Silent Remembering: The Meaning of Unspoken Grief

Silent Remembering: The Meaning of Unspoken Grief

Grief is often hidden when it is perceived as inappropriate or socially stigmatized. For example, post-abortion grief may remain unexpressed by both women and men. Women often encounter disempowerment and the dismissal of emotional pain resulting from abortion (Rowe, 2023). In a previous post, I noted studies where grief was one of many common experiences among men whose partners have an induced abortion. Moreover, the human capacity to imagine—to create images stored in memory as the reality of a child—both prior to and after the abortion, may later haunt the individual as grief over lost opportunities or dreams (for example, see Mayo, 2020).

This piece was originally published by Psychology Today

Abortion is changing. After-abortion healing needs to change, too

Abortion is changing. After-abortion healing needs to change, too

Religion Unplugged believes in a diversity of well-reasoned and well-researched opinions. This piece reflects the views of the author and does not necessarily represent those of Religion Unplugged, its staff and contributors.

(OPINION) The first duty of Christians is to love and serve God. The second comes from it: to treat our neighbors like ourselves. This two-part mission is what drives most after-abortion healing counselors, therapists and volunteers. They recognize the pain that often leads women and men to abortion, and the suffering that often follows. Rather than turn away, they are the Good Samaritans who help neighbors and strangers alike, seeking to be the loving hands of God for those who are suffering.

After-abortion counselors are truly following the two most important commandments. And new research indicates this work can help more people even more effectively by listening to people and meeting them where they are, like Jesus listening to the woman at the well and protecting the adulterer before sharing His healing truth.

A brief background on after-abortion healing

The need for after-abortion healing resulted in many groups taking on this critical work in the 1990s. Organizations such as Project Rachel, Rachel’s Vineyard, Forgiven and Set Free, SaveOne, and Surrendering the Secret have since helped countless women and men begin their healing journeys.

These groups were founded on the Christian belief that healing can happen only when it is centered on God. This approach met the culture where it was. Over 90% of Americans identified as Christian in 1992. They also typically provided support through in-person group settings.

But three things have changed in the last five years that have radically altered the after-abortion healing landscape. The first is that self-identified Christianity dropped to 63% in 2018 and even lower among younger people. Second, the pandemic accelerated the use of medication abortions, taking this procedure from a third-party location with emotional and physical anesthesia to a woman’s own workplace or bathroom without anesthesia and often without support. Third, the pandemic pushed human gatherings of all kinds, including mental health therapy, online.

This means that the group most likely to have  abortions and therefore to need after-abortion healing — young millennials and members of Generation Z — are not likely to embrace religious, in-person approaches to healing. That’s why we the authors — one a practicing Protestant and licensed mental health therapist, the other a practicing Catholic who has dedicated her retirement years to Catholic philanthropy  — believe in a new abortion-healing approach that focuses on the client’s preferences and needs.

A new approach to meet the new needs

We’re affiliated with Support After Abortion, which uses nationally representative research and mental health best practices to serve thousands of people suffering after abortion. Support After Abortion’s research indicates that a new approach to after-abortion healing can achieve greater healing for many more women and men.

For example, while 71% of men and 34% of women suffer adverse impacts from abortion, just 40% of men and 16% of women prefer a religious healing program. Almost 3 in 4 women “seldom to never” participate in religious services; 53% of men said the same thing. And almost nobody indicated they  would go to a member of the clergy for help.

What 77% of men and 69% of women did say is that they want an anonymous approach to healing. This matches the anecdotes we’ve heard, where people worry that they’ll be judged by pro-life advocates for their abortions and ostracized by abortion advocates for not shouting about it.

These research findings led Support After Abortion to promote a new approach that meets people where they are and offers them options that fit their preferences — whether that’s religious or secular, virtual or in-person, clinical or peer-facilitated, one-on-one or group, and so on. That’s the message that’s been in front of Black and Hispanic fathers at a conference in Los Angeles, social workers in Chicago, and pregnancy resource centers in Louisville. Our first-of-its-kind National Abortion Provider Referral Directory allows people to find the healing provider of their choice who meets them where they are. And our monthly best practices webinars, one of which inspired this essay, draw 250 lay counseling leaders.

Support After Abortion’s After Abortion Line has likewise changed. Clients have anonymous options like texting, online chat, social media, phone calls and emails. We respect client privacy by not tracking site visits. And we use the mental health therapist best practice of letting clients lead the way to the solution —  which today might just be a conversation.

This research is bolstered by hundreds of anecdotes. As one mother shared, “Virtual would be easier because I have other children to care for.” One client had been trying to find help for the 10 years since the abortion experience, “but they were … exclusively faith-based,” the client said. “I don’t want to lose more time because I didn’t deal with my emotions, feelings and grief in a healthy way.” And Sisters of Life uses our secular resource Keys to Hope and Healing in order to meet clients where they are, with many clients continuing their healing journey with the Sisters’ religious program.

Letting God take charge of spiritual healing

Like everyone involved in after-abortion healing, we recognize the pain behind each person’s story. But women and men have become more separate than ever from the faith of generations past. After-abortion healing must meet their needs by using what works today and letting go of what no longer works.

This means letting God take care of someone’s spiritual healing in His time, not our own. We do it in other areas of our lives all the time.  We give the homeless man a blanket, bed and meal at a homeless shelter without forcing him to read Scripture first. Missionaries often put food and medical care before Bible study. And a priest’s job is to save souls through confession and the Eucharist, but he also enjoys communion and fellowship after church and over BBQ at the annual parish picnic.

