A Better You is a Better Dad

A Better You is a Better Dad


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

Mother’s Day After Abortion: 6 Insights for Navigating Emotions & Healing

Mother’s Day After Abortion: 6 Insights for Navigating Emotions & Healing

Mother’s Day can be a holiday fraught with emotion for those who have experienced loss related to motherhood. People may feel stuck in the middle of roses and spa ads while they don’t have their mom with them any longer, or they suffer from infertility and cannot have kids, or have experienced miscarriages. 

Or maybe they have experienced abortion, and Mother’s Day just isn’t something they can or want to handle. Reproductive experiences such as abortion can be very complicated, and it’s not something our society freely discusses. 

Some women are not affected by Mother’s Day, such as one mom of three whose abortion was decades ago and another who had an abortion as a teen. Both said that they don’t relate to struggling with Mother’s Day. 

Other women who have experienced abortion sometimes really dread Mother’s Day, such as these women who posted anonymously in a social media group:

– When people wish me a Happy Mother’s Day, it makes my skin crawl. It isn’t a happy day for me. I have a child who makes me so happy. But part of me won’t ever be complete because of the two children who aren’t with me because of my abortions. Mother’s Day is very uncomfortable.

– My abortion was almost 30 years ago, and I still struggle with the loss on the due date, the abortion date, and especially on Mother’s Day. I was a single mom with four young kids. I had no support and just couldn’t see how I could manage another baby. These anniversary dates can be so hard.

We’ll talk here about some of those emotions and how to navigate Mother’s Day if you’re unsure about how you feel or just want to run and hide that day. We’ll also give you a few tips on how to approach the holiday with someone close to you who is struggling after abortion.

1 – EMOTIONS AROUND MOTHER’S DAY VARY WIDELY 

There are a wide variety of emotions and feelings that can follow abortion experiences. Sometimes these show up right away and other times, they take weeks, months, or years to appear. And for some women, they don’t ever appear. 

These are some common emotions following abortion: 

  • Relief
  • Grief
  • Regret
  • Anger 
  • Sadness
  • Guilt
  • Loneliness 
  • Depression

If you’re feeling any of these emotions, it’s normal. Perhaps you feel like some of these clients:

– At first I was fine after my abortion and went back to my everyday life. But then feelings of regret and guilt hit me. I thought I made the best decision I could, so I was surprised and shocked to feel regret. I feel empty and like what’s the point of life now. – Client

– I feel regret, shame, and darkness around me. I put on a happy face, but inside I wanted to cry all day. My friends don’t understand, and I don’t want to tell my family. So I feel alone. I function daily and act like everything’s fine, but I am not okay. – Client

– I’m experiencing major waves of grief over my abortion. It’s affected me so much. I feel so depressed. – Client

– I feel empty, sad, and angry. I was dealing with a divorce, abusive ex, and single parenting two other kids. It broke my heart, but I felt I had no other choice. I still feel so alone. I don’t want to resort to substances to cope. I need to talk to someone. – Client

If you want to talk to someone confidentially about how you’re feeling or just need a listening ear, you can always reach out to our After Abortion Line by online chat, text, phone, or through Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok messaging.

2 – MOTHER’S DAY AFTER ABORTION WITH KIDS AND FAMILY CAN BRING MIXED EMOTIONS

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 60% of women who have an abortion are already mothers with “one or more children.” 

They’ve likely celebrated Mother’s Day at least once, sometimes many more times. They’ve maybe received sentimental gifts from their kids and/or partner. If they are feeling regret, anger, depression, or any other negative emotion after their abortion, celebrating Mother’s Day could end up being truly a dreaded day. 

Mother’s Day, for them, can come with very mixed emotions. They may want to celebrate Mother’s Day with their children, but feel regret about their child(ren) not with them. Whatever they are feeling is valid. Again, after-abortion emotions can vary widely. 

One mom shared:

I don’t know how to manage Mother’s Day this year. I have an older child as well, but I just feel depressed thinking about celebrating. I was going to make a cake, but I’m not sure I’m up for it. 

Another talked about emotionally challenging family events:

– The first Mother’s Day after my abortion was more triggering than I thought it would be. My family supported my decision. But that Mother’s Day, they celebrated together, and my sister announced her pregnancy. While I was happy for her, watching everyone’s excitement for her made me feel sad. I wish I had a support group to talk about how this heavy, life-changing decision stays with us.

3 – MOTHER’S DAY AFTER ABORTION AT CHURCH CAN BE CHALLENGING

Many churches have special prayers and acknowledgements for mothers on Mother’s Day, which always falls on a Sunday. One woman shared that for years after her abortion she avoided church on Mother’s Day because the joyfully-spoken request for all mothers to stand and be recognized was too painful. 

For women who practice a faith, they may feel lost when it comes time for that mother’s blessing at church. Do they stand up and be acknowledged as mothers even if they don’t have children with them? Do they want to deal with questions from fellow churchgoers asking where their kids are? 

Or do they feel sorrow about their abortion experience and inwardly cringe when a blessing is given to seemingly happy mothers around them? 

What about when blessings and prayers are given to women who have lost babies through miscarriage or stillbirth, but abortion is never mentioned? 

Mother’s Day can be a minefield for women who have experienced abortion, especially in churches on that Sunday. For women who have experienced abortion, we see you and acknowledge your emotions. They are valid. 

And for those in churches who give blessings on Mother’s Day, offering prayers for all women who have suffered reproductive loss of any kind can go a long way towards offering healing for women who have experienced abortion. They need to be seen and prayed for also. 

4 – AVOIDING MOTHER’S DAY MAY NOT BE THE HEALTHIEST OPTION

Avoiding Mother’s Day altogether may not be a sustainable solution to the complex emotions many individuals face, particularly those who have experienced abortion. While society’s attempts to be sensitive are well-intentioned, they risk perpetuating a culture of avoidance rather than encouraging healthy processing of emotions. An example of this trend is the recent surge in emails offering the option to unsubscribe from Mother’s Day content, effectively allowing people to opt out of acknowledging the holiday altogether. 

