Memorializing Children Lost to Abortion: Why & How
Transcript 20 Oct 2022 Abortion Healing Provider Webinar
Guest Speaker: Karin Barbito
Host Lisa Rowe, CEO Support After Abortion
Lisa Rowe 0:07
[Our Guest Speaker today is Karin Barbito, who serves as our Special Projects Manager at Support After Abortion. Karin really understands memorializing children lost to abortion.] She has walked through a lot of different recovery programs. And the one thread that is so similar in all of them is the memorialization process. Before I turn it over to her, I just really want to share my own experience clinically. I took a Death and Dying class in undergrad, and my professor, who’s a very well known national speaker on death and dying, said two things that will always stand out to me. She said, (1) people that believe there is something higher than themselves when they experience grief and loss, usually grieve better than people that don’t know there is something higher than themselves. And (2) it is absolutely invaluable when walking through the memorial process that you have a place and space to meet your loved one who has died or you’ve lost. And so she recommended not only having the grave site to visit, but a tree or a bench or somewhere or something that you could feel like you could connect to that loved one. And so, we talk a lot about how often abortion isn’t, in our culture, looked at as a loss so many times. In the clinical space we call that disenfranchised grief, which means our world doesn’t acknowledge most reproductive losses as grief and loss. And so, many times we feel so isolated in our experience. And so, we’re here to talk about the importance of it. We’re here to talk about how to do it well. And Karin’s going to take it away from here and offer up her best practice and her understanding and experience. So, welcome, Karin. We’re excited that you’re here, and I’m really thrilled to learn from you today.
Karin Barbito 2:02
Thank you so much. All right, I’m going to share my screen.
Today the presentation is called Memorializing Children Lost to Abortion: The Why and The How.
So, why is it so important to memorialize children Lost to Abortion? I did a little research on this and on funerals and memorial services, and this is some of the bullet points that came up for me on my Google search on grieving loss.
First of all, grieving loss is critical to the healing process. I don’t even think that needs any explanation. Once we experience a loss, if we don’t grieve it, it’s going to show up sometime later in life unexpectedly. Participants at a memorial service can comfort and support each other by sharing their pain and sadness. That level of vulnerability really opens the door for strength and hope. Can you remember the last time somebody told you something really genuinely vulnerable and how that impacted you? It opens the door for strength and hope.
Memorializing children lost to abortion, brings dignity to the life however short lived it was. I want to stay here for a moment because I liken it to when my father died. He lived a long life, but I’m just thinking about the service itself. Friends and family came, we reminisced about how my dad had impacted our lives. The grandchildren shared how Grandpa taught them how to fish, and we sang some hymns. And, when the service was coming to a close, they gave my mom a flag because my dad was in the military, he was a veteran. And then the service was over, and we had to leave that building. And we still left that building sad. But we knew we left having to come to understand a new normal. My dad wasn’t going to be with us anymore. And that’s what the memorial process is really all about. It’s about grieving your loss, finding closure, and moving on.
So there’s all kinds of ways, all kinds of memorials to happen, from really simple like lighting candles for children lost to abortion, or it can be really elaborate like a churchwide event that I’m going to share with you today. And then we’ll talk about some of the options that you have at the end of this presentation.
This is New Life Church. It’s in Venice, Florida, which is close to where I live.
The pastors, the leadership of that church had gone to Israel and visited a Garden of Life, was what it was called. And they knew about Support after Abortion. We had used their church to have some of our support groups and things like that. And they came back so on fire for this concept that they created a space for us to use for memorial services. We launched this on Mother’s Day in 2019, and they opened it up to their congregation. For anybody that had any kind of reproductive loss. There were over 200 people from that congregation who had experienced miscarriage, stillbirth, abortion, or other reproductive losses. And they were in attendance. And so I’m going to take you on that journey. I took pictures of it.
This is the pre-preparation and an inspection. This is the first time the garden was used. The church maintains the property. They buy the flowers and the plants. They installed a sprinkler system. There are beautiful benches and a fountain. And it overlooks a beautiful pond. The atmosphere in this garden is just perfect for people to come to closure over the lost lives that they’ve experienced.
As I said before, the church purchases the flowers and keeps them in a greenhouse so that they’re ready to go. When we have a memorial service following a healing program, the participants can choose the color (They buy them in a variety of colors) and they can pick their location. And that really matters to people that are grieving loss. Here’s some examples of other colors.
The white flags you might notice here indicate which flowers are open for selection. People can choose a flower for each child that they’ve lost to reproductive loss, and they have naming cards so that they can put the name of the child, and then that goes in the ground and the plant is planted on top of it.
Here church has let out and people are arriving who’ve lost children.
This, I think, is a really great picture. This is a couple walking around the brick walkway and looking at the flowers and making their selection of the one that they want. It’s such an intentional part of the whole healing ceremony.
This picture just grips me in a way that I can’t even explain. I just look at the hands of that gentleman, how tenderly he’s holding that and what that means to him, what that symbol means to him in that flower. And it makes me wonder, who has he lost to reproductive loss?