Most of the abortion healing movement identifies as pro-life, though some abortion-affirming programs like Exhale exist. But as Support After Abortion’s research shows, opinions about abortion matter a lot less to those suffering after abortion than finding a safe place to open up about their pain, fear and loss — which is why 55% of women and 78% of men who seek healing after abortion identify as pro-choice.

After-abortion healing is a human issue that’s often hidden behind politics and religion. These barriers can be walls which block women and men from emotional, mental and spiritual health. But, sometimes, the road to heaven starts with a kind word, not the Word— in God’s perfect timing because His presence and mercy are endless, even when His name isn’t spoken.

This piece was originally published by Religion Unplugged.
Abortion stigma is real. So is disenfranchisement.

Abortion stigma is real. So is disenfranchisement.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson decision one year ago today sent abortion laws back to the states, stories have abounded about abortion stigma — that being against abortion can hurt women. The New York Times published an article before the decision was made official on the per­­ceived emotional cost of being denied an abortion, and the American Psychological Association has since said that abortion restriction harms mental health.

At my organization, Support After Abortion, we see the negative link between abortion opposition and women’s mental health every day. Some women tell us they feel like they aren’t welcome at church, or they can’t tell family members what happened to them out of fear of judgment and being disowned. Other women fear being prosecuted under anti-abortion state laws.

This piece was originally published by The Messenger

I’m a man. I miss the children I lost to abortion.

I’m a man. I miss the children I lost to abortion.

In the 1980s, men held up to 95% of federal judicial positions across America and more than 90% of congressional seats. Every U.S. president to that point — and since — has been male, and so have most religious leaders.

None of that male power made any difference to me in 1988, when, as a senior in high school, I found out that my girlfriend was pregnant. I wasn’t sure what to do, but her mother was — and so I lost my first child to abortion. Four years later, I lost my second, this time after begging my ex-girlfriend to keep the baby so I could raise him or her. She told me it wasn’t a baby, said it wasn’t my choice and got the abortion.

It’s common to say that men shouldn’t have a say in abortion because it is a woman who carries the child. The effects on her body are tremendous, as are the responsibilities, especially when her partner threatens to end a relationship or is already gone. And many men agree with the “not your body, not your choice” position — more than 60% of Americans have internalized the idea that women hold ultimate power over their unborn children, up to and including the ability to end their lives at will.

Meanwhile, little thought is given to fathers, except when holding deadbeat dads accountable for child support and weekend visits. But not every man who loses a child to abortion is suffering the consequences of an irresponsible hookup. Many are in serious relationships, as I was. According to the Guttmacher Institute, a prominent research organization which favors legal abortion, fully 45% of women who experience abortion are either married or cohabiting. And many women and men who call Support After Abortion’s Help Line experienced abortion despite being in stable relationships and having born children they love.

The fact is that many men not only feel responsible for their unborn children but suffer if their partners get an abortion. This is true even if they generally favor legalized abortion or profess a belief that the decision should be entirely up to women. I lead a men’s task force for Support After Abortion, a research and education group that conducted a national survey and found that more than 70% of men experience adverse impacts after their abortion losses. Seventy-eight percent of pro-choice men sought help or said they could have used someone to talk to.

Since starting my healing journey 14 years ago, with professional therapy, the support of my wife and living children, and my pastor, I’ve shared my story to help men feel that they can share their grief and pain. Often, the responses to my work have been amazing. But just as often, I’ve been told my feelings don’t matter, that men who struggle after abortion are “losers,” and that my family and I should “f—ing die.”

We would never say such things to someone struggling with other traumas. We console people whose loved ones have died, mourn with parents who have lost children and offer compassion to adults dealing with the abuse they experienced in childhood. Only when it comes to abortion does society say that men and women shouldn’t acknowledge their pain.

I’m now 53, married, with four children and three grandchildren. I miss my three deceased children, two lost to abortion and one to miscarriage, every day — and I will always express solidarity with other men who have endured similar tragedies. The fact that a small percentage of men hold positions of power means nothing to the everyday man who finds himself powerless during an abortion and suffering in isolation afterwards.

Regardless of our views on abortion, or of who has more legal or political power at any one time, we’re all individual human beings trying to find peace as best we can. Remembering that is how to help relieve a great deal of suffering –– even the suffering our society would rather sweep under the rug.

Greg Mayo is national men’s task force chair for Support After Abortion.

This piece was originally published by The Indianapolis Star.

Washington Examiner: Men are degraded, ignored in the abortion debate

Washington Examiner: Men are degraded, ignored in the abortion debate

One in every 5 men may be silently suffering in the aftermath of a partner’s abortion , and the liberal feminist movement makes it worse.

More than half of men who have been affected by abortion seek psychological support afterward. Most don’t know what to look for, and few find it when they do, according to a new study from the nonpartisan organization Support After Abortion.


The  Don’t Forget Men In The Abortion Debate

The Don’t Forget Men In The Abortion Debate

The repeal of Roe v. Wade has shifted the discourse on abortion into a new phase, ranging from availability and legality to ethics and safety, as well as states’ and women’s “rights.”

But as the policy and legal debates have changed, what has stayed the same is the framing of abortion as an exclusively female issue. Whether the procedure was mutually desired and agreed upon or not, a man’s perspective on an unplanned pregnancy is too often the last heard, or outright dismissed as irrelevant. Some feminists would see that as a good thing, but this one does not, and neither should Christians.