However, by offering such opt-out options, we may inadvertently discourage individuals from confronting and processing their feelings surrounding Mother’s Day, including those related to abortion. Perhaps instead of avoiding sensitive topics and times, we should strive to create spaces and conversations where people feel supported in exploring and navigating their emotions in a healthy and constructive manner.

Talking about these feelings more openly can help others realize that they are not alone. The need for such connections is evident in these queries on a chat board:

– Does Mother’s Day make anyone else feel weird after their abortion? I feel sad that I won’t be “celebrating” Mother’s day… ever… because that baby is no longer here and I am no longer going to be his mother. I feel like I don’t have the right to be sad or feel these emotions.

– Is it wrong that I want to celebrate Mother’s Day even though I chose to terminate? I still love my angel baby, but it wasn’t the right time. 

– I didn’t expect Mother’s Day to trigger my feelings about my abortion, but it did. I know I made the best decision I could, but it still hurts. Anyone else feeling a bit triggered?

– I haven’t planned anything for my mom yet and I feel guilty, but I also cry every time I think about Mother’s Day since my abortion. Honestly I just want to spend it crying in bed instead of pretending to be happy. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to cope or what I can do to honor the baby? Should I even try, or will that make it worse?

5 – IDEAS FOR COPING WITH MOTHER’S DAY AFTER ABORTION

If you have experienced abortion, and if you are going through negative emotions about your experience(s), how do you navigate Mother’s Day? 

One of the best ways to handle Mother’s Day if you are approaching that Sunday with trepidation is to get ahead of it. Make an appointment with your mental health provider. Give us a call or text at Support After Abortion. Talk to a trusted family member or friend who can just listen to you. This can all help to put you in a better spot mentally and emotionally as Mother’s Day approaches. 

One woman who experienced abortion and went through one of the healing programs offered by Support After Abortion said, “A part of me would really love to do something to celebrate Mother’s Day, but I don’t know what that would look like exactly. Maybe this year I’ll plant a flower or do something to memorialize my baby in some small way.”

Some suggestions offered in online sharing forums include:

– I spent my first Mother’s Day since my abortion getting a new tattoo in memory of my baby.

– I buy forget-me-not flowers on Mother’s Day.

One woman offered coping tips like relaxing in a bath, enjoying a favorite treat, doing a random act of kindness for someone. She ended with, “No matter what you choose to do, I hope it brings you some joy and peace!”

And this woman’s post illustrates the struggle:

– Does anyone have tips on how to handle Mother’s Day? The first Mother’s Day after my abortion was really bad for me. I went out of town with a friend for the weekend, but it didn’t help. I’m trying to decide how to handle it this year. I’ve decided not to spend it with my mom because I don’t want any reminder that it’s Mother’s Day. Should I just treat it like any other Sunday? Should I turn off my phone and avoid social media? Should I spend it with friends? 

For those who have not experienced abortion but who may be close to someone who has, it’s okay to ask them how they would like the day to be acknowledged. It may be to not acknowledge Mother’s Day at all, which is absolutely fine. Or she may want to talk about her abortion experience or take a walk in the woods. You might consider sending a card. Support After Abortion offers a selection of free, printable cards. Everyone experiences abortion differently and sometimes it’s just really nice to know someone is in your corner and ready to listen. 

6 – HEALING AFTER ABORTION IS EMPOWERING

Support After Abortion offers several free resources for anyone – women, men, parents, siblings, grandparents, friends – affected by abortion and looking for help. 

Here is how a few clients described the impact of abortion healing in their lives:

– Reaching out, getting support, and finding healing after my abortions changed my life, saved my life. It was the most important thing I’ve ever done. – Client

– Support After Abortion provided exactly what I needed. They gave me the opportunity to have a safe place where I could share not only what I am struggling with, but also a place to celebrate the hard work I’ve been putting into healing. I finally feel like I am not alone. I am thankful beyond belief. – Client

– I am so grateful for the opportunity to be in the Keys to Hope and Healing group. I have been able to talk about my abortion experience with others who understand me. I was ashamed and embarrassed to admit that I was not ok. Then I found Support After Abortion and called the After Abortion Line. If it weren’t for them, I’m not sure how I would have gotten out of the darkness I was in. They listened and connected me to a virtual group. I am beyond thankful for this opportunity, for this healing journey. – Client

Reach out to our After Abortion Line by online chat, phone, text, email, or messaging on Facebook or Instagram. We offer free, confidential, compassionate support. We can connect you to the healing resource that best meets your preferences. That may be one-on-one, group, or independent; counseling or peer facilitator; virtual, in person, or self-guided; religious or secular; weekend, weekly, or self-paced, etc. Check out our website for information, videos, self-guided healing, and more for women and men.

Keys to Hope and Healing is an introductory abortion healing resource available for women and men, in English and Spanish, religious and secular versions. Resources include booklets, journals, facilitator’s guide, training videos, and self-guided healing for women and men.

DO YOU – OR WOULD YOU LIKE TO – PROVIDE AFTER-ABORTION SUPPORT?

Explore our Provider Training Center and attend our free monthly Abortion Healing Provider webinars, Men’s Healing Matters webinars, and Quarterly Facilitator Trainings.

© Support After Abortion

 

HAS YOUR MENTAL HEALTH SUFFERED AFTER YOUR ABORTION EXPERIENCE(S)?

HAS YOUR MENTAL HEALTH SUFFERED AFTER YOUR ABORTION EXPERIENCE(S)?

 

Did you know that April is Abortion Healing Recovery Month? You may be wondering why a month has been dedicated to healing from a fairly common decision in our country. Or you may be breathing a sigh of relief that you’re not alone in feeling like you need healing from your abortion experience(s). Either way, Support After Abortion can help walk those who desire support through some of the more common emotions following abortion. Let’s discuss why people may need healing and how to go about finding the healing that so many people desire. 

THE NEED FOR HEALING AFTER ABORTION

Thankfully, mental health is taken seriously in our culture and people are often encouraged to get the help they need. 