Here all the flowers have been selected. This is a kind of fuzzy picture, but you can see them holding them, those that are going to plant them in the ground. And this is the pastor opening in prayer. This isn’t how we conduct our services, but we’re going to get to that in a little while. This is just how he chose to do it for his congregation. And activities like this, like planting something in the ground helps people to grieve their loss.
I was really surprised by the number of men that participated in this memorial service. I was surprised by the variety of ages as well, from very young siblings to grandparents, even great-grandparents.
Pregnancy loss impacts so many more people than just the mothers and the fathers of the children. Loss affects parents, grandparents, siblings, friends, coworkers – anybody that’s in our sphere of influence. If we’ve experienced abortion or reproductive loss, that’s going to rub off on other people because we’re grieving and we can’t help but not have that impact other people in our lives. I love that picture.
So how do you have a memorial service? That was just an example from the church where we have ours. Maybe before I go into the how, Lisa, you’ve been to a memorial service that we had in that garden with real participants of a group. Would you like to share what that experience was like for you?
Lisa Rowe 9:13
Absolutely. I don’t think I could have ever really understood what this process looked like, no matter the comparison with a memorial celebration that I had been to in the past for maybe one of my older friends. There’s something really unique about the experience, Karin. And, what was really special is that we were able to share with different women, including my mom, including a woman that was in a different state. Janine [Marrone, founder of Support After Abortion and President of the Board of Directors] was there with us, and we had the virtual component and the live component. Everything you talked about was so special. But actually being in that experience, memorializing my niece and watching everyone memorialize their children, I didn’t feel so alone in the experience. I was so emotionally connected through listening to the music, hearing the poems and the letters, and releasing the balloon. There were so many things, Karin, that, until I actually touched and experienced it, I wouldn’t be able to understand how important it was for me and for those people that were there with us.
Karin Barbito 10:21
Thank you for that. Lisa touched on some of the how and sharing what her experience was like.
You can make the memorial service your own. It can be religious or it can be secular, depending on the participants in your group. We definitely want to honor their wishes and respect their religious beliefs, or lack thereof. It can be simple or elaborate.
We mailed things to people when we were doing it virtually. They got a balloon from us to release. And however it is that you want to set it up, as Lisa said, it can be in person or virtually in a combination of both. We’ve done it. We’ve had people that none of them lived in our area. So we had stand-ins come, volunteers of ours that would come and stand in and we’d have somebody Zooming it, recording it, and we would walk around the garden and let them select what flower they wanted when it was their turn to bring dignity to their children’s life. We let them do that in whatever way that they chose. You can get creative and it doesn’t have to be just in person.
These are some of the options that Lisa was just talking about, of ways that you can bring dignity to your child’s life. You can (we do this often, and this is really profound) encourage our participants to write a letter to their children and read it aloud. There’s something so much different between writing it and saying it out loud. I think it engages different sides of the brain. Have you ever noticed that when you read something out loud, it intensifies the emotion? My mom gives me beautiful birthday cards every year, and I read them out loud all the time because they bring me to tears. And it’s just a warm place for me to be when my mom honors me in that way.
You can select a favorite song. It doesn’t have to be a hymn, it can just be a favorite song. You can quote something that really inspires you. You can read scripture if that’s what brings you comfort. Balloons are probably the most effective thing that we’ve ever used. We use permanent markers so you can write a letter on a balloon for each of your children. And then we release them all at once. I’m telling you, people won’t turn away. They will watch that balloon until they can’t see it anymore. And that could take 15 minutes, depending on how quickly it rises in the air.
One of the things that we do, and I can make a template available to you, is that we provide every participant in our healing groups a Certificate of Life. I asked them to open themselves up to having the gender revealed to them. You know, if a particular name comes to mind for them, or how do they picture their child? What kind of personality would they think that they had? And we make up the certificate and we give it to them. If you want a template, just make sure that somehow I have your contact information, put it in the chat, perhaps. Ivy, if you could collect all those email addresses, I’d be happy to send that out.
This is one of the ones that I first learned about, which was lighting a candle and just silently, with eyes closed, have a conversation with your children, whatever it is that might be left unsaid. And then when they’re finished, blow the candle out. In all honesty, I was surprised by this. This is one of the most difficult things for people to do – to blow out that candle because they feel like they’re ending that life again. Some people prefer it though. It’s all up to you and what your participants want.
Plant a tree, a shrub, a flower. Name your child. We talked about that earlier. I live in Florida and one of the things that we’ve done is gone to a park that’s right by the ocean. I’ll bring flowers for everyone’s children that are in the group, and we’ll let them drop them in the ocean and watch them float away. It’s very similar to the balloon exercise. I have bought myself something to remind me of my child every day. It’s a ring that I wear. It’s silver and it’s got two floating gold bands around it with a heart cut out of it. And on the back it says Brave Love. When I saw it, I couldn’t think of any more love that was braver than me honoring my child that I aborted. I had a past participant get herself a tattoo with her child’s name on it.
