coping, show more maturity and more prosocial behaviors and have secure attachments.” 

Need more proof? In a report released by the National Library of Medicine, they found that children are 2.6 times more likely to have poor mental health if their dads do. They stated that around 16% of all US children are in poor overall health. 

They also noted that 80% of chronic mental health disorders begin in childhood. If you, as a dad, have unhealed wounds, unaddressed grief, or buried trauma, it is absolutely impacting the mental health of your children. And the loss of a child to abortion can, and often does, amplify mental health.

So you’ve read this far. You’re on board. Your eyes are open. You see the value in taking care of yourself, or maybe you always have. But how?

We actually have some information about that.

HOW TO BE A HEALTHY DAD

An article published by Medibank discusses “The Five Keys to Being a Healthy Dad.” The article talks about things like keeping your mind active, keeping your body moving, eating more home cooked meals, being mindful of sleep habits, and a big one for many men: asking for help. 

ASKING FOR HELP

This last item comes up over and over in articles I read, videos I watch, and conversations I have. We’re not going to delve into all of that here. But I will say, it is wildly important to reach out for help. 

I took such an opportunity during my annual fishing trip with three close friends from childhood. I spilled the beans on all I had been dealing with. As I finished and looked around the boat, I saw looks of surprise and shock. No one knew, and they all chastised me for not saying anything. They were right. But I fell into an old pattern of “I can handle it,” which is a lie we tell ourselves. 

So I talked with them, and they with me. When I returned, I reached out to a pastor friend of mine and had coffee. I talked to another friend who is wise and a great listener. No one fixed it. No one had a “you gotta do this” response. I just needed to talk about it openly and honestly. And when I asked for advice, they gave it in a non-judgmental way. 

HEALING IS A  JOURNEY

As I mentioned, it was 21 years after my first abortion loss that I finally started a healing journey. I was in a book group with about 13 other men. I felt compelled one night to share about my abortion loss. I was scared. I knew these guys, and none of them talked about abortion. But when I finally shared, something wild happened. There were three other men who then shared their stories of abortion loss. 

I immediately felt excitement that I wasn’t alone. And I was so ready to start a healing journey. As I began reading books and sorting through my abortion loss, I also thought about my own kids. As I learned about pain and unhealed grief and how both inform decisions and ways of interacting with my children, and I felt an almost panic-like feeling. 

They were getting older and growing up. I thought the problems they had were my fault. I believed I was responsible. It was my fault. And it was too late. There was nothing I could do now. My abortion wound had hurt my sons. (more on anxiety issues later)

SMALL CHANGES MAKE A RADICAL DIFFERENCE

But then I learned that small changes add up to big changes. And I learned that no matter one’s age or the age of one’s children, it’s never too late to change and grow and lead with that example. 

In a book I reread every January, The Compound Effect, author Darren Hardy says, “Small, smart choices + consistency + time = radical difference.” So let’s look at how that might begin practically with “The Five Keys to Being a Healthy Dad” from the Medibank article I mentioned earlier. 

You start your first Day of Change by reading just 10 pages in the morning with your coffee or tea. Maybe after work you walk a few blocks around your neighborhood. Let’s just say you walk 20 minutes (around a mile at a slow pace). For dinner, you eat real food you prepared. You end the day by going to bed at a time that gives you the sleep you need. 

Not too radical…right?

But your kids see these changes. And, more importantly, they see the effects over time. In a year, you’ve read 2,500 pages (if you take weekends off). That’s roughly 15-22 books. You’ve walked 255 miles (again, taking weekends off) and saved thousands on food…and eaten better food. And again, your kids will notice. Remember the Kettering quote?

UNRAVELING THE ROOTS BEHIND DAMAGING BEHAVIORS 

So my abortion healing journey began 15 years ago. My sons are all now adults. And I – and they – continue to grow. For me, like many men I’ve worked with over the years, once I found a bit of healing from abortion loss, I began to see other things more clearly. 

I got in touch with my anxiety issues a couple of years into abortion healing. I know men who realized addictions they had never thought about. Others got in touch with childhood abuse or abandonment issues. And that’s what the healing journey looks like. We deal with what’s immediately in front of us and then the next thing and then the next. 

When I first read Unraveled Roots: Exposing the Hidden Causes of Damaging Behaviors, I knew the authors were onto something. There was a simple honesty to the book’s exploration of childhood issues of abandonment, abuse, addiction, and codependency.

It was apparent to many of us at Support After Abortion that a version geared toward men was needed. Thus Unraveled Roots for Men: 4 Causes of Damaging Behaviors was born. And in it’s short time in print, it has already started bearing fruit. Why? Because it’s ugly money more men need to spend. 

And men are waking up to the fact that their mental, physical, and emotional health matters. Men are seeing that their feelings about an abortion loss are valid. And men are starting to realize that sometimes we have to deal with the past to create the future we want for ourselves and our families. 

CONCLUSION

The thing is, your self-care matters. It matters to you, your kids, and the generations that follow you. You will be a better dad if you work on these five areas: keeping your mind active and body moving, maintaining healthy eating and sleeping habits, and asking for help. Consider putting some ugly money into digging into the roots of your behaviors. You can get help working through that with someone or in a group, or on your own with our self-guided Unraveled Roots for Men options including a video series.You’re needed, dad. Your family needs you, as does the next generation. 

I’ll leave you with one final quote from Charles Budington Kelland. Absorb the truth in it. Let it guide your steps: “My father didn’t tell me how to live. He lived and let me watch him do it.” 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Greg serves as Men’s Healing Strategist for Support After Abortion and is the author of “Unraveled Roots for Men: 4 Causes of Damaging Behaviors” and “Almost Daddy: The Forgotten Story.” Greg’s hands-on expertise as a carpenter and home builder infuses his insights with practicality and groundedness. Drawing on his own battles and three decades of recovery work, he loves walking alongside men to navigate the complex terrains of transformative healing.

© Support After Abortion