But sometimes, the grief, anger, regret, or other emotional challenges that follow abortion for some women and men aren’t as easily discussed publicly. This can make people who have gone through those emotions or who are currently battling them, feel alone. We are here for you and you don’t have to go through any of this alone. 

Abortion is experienced by about 25% of women and 20% of men (through a partner’s termination of pregnancy) by the time they reach their 45th birthday. In our research, 34% of women and 71% of men reported negative experiences afterwards like depression, sadness, and grief. Our studies also showed that only 18% of women and men knew where to go for help. Support After Abortion estimates that about 100,000 people, at the most, receive healing worldwide per year. That leaves millions of people desiring after-abortion support but having no idea where to turn. 

There are certainly people who feel fine after their abortion experiences or, if they do experience some negative emotions, they are able to move on with their lives. And others have a harder time doing so. 

COMMON EMOTIONS FOLLOWING ABORTION EXPERIENCES

There are a wide variety of emotions that can follow abortion experiences. Sometimes these show up right away and other times, they take weeks, months, or years to appear. 

Some emotions that our clients and research participants commonly name include grief, depression, regret, anger, sadness, guilt, and loneliness. Sometimes these emotions can lead to damaging behaviors like substance abuse, anger issues, and more severe depression. 

– I’m struggling mentally. I’m so stressed out and feel really depressed. I’m having nightmares, trouble sleeping, and anxiety. I keep getting flashbacks. And I have so much guilt and anger. I would love to get help, someone I could talk to. – Client

– I need emotional support. It’s been really rough since my abortion. I have no motivation to get out of bed. I’m sad, anxious, and cry a lot. – Client

– I don’t regret my decision to terminate. But I’m experiencing guilt, conflicting emotions, and loneliness. And I feel like I can’t talk about it since it was my decision. – Client

– It’s the 20th anniversary of my abortion, and it’s been hard. I feel so sad about it and don’t have anyone to talk to. Everyone says it was the right choice and I should move on. I just wish someone would understand or acknowledge how awful I feel about it. Do others feel this way? Is it common to have these feelings so long afterwards? – Client

Many share that they feel stuck emotionally. This is common, and it’s ok to ask for help. 

OTHERS WHO ARE IMPACTED BY ABORTION

The ripple effect of abortion can extend beyond the woman and man involved. This can impact family and friends, as well. 

GRANDPARENTS AND ABORTION 

Grandparents can also struggle when their son or daughter is impacted by abortion, such as these clients: 

– I’m not sure where to get support. My grandchild was aborted yesterday, and we’re absolutely shattered. My son and we begged to support her and the baby or to raise the child. I don’t know if my son will ever be okay. Please tell me what to do for him and for us. – Grandmother

– My son is suffering from depression and anxiety after his then-girlfriend had an abortion. The decision was mutual, but he’s suffering pretty badly. He asked me to help him find a therapist he can talk to. – Grandfather

– Our whole family has been impacted by this, and it has been very difficult and relationships are very strained. I don’t know how to help my daughter since her abortion or what to do to deal with all this. – Grandmother

Grandparents are often concerned when they see their son or daughter struggling after an abortion and want to know where to go for help. 

HOW TO HEAL EMOTIONALLY AFTER ABORTION

Support After Abortion offers several free resources for anyone – women, men, parents, siblings, grandparents, friends – affected by abortion and desiring support. Reach out to our After Abortion Line by online chat, phone, text, email, or messaging on Facebook or Instagram. We offer free, confidential, compassionate support. We can connect you to the healing resource that best meets your preferences. Check out our website!

Keys to Hope and Healing, which is an introductory abortion healing resource available for women and men, in English and Spanish, religious and secular versions. Resources include booklets, journals, facilitator’s guide, training videos, and self-guided healing for women and men.

DO YOU – OR WOULD YOU LIKE TO – PROVIDE AFTER-ABORTION SUPPORT?

Explore our Provider Training Center and attend our free monthly Abortion Healing Provider webinars, Men’s Healing Matters webinars, and Quarterly Facilitator Trainings.

© Support After Abortion

 

The Male Volunteer

The Male Volunteer

INTRO

In our April 10th, Men’s Healing Matters webinar, Greg Mayo, Men’s Healing Strategist at Support After Abortion, discussed The Male Volunteer and various aspects as it relates to who they are, reasons they don’t volunteer more, and methods for equipping them with the necessary tools for success. 

THE DATA

“In regards to the male volunteer, the first thing we need to do is establish a little bit of context.” Greg shared a study from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics which found that women are 30% more likely to volunteer than men. The statistics also showed that volunteering among men spikes right after high school and then picks up again between the ages of 40 and 45. Greg discussed various reasons for why volunteerism is more likely to occur at those times in a man’s life. He suggested that after high school, a man could have more free time or need volunteer experience, and reasoned that between the ages of 40 and 50, household responsibilities could be lessened as children grow and become more autonomous. “What about the gap in the middle?,” Greg asked and continued by stating, “Many are working, raising families, and just busy with life.”

Greg shared the three key areas that men volunteer in. According to the data, 33% serve in religious organizations, where they take on tasks like mowing, facility maintenance, or ushering. 18% volunteer with youth or recreational sport leagues as coaches or referees, and 15% get involved with social or community service organizations such as food pantries or The Boys and Girls Clubs. Greg pointed out that the common thread between these three sectors where men get involved the most is giving their time in areas where they’re actively doing something.  

WHY DON’T MEN VOLUNTEER?

“Why don’t men volunteer? I think that’s the question probably everybody listening right now has,” Greg said. Citing an article titled, Men in Social Service Volunteering, he explained that the first reason they don’t is because they haven’t thought of it, stating, “While it sounds simplistic, men typically just don’t think about volunteering.”  He continued explaining that men are often happy to help, but according to the article, because it may not occur to them, they need to be asked directly. He noted that the article also pointed out that the term volunteering doesn’t resonate with men. 

Greg shared the second reason that men don’t volunteer is because they believe it’s too hard to get started. He stated, “When I say it’s too hard to get started, what I mean is they don’t get a response from organizations that they reach out to and try to volunteer with, or there’s a really high bar for entry into volunteering.” He described how some organizations have lengthy processes that entail assessments and various tests, and while they may be necessary to fully develop a volunteer, looking for ways to shorten the process would be beneficial to getting more men involved. 