So those are just some ways that you can bring dignity to the life like I shared with my story about my dad’s funeral. That’s what that was for us. It was really just bringing dignity to his life and how he mattered to us. And for those of us, myself included, that have lost lives due to abortion and reproductive loss. I want to honor that life.
That’s all I have. Any questions?
Lisa Rowe 15:16
Awesome. Before we do, I just want to do some housekeeping. You can put questions in the chat feature or raise your hand and Karin can answer those questions, and I’ll do my best to do the same. Karin, before we jump into those questions, and while people prepare their questions, I’d love for you to share your thoughts on this big question that we get. Often, when we ask people, mostly our volunteers, if they’ve healed from their abortion experience or gone through healing, sometimes they say yes, but sometimes they say no. Your second question I feel is really profoundly connected to today. And it’s Have you gone through the naming process for your child? Have you memorialized your child? Can you talk to us a little bit about why that is such an important second question?
Karin Barbito 16:07
Because it makes it real. It makes the life real. I mean, I’ve never had a miscarriage, but I would imagine that somebody that had a miscarriage would name that child, right? Because you want to make that life matter. You want to make that life real and relevant in your life, right? It was here for a purpose and it was short lived, but it still mattered. You know? I mean, it was really important to me to listen to God as I’m a person of faith. Some people aren’t, and so I don’t know how that would happen [for them]. But God revealed to me in a very tangible way what the gender of my child was and what her name is. Then there was one day, when I was in my first healing program, I heard me sit, refer to her as her or she. And it kind of stopped me in my tracks. Like, where did that come from? Like, did I make that up? And the way that I found out what my daughter was named brought me to my knees, <laugh>. It was at the conclusion of another healing program that I was in. Because I’ve done a lot of them. I like to test them all out. And there’s always further healing, always layers to unpeel in healing. I was rearranging flowers at New Life Church because we had a program there and I said, Man, you know, when I was growing up, I really wanted to have a flower shop. And the participants said, What are you talking about? Flower Shop, Lily Rose. That was the name that God gave me for my daughter, Lily Rose. And I never would have named my child after one flower, let alone two. But when they said, Are you kidding me? Do you not see the connection here? I just fell to my knees. God is that intentional with us and that loving towards us. For me, it just makes it all real and matter.
Lisa Rowe 17:58
It’s powerful. And you talked about how the way you refer to your daughter even changed. And I’d like to bring up this topic too, as we further develop this, because I often talk with folks that say, I have three children. But then when you further investigate that conversation, they actually have children in heaven. And they don’t connect that. So perhaps, Karin, could you unpack that a little bit for us? How this memorialization brings life to even the children that aren’t living with us currently?
Karin Barbito 18:31
It wasn’t until I went through my healing. I had my abortion a long time ago. It was in 1977. And I forever, once I couldn’t have kids, got married, and adoption fell through. I believed that I was never going to be a mom. I convinced myself, I’m never going to be a mom. When I went through healing, I’ve realized and recognized and acknowledged that I am a mom. I am a mom. The light bulb didn’t go off as to why I always hated Mother’s Day because I sat in those pews, considering myself not to be a mother because I had ended the life of the only child that I was supposed to have, and I hated it. But as relative to the memorial service, I think we start to recognize that these are children of ours. People have children die all the time. It’s tragic, but they still honor their kids, right? They would never say that once they had four children, now they only have three. They would always have four children. And it’s no different. Just because we were forced to make the decision or we made the decision ourselves. It doesn’t change the outcome. It doesn’t change it.
Lisa Rowe 19:44
That’s powerful. Karin, thank you for allowing us to expound on that. And there’s people here that have lost children to miscarriage and stillbirth. Can you talk about the importance of having the same sort of memorial for those children as well?
Karin Barbito 19:59
Society’s gotten a lot better with both of those reproductive losses because they have ceremonies right in the hospital now where they dress the child up, they have a memorial service, and things like that. It shouldn’t be any different for any other kind of reproductive loss or any kind of loss of life. We should be able to bring dignity and honor to the people that lived no matter how long it was that they lived. For any of you that have had miscarriages or stillbirths or maybe infertility issues or anything like that, I just wanted to tell you how, sorry I am for your loss. I want you to hear that from me to you: I’m sorry for your loss.
Lisa Rowe 20:42
Interesting statistic, Karin, and then we’ll jump into the questions. Nearly half of our participants (42) have not experienced a memorial ceremony. And then the other portion has. Why is that so much more common than what we might believe to be true in the healing process?
Karin Barbito 21:03
Well, I would ask a follow up question. I don’t know if they’re offering abortion healing and they’ve never had a memorial service, or if they’ve never been impacted by reproductive loss so there’s really no need for them to go through a memorial service. But I would highly recommend that people experience it themselves.