He told a story about a man he knew who was volunteering at a pregnancy resource center. Although the man had his own abortion healing story and was passionate about the cause, he had stopped volunteering there. When Greg asked him why, the man said that he had been giving his time for over six months, but had done nothing except take assessments, tests, and classes. The man commented, “I showed up to volunteer, not to take classes.” Greg said, “When we put a lot of spikes in the road on the way to a guy getting started, that’s a barrier.”

Greg went on to say the third reason that men don’t volunteer is they tend to prioritize work. He said, “Part of that is men are taught that a lot of their value is in their work and what they provide.” According to the article, studies suggest that women generally work fewer hours than men which makes women more likely to volunteer. However, “As times have changed, so has this pattern. Make the most of more stay-at-home dads and men with more flexible hours who may work from home.” 

Another reason Greg shared is that men feel they don’t have anything to offer a program. He explained how this idea can be perpetuated when men attempt to volunteer but are met with all-female messaging and marketing, stating, “If a man goes to volunteer anywhere, we already know more women volunteer than men, if all the volunteers are women, all the materials are for women, all the testimonials are from women, it just compounds the message that Hey, you’re a guy, you don’t have anything that we need here.” Greg asserted that if that is not the message we want to convey, then we must look at how we can change it to make men feel welcomed and wanted. 

HOW TO APPEAL TO THE MALE VOLUNTEER

“How do we appeal to male volunteers and get them to stay?” Greg asked. He cited the article Ten Ways to Appeal to Male Volunteers from The Volunteer Management Report, and said that the first way is to specifically ask them. He reiterated how events, marketing, and messaging mostly appeal to women, resulting in men assuming that women will sign-up to help. He explained that men need to know their help is needed, and this can best be done by directly inviting them to come. 

“The second thing is, put them to work. When a man shows up, give him something to do,” Greg said. He explained how this doesn’t mean pushing them into something they aren’t prepared for, such as talking to a male client in the waiting room, but rather giving them something they are capable of doing right away.

Greg said that the third way to appeal to men is to avoid “recruiting guilt trips.” He explained how this is when you try to make people feel bad to get them to volunteer. He went on to say that this will not result in getting the best out of someone, which leads to not serving clients in the best way. “You want to motivate them, not make them feel guilty,” the passage stated.

“Men like to fix things,” Greg said as he introduced the next way to appeal to men. Let them solve problems. “I’m not talking about board-level problems, but give them a problem. Let them find a solution.” When men can solve problems, they feel more involved and needed. 

Another way to appeal to male volunteers is to give clear directions. He stated that most men are goal-oriented and giving them clear direction on what is needed, when it’s needed, and why it’s needed will allow them to complete the task and feel accomplished.   

“The next thing is: use high energy,” Greg said. He explained that energy levels don’t have to be phony or over the top, but they can’t be somber either. He highlighted the energy that comes from sports and action movies that “gets guys riled up.” He stated, “They want to feel that energy, that sort of Braveheart moment where they’re going to go charging off.”

Greg went on to mention that another way to appeal to men is to offer something for free such as a t-shirt. He stated that although it may seem silly, guys like to know what to wear, everyone looks the same, and guys like free stuff.  

Greg stated that giving feedback appeals to men. He shared that men value knowing how they’re doing and that “they’re bringing value.” Explaining to them what needs to be done differently or what they are doing right keeps them from wondering whether they are being impactful and effective. 

Greg shared that another way to appeal to male volunteers is to be honest and authentic. He shared a personal lesson learned from his stepfather about the value of genuine interactions. Greg emphasized how sincerity fosters meaningful connections, echoing insights from previous interactions with other men’s ability to detect authenticity. He advised against pretense, encouraging genuine communication and interactions with volunteers. While promoting positivity, Greg underscored the significance of conveying praise and encouragement sincerely.

The last way Greg mentioned to appeal to male volunteers is to thank them. He pointed out how although it’s a simple thing, many men feel unseen and invisible, and showing gratitude goes a long way. He said, “Whether it’s volunteering or working 14 hours a day on an oil rig, they don’t feel like anybody cares. If you thank somebody, honestly just thank them, that will mean the world to that guy.” It’s important to acknowledge right away that you appreciate their being there and thank them for showing up.

IDEAL QUALITIES FOR A MALE VOLUNTEER

“Finding the right male volunteers is not throwing spaghetti against the wall and hoping it sticks,” Greg said. He emphasized the importance of properly vetting volunteers to ensure they are the right fit. He stated, “The male volunteer is not only representing your organization, but he is, for better or worse, for good or bad, impacting the clients that he serves.” Greg outlined seven qualities the ideal male volunteer possesses: consistency, authenticity, ability to listen, curiosity, an ability to connect, commitment to healing, and belief in the mission. 

The first quality Greg introduced was consistency. He highlighted how important it is to find male volunteers who will show up when they are supposed to, saying, “If he doesn’t show up, and you’ve got guys scheduled to come in and talk to him, you’re failing those clients. They’re not getting the help they need, so consistency is hugely important.” 

Next Greg shared that authenticity is another important quality for a male volunteer. He stressed that the ideal person must communicate authentically and be genuinely interested in the people he is serving. 

“The third thing is: He needs to have the ability to listen,” Greg said. He explained that we can learn pretty quickly during the interview process whether he knows how to listen or not. He suggested that there are times when a person could be coached, but for those who can’t, finding things for them to do that aren’t client-facing would be beneficial, emphasizing that the wrong volunteer can do more damage than good. 

Next Greg said that another quality a male volunteer should have is curiosity. “He needs to be naturally curious,” he said and highlighted that this doesn’t just apply to curiosity with clients, but they should be genuinely curious about the organization as well. Greg explained that in addition to being curious relative to clients, a healthy curiosity about what the organization is doing, what opportunities there are for him to serve in, or how he can improve and better himself are all important.  