I think we’re going to have to do a training, Lisa, a video training on a memorial service and what it could look like and the value and benefit of it.
That is where the transformation usually happens. Do you know what I’m talking about? You know, when you have head knowledge and yet it’s not part of who you are yet. Lisa can attest to this, that that memorial service is where that connection is made. And when that connection is made, there’s no going back. You can’t go back to what you were. It’s become part of who you are. And so, I really feel like we are doing our clients a disservice now.
We need to make sure that we’re honoring their request [in our choice of memorial]. Some people are environmentally conscious and don’t feel comfortable letting a balloon go, right? Other people don’t want to blow the candle out. So we need to be mindful of the participants and what they’re comfortable with. We never want to make somebody do something that they’re not comfortable with. But we have a strong case to make of why we do the things that we do. Why we encourage you to name. Why we encourage you to visualize. Why we encourage you to do the things that were in this presentation.
Lisa Rowe 22:29
Thank you, Karin. So for those of you who aren’t equipped to do memorial services or haven’t, there is some training on our platform, it touches on this topic. But you are affirmed, Karin, to develop something that’s very intentional.
One of the questions, Karin, is how did it feel for somebody who personally experienced abortion and having the family members and other people impacted alongside for the memorial ceremony?
Karin Barbito 23:02
That doesn’t happen very often. Again, that’s really up to the participants. Usually it’s just the participants that attend the memorial service because they’ve been together now, depending on the resource that you’re using for 6-8 weeks, right? And they’ve shared a lot of stuff. To have new people come in at the end … if they’re okay with it, I’m okay with it. I did have a husband who married someone who had abortions in her life before they got married and, she wanted him to be there for the memorial service. And I’ll tell you what, it was compelling. So if your participants are willing, I really encourage it. When he wrote a message on a balloon and broke down and cried that he really got in tune with how much his wife’s abortions prior to their marriage impacted him today. He would have had two more children in his life. How would his family look different? And so he grieved with his wife. I still have pictures of them letting go of their balloons. I’m standing behind them, man, they don’t even know I’m there. They are glued to the balloons that they released. It was really a special moment, and it really meant a lot to them. It brought them closer as a couple.
Lisa Rowe 24:19
Thank you for sharing that. It really goes to talking about that ripple effect that we hear so often that abortion can have in families and in communities.
This is a great question. Victoria, I’m going to kind of ad lib a little bit here. She’s specifically asking how what you’re talking about is different than Project Rachel. But I’d like to expound on that. How is this memorial process, if there is a difference, different than any other abortion healing program? Or does it fit in with all of the abortion healing programs that you know of?
Karin Barbito 24:52
That is a great question. Project Rachel is one thing that I haven’t done, that’s on my bucket list. So if anybody has a recommendation of where I should go, I’m going to do that. So what we have developed here is taking a little bit of various programs, aspects of the Memorial service. Let me make that make sense. Sydna Massé uses candles. She’s the author of Her Choice to Heal. I think it was Wendy Giancola, author of Transforming Your Story, who suggested writing a letter to the children. So we didn’t develop our own from scratch. We’ve taken from those that are already out there and just made it bigger and better. Does that make sense? I don’t even want to say better because I’m sure that they’re all really effective at connecting the clients to what they’re looking for. But we’ve kind of just borrowed from everybody else.
Lisa Rowe 25:55
That’s great. And I would just further insert that whatever healing program, we’re not a proponent of one over the other. Whatever your clients are looking for is what we want to encourage them to walk through. This is an added element that if the Abortion Healing Program isn’t already doing this, we’re encouraging you [to add it]. And you’re hearing all the reasons why from Karin that this be a part of the process. If you’re a therapist on the call today and you don’t have a specific program that you follow, perhaps this might be something you introduce to your client, maybe you do one-on-ones, or your pregnancy center, wherever you’re coming from, make sure that this is a part of the opportunity that you’re offering to your clients.
Karin Barbito 26:41
I have done it one-on-one, so it’s no less effective than if it’s just one person. Because I can remember what you said to me, Lisa. I don’t know how many people were in that group when you came to the Garden of Life, but you said that you went from person to person to person, and it was like nobody else was here except for the one that was memorializing their children at the time. So you really do want to concentrate on who it is from the group that’s memorializing their children. We do it all individually. That might be different too than what some other memorial services are like.
Lisa Rowe 27:16
Rachel’s Vineyard, there’s a comment here that they do it differently depending on the leadership, depending on the priest, and the discernment there. There’s also a comment from Greg Mayo and he speaks about his experience from a man. Perhaps Greg, if you wanted to come off mute and maybe share your experience for the group.