“He needs to have the ability to connect with the men that he serves,” he continued, “Connection, consistency, authenticity, ability to listen, and curiosity, if he’s got those first four, he’s going to have the ability to connect with men.” Greg stated that the ability to connect is a crucial element in relationship building, especially in abortion healing. He said, “If he can connect with them and gain their trust, then he has a better opportunity of helping them walk the path of healing.”

Greg shared that another important quality for a male volunteer is that he be committed to his own healing. He stated that it doesn’t necessarily have to be abortion related. Everyone, whether they’ve experienced abortion or not, likely has something they can heal from. He said that healing is a necessity for anyone who wants to be an effective volunteer or employee. “It’s a fact that the less healed we are, the less impactful we are at helping other people find healing. It’s also a fact that the more we work on our own healing, the better we can serve others,” Greg said. He cautioned that if a person is trying to work or volunteer in a setting where healing is the intent, and they are not working on themselves, they may have the wrong motives. He emphasized that healing is always ongoing and we should continually look to grow and improve. 

The final quality Greg mentioned was believing in the mission, “They need to believe in what you’re doing and they need to buy into how you’re doing it,” he said. He pointed out that individual organizations may have their own way of accomplishing their missions, but no matter their method, the volunteer must believe in the mission of the organization. He recounted a story from when he coached youth soccer and one of the other coaches was there only because his wife had told him he had to coach. This highlighted to Greg that not everyone volunteers for something because they believe in it. It also demonstrated to him that when motivation is lacking, commitment suffers, leading to a decline in the quality of the time devoted. 

TAILORING A VOLUNTEER PROCESS THAT RESONATES WITH MEN

Greg reiterated how imperative it is to put men to work. He emphasized that it should be one of the first things done in the process, stating, “Put these men to work. Most men are doers. If you give them something to do, they’ll be engaged.” He shared about his experience working at pregnancy centers and hearing complaints from other male volunteers regarding endless classes before getting to do anything. Greg reminded us that volunteerism among men picks up around 40 to 50, which means a lot of the demographic may have extra time to give, and they want to give it somewhere they feel useful. 

“Men need to know what they’re doing and why they’re doing it,” Greg said as he discussed the importance of providing clear objectives and directions. He explained how taking the time to explain in a clear and concise manner what the end goal is and any necessary steps to accomplish it will set the male volunteer up for success. He suggested that this could be a part of the training process and will result in more impactful volunteers. He encouraged providers to explain goals and objectives and then train male volunteers to ask themselves, What’s the goal? When a client comes in and he’s considering abortion or has been impacted by abortion, what’s the goal? What’s the objective? I’m going to go talk to this guy. I’m going to be compassionate. I’m going to be a good listener. I’m going to be authentic. Why am I doing that? What am I trying to get to? “And then you work with him on how to get there. When we do that, we see men that are deeply impactful.” 

The last part of the process that Greg touched on was helping the male volunteer to continue in his own healing journey. He recommended using Support After Abortion’s referral directory as an essential resource for connecting men to healing providers that best fit their needs. Greg stated that the more healing that takes place, the more effective and impactful the man will be for the organization and clients. He described this as part of the ripple effect of healing, which creates possibilities much bigger than imaginable. He explained that this is why making healing an on-going part of the process is so imperative. 

CLOSING

In wrapping up the webinar, Greg reminded us:

  • Women are at least 30% more likely to volunteer than men and men’s volunteering spikes following high school and again between 40-50 years old. 
  • Most men volunteer in religious or community organizations, or youth sports. 
  • Reasons men don’t volunteer: they don’t think about it, it’s too hard to get started, they tend to prioritize work, and they think they don’t have anything to offer. 
  • The article Ten Ways to Appeal to the Male Volunteer shows how to appeal to male volunteers and get them to stay. 
  • The ideal qualities for a male volunteer, which includes traits such as consistency, being on time, authenticity, being a good listener, curiosity about the clients and organization, the ability to connect, commitment to their own healing, and belief in the mission. 
  • Tailor your volunteer process to resonate with men:  put them to work; give them clear objectives, directions, and goals; create spaces that allow healing to be a continual process; and validate and thank them for being there.

NEXT STEPS

Click here to watch the video of this webinar.

Click here to register for the next Men’s Healing Matters webinar.

Click here to register for the next Abortion Healing Provider webinar.

Click here to access Support After Abortion’s Resource Library.

Click here to explore Support After Abortion’s services, resources, and training for Abortion Healing Providers.

© Support After Abortion

The Power of Collaboration

The Power of Collaboration

In our March 20 webinar, Support After Abortion Provider Relationship Development Specialist Amanda Hoff dove into the power of collaborating with Support After Abortion, clinicians, intersecting agencies, and pregnancy resource centers. 

She was joined by four guest speakers who shared their stories of successfully collaborating to provide comprehensive support, tailored services, and a nurturing environment for individuals navigating abortion experiences.

INTRO

Amanda is a former director of a pregnancy resource center and understands on a deep level that collaborating with other agencies is a hugely important way to help both women and men in need of help, resources, and healing. 

She also understands that giving clients a massive list of resources without any kind of connections to them can be overwhelming and not helpful. She explains, 

So we had this big list of resources that we would give out to our clients, and it was probably 15 pages with all these different resources and organizations that our clients could connect with to get help. But I found that to be really overwhelming, not just for my clients, but also for myself, because I wasn’t aware of all the different services each one offered. I didn’t know anything about their intake process or the requirements of their programs. And so one of the things that I really sought to do as the director of my center is to reach out to those organizations to build relationships with them, to learn more about the services that they offered and to also share with them and bring awareness of the services that we offered at our center so that we could collaborate and have that relationship.

This is her passion and she brings her knowledge about working closely with other organizations and knowing exactly what they offer to this webinar. 

Collaborating with other abortion healing providers, churches, and community organizations is crucial to helping people who need it. She said that “we know there are possibly 22 million people in the nation that need healing. We cannot possibly help all of them by ourselves. We have to work together to be effective.”

PROMOTING COLLABORATION

There are many paths to one goal but working together is the most efficient way to get there.

Amanda shared an African Proverb that resonates with her: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together

“It speaks so beautifully,” she said, “to the power of collaboration. If we set aside our own individual metrics, agendas, and even our differences, we can work together and bring healing to so many people.”

BENEFITS OF COLLABORATION

There are so many benefits to working together to provide healing resources to those who need it most. Amanda discussed several.

Ability to Offer Options

Amanda explained that by collaborating with Support After Abortion, you can receive training on how to offer options you may not currently be offering. You may even find programs perfect for your clients that you didn’t know existed. Support After Abortion is passionate about options-based healing because we can meet clients where they are at with lots of different options. 

By collaborating with providers , we can serve clients “in a more holistic way that meets them where they are,” she said.

Support After Abortion connects clients to a variety of abortion healing options including in-person, virtual, and self-guided; religious and secular; women’s and men’s programs and resources.

Building Capacity

Collaborating with other providers enables you to refer clients if your own programs are at capacity or if that provider offers a healing option you don’t. You can also receive referrals, which grows the number of clients you’re serving. 

This enables you to be a trusted resource in your community because you are able to help so many more people due to your collaborative efforts. 

Support and Encouragement

Amanda discussed how providers can support and encourage each other through collaboration by building relationships with other providers, both within and outside your local community.  

One thing Amanda has noticed when she is working with providers is that they often tell her they feel alone. 

“A lot of providers say they feel alone or on an island or like they’re not a high priority in their organizations,” Amanda shared. “Or they don’t feel like they have the support and encouragement that they need.”

So many of us who work in this healing space have these same feelings. It’s not easy work – physically, emotionally, spiritually – but by working together, that support and encouragement will shine through. 

“I can be the person who encourages the providers I talk with, but you can be that source of support and encouragement for each other,” Amanda said.

Decrease Burnout

All of these things work together to help decrease burnout. Burnout is a very real and difficult thing in this space. Amanda has seen that by collaborating closely with each other, by supporting and encouraging each other, by receiving referrals, and by helping to build capacity together, it all works to decrease burnout. 

“I know this is not easy work,” Amanda said, “This is a hard space to be in but it’s so needed. We do often see high levels of burnout when we don’t have these benefits of collaboration.”

TYPES ORGANIZATIONS FOR COLLABORATION

There are many types of organizations you can collaborate with. Amanda discusses some of these in the webinar but notes that this isn’t an exhaustive list. Rather, it’s a place to start. 

Support After Abortion

Support After Abortion has a plethora of ways to collaborate with other organizations including: 

  • Webinars (just like this one!)
  • Men’s Healing Webinars 
  • Quarterly Facilitator Training Webinars
  • Individualized coaching program for facilitators
  • Keys to Hope & Healing and Unraveled Roots Facilitator trainings
  • BrightCourse training 
  • Digital resource library 

Clinicians

Amanda highlighted great benefits to partnering with clinicians. 

One example is being able to refer clients who are struggling with issues outside your scope to trusted clinicians due to the relationships you have built with them.

Amanda shared that some clinicians are willing to set up sliding scale fees for clients from partnering organizations. Clinicians may also offer training and resources for your staff and volunteers. This is a great way to help your entire staff learn about what these clinicians offer. 

 Other Abortion Healing Providers

Some pregnancy resource centers have developed great relationships with each other within their city or area. “We’re not in competition,” Amanda said. “There are so many people who need our help and services and we can reach so many more people if we can work together.”

The Support After Abortion Abortion Healing Provider Directory enables providers to connect with other providers both within and outside their local communities.

Support After Abortion also uses this directory to connect clients to the type of healing service and provider that they are looking for. Contact Amanda to discuss joining the directory.

Intersecting Agencies

There are many factors that research has shown increases risk for unplanned pregnancies, which then comes a higher rate for abortions. These factors include things like substance use, homelessness, domestic abuse, codependency, sex trafficking, addiction, unemployment, and financial instability. For abortion healing providers, Intersecting agencies are organizations that serve people with these types of factors, and therefore who may have been impacted by abortion.

By reaching out to these different types of organizations, you can spread awareness to them about the abortion healing programs you offer that might benefit them as resources for their clients who may disclose their abortion experience to them, Amanda explained. 

“Support After Abortion has had a lot of success collaborating with organizations that specialize in addictions, sex trafficking, domestic violence, and mental health,” Amanda said. “It’s a reciprocal relationship and we’ve been able to help each other.” 

REAL LIFE EXAMPLES

Leaders from three organizations that have collaborated with Support After Abortion joined Amanda to discuss their specific roles in abortion healing recovery and share examples of how to best promote collaboration in communities. 

RECOVERY CARE COORDINATOR

Marley is the Recovery Care Coordinator for a pregnancy resource center in South Carolina. She previously worked at the same center 12 years ago. She then worked in prison ministry, women’s ministry, and other recovery programs. She went back to the center to work in their Abortion Recovery Care with lots more experience and connections. 

Marley has been instrumental in building bridges between her pregnancy center and addiction recovery programs in her community. These residential-based programs work to provide everything their participants need. Marley’s center has been able to come alongside them, offering classes and other resources to enable them to grow their offerings in after-abortion support.

“For the women especially, it gives them an opportunity to get out, come into the center, to interact with other people, and that has been really successful,” said Marley. 

And how does one make connections within their communities?  Marley suggests getting involved in the chambers of commerce and going to community meetings on topics beyond your center’s issues. “If you want to connect with people, make sure they see your face in the community,” she says. “A lot of times in pregnancy resource ministry, we have a tendency to stay in our office. Open the door, walk outside, and begin to introduce yourself. It really makes a difference.” 

DIRECTORS OF AFTER-ABORTION PROGRAMMING & RELATIONSHIPS

Dietra is the director of an after-abortion support program at a multi-location New York City pregnancy resource center. The director of relationships at the center joined Dietra to weigh in on their collaborations. 

Their organization runs a weekly online meetup where people can just talk and get support. They also have staff advocates who meet with clients one-on-one as many times as they need. They also have a nine-week abortion healing support group for women. They have a men’s after-abortion healing program as well.