Greg Mayo 27:35
Lisa, Karin, good to see you again, <laugh>. So when I went through [after abortion healing], there were no groups anywhere, and I was the only guy I knew of doing it. So I worked through books I could find with my pastor and whatever. But when it came time to memorialize the two children I had lost, I took a blank notebook, and I went to a spot along a river here in the state I live in that mattered to me, to my dad and so forth. And, I sat down on the beach. I have no idea how long I was there, but I wrote letters to each one of the children, both of them, as well as to their mothers. And, then I stood up and I read each one of the letters out loud and I said a prayer over it, and then I put it in the river and let it go down. It was an incredibly powerful and incredibly hard experience looking back on it. I wish I wouldn’t have done it alone because I had an hour and a half drive home alone. But, the other thing about it is, walking back to my truck, I could feel the burden lifted. And then, like Karin said just a minute ago, the process of recovery really never ends. Three years ago, I wrote a novel about abortion, and I made Ben and Abby the main characters, which is what I named my children. Then my sailboat, the bigger one I’m going to buy this summer, I’m going to name Benjamin Abby. So it to me, anything I can do to just keep their names on my tongue, right? to continue to honor them. I speak about my children and I have four children that are alive and three that aren’t. You mentioned that too, Lisa, and that’s a powerful thing to keep in my mind because they are my children and they were, whether I met them then or not.
Karin Barbito 29:37
That’s really good, Greg. I really appreciate that. The one thing I want to mention is at the church in Venice, it’s always open. People can come and look at their flowers, sit on the benches, listen to the fountain. The fountain has Jesus’ hands with a baby in them where the water comes out that overlooks a pond. They can come there and meditate, talk to God, pray. It’s a place where they can revisit because our children weren’t given a funeral. They weren’t buried. Right. And so, that’s just an added thing when you have a permanent place like that where you can go.
Lisa Rowe 30:16
There’s some discussion on how important it is to have pastoral care, a priest or a pastor present for the memorial. Karin, can you open us up into a conversation?
Karin Barbito 30:30
Well, I’m seeing something from Father Allen that says, as a pastor or priest, I can definitely confirm the truth of the above statement that allowing me a pastor to be involved in this work has a very meaningful effect. I think if the people are of faith, I think that would bring a tremendous amount of comfort. There was a priest when I did Project Rachel, and there was also a therapist that you could talk to if you weren’t Catholic. And that was great to know that there was a clinician there that I could unload some of the feelings that I had. That was the second or third healing program that I went through. So if that’s a possibility, and the participants are good with it, then I think it would bring comfort. What do the people in this meeting think? I would think that it would bring a tremendous amount of comfort.
Lisa Rowe 31:21
Yeah, that’s great. Thank you for bringing these, these are all opportunities for all of us to access. And I love how Karin, you really bring about this. If that’s where the participant is, then we can meet them right where they are. Can you, and you’ve done this, can you do a memorial without bringing in faith?
Karin Barbito 31:45
Lisa Rowe 31:46
How do you do that?
Karin Barbito 31:47
Well, it’s not about me, it’s about them. Right? And if I have participants that don’t believe in God, I’m not going to encourage them to read scripture. I’m going to encourage them to write a poem expressing everything that they want their children to know. You know, I really just want to drive this point home that it’s client focused, it’s compassion driven, and it’s filled with respect and honoring the requests. That’s how we operate. It’s not a one size fits all. You can’t put a circle into a square pole, right? And so, there’s all kinds of creative ways. They can make a painting. They can create something, a pottery thing. However it is that they want to express their grief and their loss and their love for their children that aren’t here. That’s what it’s all about. Again, it’s to bring dignity to that life, to make that life matter. It matters to them. And it doesn’t have to be religious. God shows up anyway. I mean, as a person of faith, I believe that God shows up anyway. I mean, he certainly was present in my life before I ever believed in him, you know? And so I expect he would do the same for everyone else that doesn’t believe in him.
Lisa Rowe 33:00
Thank you for shedding light on that. We always like to say that healing’s a journey, not a destination. And so what the memorial looks like today might not be what the memorial looks like 10 years from now,
Karin Barbito 33:15
Right? Yeah, so true.
Lisa Rowe 33:20
And more, Karin, with medication abortion on the rise – we know that 70% of abortions completed this year will be medication abortions. We’re hearing more and more clients sharing that they’re seeing their babies before they’re flushing them down the toilet, before they’re going down the drain, or all the different things that we hear. Are you seeing a need more than ever for the memorialization of those children lost to medication abortion?
Karin Barbito 33:54
It’s so traumatic. That’s the young girls that you were talking about when you led the first Keys to Hope and Healing for those of you here that might have been in the last webinar. They were all young, in their 20s and a few weeks to a few months to maybe a year separated from their abortions. And they felt so deceived, and they were so angry. It’s just tragic. When I think about it, when people aren’t prepared for what they’re about to go through…, that’s why I liken it to doctors. If you went to the doctor, and the doctor said that your foot had to be amputated, you would be asking a million questions and getting all kinds of answers, knowing what the recovery process was going to look like. These girls don’t have that. They haven’t been prepared for what to expect. And so, having seen, and for some of them it was recognizable for what it was, having seen it, the memorial service is even that much more important. How do you get that image out of your head unless you process through it? And a memorial service will definitely help someone to do that.