Amanda and Dietra briefly discuss some of the ways they have recently worked together, especially in relation to those clients who have been referred to each other for different healing programs. 

Chelsea talked a bit about reciprocal partnerships, specifically with a medical center that does ultrasounds, wellness checks, and after abortion care. “The focus is on their clients’ medical concerns about after abortion care. We are really grateful for that partnership and the ability to offer that to our clients,” she said. Mental health organizations have also been valuable partnerships. We offer subsidized counseling to local approved counseling providers. 

While their center is faith-based, they explained that they work with organizations of any faith or no faith because “it’s about providing the best possible care we can and meeting people where they are for hope,” Dietra said. “We endeavor that no one ever has to walk the after-abortion journey alone, period.”

“We ascribe to the third way, and so we proudly stand in the tension of we just want to be person-centered and trauma-informed, and that’s what we’re here for,” said Dietra. “And so because we sit in that authenticity, it makes it very easy to connect with people that you wouldn’t think we’d connect with.”

HOSPITAL SOCIAL WORKER

A social worker at a major hospital in the Washington, DC metro area described how the hospital staff identified a need after the overturning of Roe v Wade due to a “surge” in the volume of after-abortion patients. She said that “many members of the team felt a sense of distress, uneasiness” that they “didn’t know what to say, what’s appropriate. We don’t know what to do.” 

She shared that their hospital has a “robust perinatal loss program” that she started 16 years ago. “And now here we are developing another program, an after-abortion care program.” 

She said that patients were telling her and other staff that they didn’t receive any kind of after-abortion care information. The hospital’s new aftercare abortion program includes a door card that is placed on a patient’s door that alerts the team to be mindful of the patient’s experience when entering the room. She also created a footprint card for patients who desire footprints as a keepsake, and a healing note card that the team can sign and give to the patient at discharge. They also offer patients preassembled resource folders that include resources from Support After Abortion. 

“We’re so grateful for that, because, again, prior to this collaboration, we didn’t have any materials,” she said. “We find the Keys to Hope and Healing secular booklet, the client healing center card, and the resource card, just to name a few, to be extremely helpful.”

She explained that “Our hospital stands for inclusion, diversity, and equity, where all patients are treated with compassion, regardless of their situation.” 

“When the patient made the challenging decision to terminate the pregnancy,” she said, “she did not believe it would lead to hospitalization.” 

“For us, we looked at it from the perspective of, while this is not in our wheelhouse, it’s important that we collaborate with an organization that can help us in making sure that our patients receive resources that’s tailored to their needs,” she said. 

As part of her team’s efforts to research existing resources, they also reached out to local abortion clinics to see what they offer in terms of after abortion care. One clinic responded with a resource list that combined all types of losses, such as perinatal loss and abortion loss, into one resource basket. “And as you know, perinatal loss, meaning a miscarriage, stillbirth, neonatal death, chromosome abnormality, is different from abortion. And so while we again were grateful for that resource list, we knew that it would not be applicable to our patient population,” she said. 

By forming a working group with a couple of her nurses, they are equipping the medical team. For example, they created a nursing checklist for providing supportive and compassionate care, provided resources for the Labor & Delivery staff, and are planning an in-service. 

NEXT STEPS

  • Click here to watch the video of this webinar.
  • Click here to register for the next Abortion Healing Provider webinar.
  • Click here to register for the next Men’s Healing Matters webinar.
  • Click here to register for the next Quarterly Facilitator Training.
  • Click here to access Support After Abortion’s Resource Library.
  • Click here to explore Support After Abortion’s services, resources, and training for Abortion Healing Providers.

 

© Support After Abortion

WHAT NOT TO SAY TO SOMEONE WHO HAS EXPERIENCED ABORTION

WHAT NOT TO SAY TO SOMEONE WHO HAS EXPERIENCED ABORTION

 

Maybe you have had it happen where a friend confides in you that she had an abortion and you are left wondering what to say. Or perhaps your girlfriend mentions in passing that she had an abortion in the past. Or maybe it’s your sister who tells you her secret that she can’t keep any longer. Or maybe it’s a post on social media where someone shares their abortion. 

Whatever the situation is, it’s important to know what not to say because the damage can run deep from your words if you inadvertently (or purposely) say something that is harmful. Saying the wrong thing can increase loneliness and compound grief in an already fragile situation.

TIPS ON BEING A GOOD LISTENER

Most of us notice when someone is listening to us. They are looking at us, not elsewhere. They may be leaning forward to show with their body language that they are engaged in the conversation. They don’t interrupt. They don’t try to finish our sentences. 

Being a good listener is key when someone comes to you to talk about their past abortion experience(s). Compassion and attention can go a long way for someone who needs a good listener. 

These tips are great for engaging in a sensitive conversation, but can certainly be used for almost any conversation: 

  • Stay calm and focused: be present and control your own emotions
  • Be an active listener: nod at appropriate times to show that you are hearing what the other person is saying, look the person in the eyes. 
  • Use body language appropriately: if possible, lean a bit toward the person to show them you are engaged and don’t cross your arms. 
  • Offer support: be compassionate and offer to support the person however they feel they need it most. 

WHAT NOT TO SAY TO SOMEONE WHO HAS EXPERIENCED ABORTION 

When someone has experienced abortion, coming across as unsympathetic, judgmental, dismissive, and presumptuous are all main themes to avoid. 

Here are some specific things that can be really harmful for someone to hear who has experienced abortion: 

Don’t say: “You murdered your child.”

Believe it or not, people who have experienced abortions hear this one often and it is terribly unhelpful. The last thing someone who experienced abortion needs is a harsh, judgmental reaction. 

One man described seeing “Murderer” and “Rot in Hell” signs outside an abortion clinic when his girlfriend had an abortion they didn’t want, but her mother insisted on. The experience and those words haunted him for decades. Years later, when he returned to church looking for solace, he was met with a sermon full of harsh language condemning abortion as murder, which further intensified his pain and sense of emotional isolation.

One woman shared publicly about her abortions and healing journey. The comments on that post are a prime example of what not to say to someone who experienced abortion. These are just a sample of what was written: 

“So, she murdered [her] babies and found it uncomfortable…Rot in hell girlfriend.” 

“She is evil and killed [her] babies why was she not on birth control”

Another person sharing their grief and emotional struggles after abortion was met with comments such as:

“I hope every person that decides to murder an unborn child will suffer the rest of their life with knowing they murdered their child. No forgiveness from me.”

This isn’t what a person who has experienced abortion needs to hear and can be incredibly harmful.

Don’t say: “It’s not a big deal, lots of people have abortions.” 

This kind of comment is dismissive of that person’s feelings and experiences. Just because abortion is common doesn’t mean that it is without emotional, physical, or psychological harm. 

Ask the person how they are feeling about their abortion experience(s) and validate their feelings. Don’t dismiss their experience. 

One woman who contacted Support After Abortion for help experienced both being called a murderer and having her grief dismissed:

“I had an abortion months ago and feel horrible. I cry all the time and hate myself for getting the procedure. I’m so full of sadness and regret, but the clinic told me only 5% of women regret the decision. My boyfriend wanted the baby, and calls me a murderer and other names. And everyone else in my life is telling me it was months ago and I should be over it by now. “ 

The man mentioned above who was haunted by his girlfriend’s abortion and messages of “murderer,” also experienced disenfranchised grief. A therapist he told about his struggles related to the abortion told him that emotional impact from abortion “isn’t a thing” and wouldn’t discuss it. The man said that statement and dismissive attitude kept him from talking about it or seeking help for another 15 years.

Don’t say: “You can just have other kids when you’re ready.” or “At least you already have a child.”

This is in the same vein as the above comment about abortion not being a big deal. Saying this to a person who has experienced abortion invalidates their particular experience with that particular pregnancy. And implying that having other children can alleviate the emotional impact of abortion oversimplifies the complex feelings that individuals may experience after abortion. Pushing someone toward future pregnancies without acknowledging their current emotional circumstances or giving them space to heal emotionally can add further distress. This is not a helpful thing to hear for someone who has experienced abortion. 

Don’t say: “That must be hard for you.” or “Don’t worry, you did the right thing.”

Automatically assuming any kind of feeling that the person who experienced abortion is going through is not being a good listener. Let the person explain how they feel. Maybe they don’t feel like it was a tough decision or that they did the best they could in their situation. Maybe they feel like they did the wrong thing and need to get the experience out in the open. Maybe they are suffering in another way and felt the need to tell you. Don’t assume that the person is feeling any particular emotion until they reveal it to you.

Don’t say: Nothing at all 

Awkward silence is certainly something all of us have probably experienced. However, when nothing is said after someone confides in you that they have experienced abortion, it can feel even heavier to that person. They may regret telling you.

Of course, you may be initially surprised to hear that someone you know experienced abortion, but with quick thinking and by leaning in toward compassion, you can bridge that space between the revelation of the abortion(s) and your initial response, leaving awkward silence behind. 

REFLECTING ON WHAT WE SAY

Whitney Goodman, LMFT, suggests questions to ask ourselves as a way to create awareness of how the types of statements mentioned above shut down conversations and are obstacles to growth and healing:

  • What am I hoping to achieve by saying this?
  • Why might this be dismissive?
  • Why do I say this to myself or others?
  • How does this statement make me feel when I say it to others? 
  • How does it make me feel when I say it to myself?

By reflecting on these questions, we can begin to dismantle barriers to meaningful communication and foster environments helpful to personal growth and healing.

SO, WHAT SHOULD I SAY & DO AFTER SOMEONE SHARES THEY HAVE EXPERIENCED ABORTION?

Let’s revisit the Tips for Being a Good Listener that we started off with: stay calm and focused, be an active listener, use appropriate body language, be compassionate, and offer support.

Our research shows that one-third of women and three-fourths of men experienced adverse changes after abortion. Further, 3 out of 5 women and 4 out of 5 men want help to process their emotions. Yet only 18% know where to go for support. You can be part of their healing journeys by being a compassionate listener and having resources ready to share for those desiring support.

COMPASSIONATE CONVERSATIONS: 4 SIMPLE STEPS

Support After Abortion encourages following a simple four-step process when you encounter someone who has been impacted by abortion. The steps are: examine your judgment, walk in compassion, ask if they would like to share their experience, and connect them with support. Read our previous blog on Compassionate Conversation Training to learn more about these four steps and the importance of showing compassion, not judging, and being a safe space for someone who has experienced abortion. 

THE HARM OF INCIVILITY ON MENTAL HEALTH

You might also find insights from our blog discussing the harm of incivility and how it can be an obstacle to overcoming grief and restoring well-being. The article is specifically focused on obstacles to men’s grief healing, yet the negative impact of incivility on mental health is universal. The article delves into four categories of communication that can wound others and why negative comments are harmful and can lead others to not seek the support they desire and deserve. 

SHARING AFTER ABORTION RESOURCES

Here are two resources you can keep handy. Or, just remember our website – supportafterabortion.com – so you can point people to it who are in need of compassionate care after abortion. 

KEYS TO HOPE AND HEALING

We offer an introductory abortion healing program called Keys to Hope and Healing that walks people through the process of healing from their abortion experience(s). It is available for women and men, in English and Spanish, religious and secular versions. It can be done independently through a free self-guided online program, or virtually or in-person with a mentor or licensed counselor or in a facilitated support group. 

AFTER ABORTION LINE

We also offer our free After Abortion Line that people can reach out to for help by online chat, phone or text at 844-289-HOPE (4673), email, or messaging on Facebook or Instagram. We offer free, confidential, compassionate support. We can connect individuals to the healing resource that best meets their preferences. 

DO YOU – OR WOULD YOU LIKE TO – PROVIDE AFTER-ABORTION SUPPORT?

Explore our Provider Training Center and attend our free monthly Abortion Healing Provider webinars, Men’s Healing Matters webinars, and Quarterly Facilitator Trainings.

© Support After Abortion