Lisa Rowe 35:06
Yeah. Actually, there’s a article in the Washington Post right now speaking to this exactly – where a woman experienced a medication abortion and she could identify the limbs of her baby. She could identify the eye sockets and other physical features of her baby. And she and her boyfriend buried their child in the backyard. So Karin, you’ve had these experiences where women have kept their babies in shoe boxes and different things like that who were not able to get rid of their baby the way that they’re told to. Talk to us more maybe about how important it is, and what you’ve done to walk those women and men through that experience.
Karin Barbito 35:50
I remember working with a woman who had an abortion. She didn’t know what to do with what came out. She put it in a little box, and it had been three months since she had her abortion, and it was still in this box, and she was going to bury it in her backyard. But she has a dog, and she thought for sure her dog would dig it up. And she didn’t want to lose her child in that way. I’m not exactly sure what the outcome was, but that is just like serious stuff, right? Like most of us, me of the older, older population, I shoved down my abortion experience. I wasn’t that connected to it in such a short amount of time. I can only imagine how traumatic that is for somebody. Me, I shoved it down. I lived an unhealthy life for decades before I got into recovery, because I became an alcoholic and an addict. And I thought I had cleaned up my side of the street. But for people like this that witnessed something that’s so horrifying, it has to break denial immediately. I was in denial for a long time. And let me tell you, denial is kind of a comfortable place to be <laugh>. It’s a lot less comfortable to acknowledge what happened, right? And so, man, I just hope that if there’s any clinicians here in the webinar that you ask questions about reproductive loss. Because there could be somebody that’s never told anybody about their abortion. And you could be that very first foot in the door to have them start to process through their pain.
Lisa Rowe 37:23
Thank you for that. And, this segues great. You guys are asking some great questions. I hope this conversation is as enlightening to you as it is to me. The question is, do you think women have to go through a six to eight week program before the memorial? And what is your timeframe before doing a memorial?
Karin Barbito 37:41
Well, in our experience, most healing resources are structured very similarly. You share your story, you talk about denial, you talk about anger and forgiveness. You grieve your loss, you have a memorial service. And then how do you bring hope to others? It’s very similar. Sometimes the order is different in some, but each of those topics builds on itself. And I think it’s really important to go through all of those to express your anger, to forgive yourself and others, to receive forgiveness, to break denial, to stop rationalizing and justifying your decision, or if you were forced to have the abortion. I just think that it’s important to go through those subjects prior to being at a place to be able to really embrace that child’s life.
Lisa Rowe 38:40
Right? I see that in Keys to Hope and Healing, a resource that Support after Abortion has helped author with Word Among Us, that it’s important because so many women and men who are experiencing abortion aren’t sure what they believe sometimes, or if they do do have a belief system, like Karin said, they have that denial factor at play. High emotions, huge suppression of those emotions, wherever those clients are. It’s absolutely important that you build to this place of a memorial. Memorial is a very, very significant event that requires preparation. So it’s that preparation that comes in the weeks prior to, the memorial that helps that client sit in that space, really truly embrace that space, process the emotions that are connected. And it shouldn’t be the last thing you do either, Karin. Right? There’s a follow up afterwards.
Karin Barbito 39:37
Oh yeah, yeah. It’s not the last thing. I’ve been through probably 15 different types of groups. And like I said before, there’s always something else that’s revealed. Lisa said it so well, it’s not a destination, it’s a journey. I am grateful that I haven’t arrived.
I’m grateful that I haven’t arrived. I’m so glad that God’s not done with me yet, that there’s more growth to happen. And what we also learned, Lisa, and you can, speak to this as well, is that abortion is a symptom of some much deeper root. There could be sexual trauma, there could be abandonment, there could be a huge codependency issue. And so we always have a plan like once you finish this, you can go into another healing program. Maybe you want to go into something that’s more in depth. Maybe they want to transition from something that’s secular into something that is religious now that they’ve come to recognize that it was a baby and not just tissue. Life is a journey and we want them to stay connected for as long as they can and to grow as much as they can.
And somebody asked the question about how many weeks before the memorial service? It depends on the resource that you’re using. And if there’s multiple abortions, there might have to be multiple ceremonies.
We encourage that because your children are different, you were a different person at the time of life that you had that second, third, fourth, 10th loss. We encourage you not to lump them all together because they’re all individual and unique.
Lisa Rowe 41:10
Unpack that a little bit more for us, Karin, because I think that’s a really big statement that you said, and I’m not sure we were all prepared for that. We’re talking about people that have experienced multiple losses, in particular multiple abortions. And what I heard you say is that some people might need to process each abortion individually.
Karin Barbito 41:31
Yeah. I think that’s extremely important. People that I’ve worked with have had multiple abortions, were in different places of their life. When they had them, their circumstances were different, leading up to the pregnancy was different, how they processed through the decision was different. What it was like after [the abortion] was different for every each and every one of them. They were in a different place in their life. And so the stuff that they needed to process through, the emotions that they felt, how they felt about themselves – is different for each one. It would be like if multiple people in a family died in a car accident, even if you had the funeral service altogether, you would recognize each of them individually, right? You wouldn’t just say that the Rowe family, you would say Lisa and Rob, and I’m not putting that on you. So Lisa, I don’t want to project that on you, a car accident for your family. But, do you understand what I’m saying?
Lisa Rowe 42:45
Absolutely. That’s a really great, clear point for us to understand that. Perhaps we need to slow our clients down if they come and they say, Hey, I want to address these three abortions. Perhaps there’s some more conversation that needs to take place as a result.
We have just a few more minutes, 10 more minutes or so. And I’d love to see if there are any more questions. You guys have been really great. Is there anybody that would like to raise their hand, perhaps share their memorial experience so that we could glean and understand from you? Or you can ask your question out loud if you please. Just raise your hand and we’ll call on you.
Greg shared his Deborah, I know you shared a little bit about your experiences. Do you want to share it out loud for us?
Lisa Rowe 43:44
I know when you brought up the slide of all the different ways that people grieve differently. I think of different Mother’s Days over the years, it’s been almost 40 years, because Mother’s Day for us is significant because our daughter would have been born around Mother’s Day. So one of the things was that my family added a birthstone to my mother’s ring. They physically took it to the jewelry store and added it. And so that was something that our whole family, a season of our whole family, my husband and our three living children process through, but just a plaque my office has. It’s just that daily reminder of how precious that life was and is. Writing a letter, just all of those things. And again, it really goes along with how someone is wired and,I just have to say you guys truly are rock stars. That you are taking on this issue in the way that you are is just incredible. So I thank you, Lisa and Karin. The thing that just is so heartbreaking, and I guess this is just a season for me where I’m just craving the state of our culture even and what we are doing with these young women who are so unprepared and the things that they are told, it really is heartbreaking. I’m thankful for you guys out here doing what you do.
Lisa Rowe 45:31
Thanks Deb. Appreciate you. All right. Linda, if you come off mute, we’d love to hear from you.
I want to just underline the whole allowing them to plan, be a part of the planning of the memoria. That is so powerful. I think it’s actually a part of the healing. I also wanted to underline having, if they are comfortable with it, of course, inviting people. We have had so many breakthroughs in relationships with mothers and husbands and even kids. It’s like people suddenly get it, you know – now they understand what mom’s been going through. And, if they’re comfortable with that, really to encourage them. There’s the whole thing we didn’t really bring up of the hesitancy to do the memorial. You know, it is sometimes a huge battle and you have to really encourage them that it’s going to be worth it, <laugh> and it’s just amazing that it does. Also with the men, giving them a way to participate in it. We had one that accepted the Lord through a memorial service. It was just fabulous. It was the Christian-based service. But, for the men also, and maybe people that don’t have a memorial, the National memorial for the unborn, being able to place a plaque on the national wall is really powerful because it’s so tangible, too. It’s a permanent way to have that name presented. I want to thank you, too. This has been great.
Lisa Rowe 47:13
Wow. Linda, thank you so much for sharing that. I’d love to capture that Ivy, that national memorial for the unborn with the plaque, that’s new to me. That would be great for us to know and have that in our toolbox. Priscilla, you were next. Would you like to take yourself off mute and share?
Thank you so much for today. I was talking to my daughter who’s had two miscarriages. I’ve had two abortions. We were talking about doing a memorial with our family because we’ve not ever really recognized these babies as part of our family. So thank you. This has greatly encouraged me to pursue the ideas for the memorial. We’re entering winter in Alaska, so the planting idea <laugh> may not work, but something else could be done. I’ve a couple times put out this medication abortion issue and I’m just pursuing more information about how much you’ve been getting contacted by women that have gone through these abortions. And if there’s anything that you would like to share with us about that particular population, and maybe it’s not the right time right now because I see other people want to talk, maybe I can talk to you in some other format for that <laugh>.
Lisa Rowe 48:48
Absolutely. And Priscilla, your topic is very timely. We’ve just created a white paper on medication abortion with a lot of questions answered for you based on research. And so why don’t we start there, Priscilla, we’ll get you a copy of that and then we can connect offline.
Karin Barbito 49:17
Priscilla, you can go to our website under the research tab and find that white paper.
Lisa Rowe 49:23
And Kylee just added the link in the chat, so thank you for that too. All right. Donette, if you would like to come off mute or are you frozen? I think she might be frozen. All right. Father Allen, you’re up next.
Fr. Allen 49:45
Thank you ladies. You’re great. There’s no group of souls that have greater love and care for women who’ve had abortions. As a pastor, as a priest, I’ve been on a couple of Rachel’s Vineyard retreats. I’ve done a number of memorial services with women and some men. I carry these little symbols with me, these little models of unborn babies, but these represent real children – Baby Angie, Baby, Mikey, Baby Norbert – whose mother I know. She’s deeply repentant. I worked very closely with her. And, doing some of the things you’ve mentioned here, although you’ve given me some better ideas, we created an honor stone for them. Almost every day she says, I’m going to visit my kids, to honor them in a public Catholic cemetery. Baby Nova was a little one I tried unsuccessfully to save at an abortion mill in California. So I honored him and others with our honor stone because it affects those of us who go out to the abortion mills. I wept, I still grieve over Baby Norbert. So, this is very good information. Thanks to whoever told me about the National Memorial Service for the unborn, that was actually a goal. Maybe we should have a couple of those across the country, physical places where they could go and honor children. That’s one of my dreams. As a pastor, it’s not only important for the healing for the woman, but it’s in the mother and the father. For me, I was always involved in pro-life work from the time I was young, but getting involved with Rachel’s Vineyard and some of these memorial services, it’s made it personal, right? It’s not just some abstract moral or political issue. I know Mikey, I know Angie, I know their mom, I know Norbert, I know all these children, right? So, thank you. I would say too, with the memorial service of Mikey and Angie, I did consider whether we should have separate ones or one together as, I think, Karin was referencing. I think it’s a great point, Karin, to, memorialize each individual one. We did decide to go with one just to show the unity of the two together, but I could see in other circumstances how you might want to have separate ones. I think it just depends on the mother and the circumstances of the abortion, of the time of memorial service, et cetera. I think the important thing is to remember each child.
Lisa Rowe 53:02
Thank you Father Allen. So what I’ve heard said is that the individualized process is so important and the babies we found at times can be triggering to some mothers and some fathers. So what that is, is a transitional object we call that. And so it’s a reminder of that child, like Karin’s ring or a blanket or that sort of thing. So, just another opportunity instead of the baby, which I did see somebody in the chat say that sometimes is triggering. We were just in a training a couple weeks ago where she said, I can’t see the fetus on the picture, and that sort of thing. So, just like you said, it’s such an individualized process. Knowing where our clients are and what they can endure is really important, and what they want is important.
All right. We have about three minutes, Karin, can you conclude us with your final thoughts? Maybe for the half that are participating that have never done a memorial, what might you suggest that they do? And for those that have, what might be one thing that they can consider moving forward?
Karin Barbito 54:16
Well, thanks for putting me on the spot with the toughest question of the day, <laugh>. So what would I recommend for the half of the people that have never gone through a memorial service before? I’m going to ask a question. Have you ever gone through a healing program before?
If you’ve gone through a healing program and haven’t gone through a memorial service, I suggest that you find another healing program that offers one and go through it so you can experience it yourself. Whether you’ve had reproductive loss or not, it’s really important for you to understand what someone goes through that’s lost children. It’s also important for them to understand that even though you haven’t, you can still grieve losses, loss of a relationship, loss of a job that you love. There’s a connection and a relatability that can happen. For those of you who have gone through a memorial service, maybe think about this presentation. If there was anything that resonated with you on some of the things that we offer in a variety of our memorial services, try adding it. If you’re a provider, maybe consider having a virtual memorial service. It was really fun. Add something to whatever it is that you’re doing. We’re real proponents of building capacity and the way that you build capacity is to add something to what you’re already doing. It just makes the door that much wider to allow people to come through that are searching for what you’re not offering.
Lisa Rowe 56:03
Thank you, Karin. I really appreciate you and Donette, you froze before. We have one minute if you’d like to ask your question or make your comment and then, we’ll send everybody on their merry way.
Hi. I’m in Vancouver, Washington. We have the She’s Restored program with Jess Lane. I’ve been through it with her. Now I’m one of her facilitators. One of the things we do after we read our letters is hold a baby doll wrapped in an Afghan <laugh> and we’re reading them to the baby right there. It’s very, very effective. And when we’re done reading those letters, we put the baby down by the cross. We have a big wooden cross with candles around, and we’re by ourselves in the room. Then we just pray and release the babies to the Lord. It’s just amazing. It’s life changing and women are just changed after they do that. We’ve seen it.
Lisa Rowe 57:06
Thank you. That is very similar to Rachel’s Vineyard and their process, as well. So very, very common there. Karin.
Karin Barbito 57:15
Surrendering the Secret also has you hold babies. Deeper Still has you hold bears? Stuffed bears, Yes. One for each child. So that’s a common practice in a memorial service.
Lisa Rowe 57:27
All right. Well, we are at our time, Karin, thank you so much for sharing your time and talent with us today, all of your experience. And for those of you who shared, and those of you who are open to new ideas, we are grateful and we are here for you. If you want to visit us at www.training.supportafterabortion.com, we have the resources we’ve spoken about today. [The link is] in the chat feature. Many of you are new today, and so we’d love to connect with you further and make this a continuing conversation every month with you. So let this not be the last time that we see one another. Without further ado, we just want to thank you again for coming and we’ll see you next time.
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