Five men share their abortion loss struggles, tips for men, and suggestions for family & friends
“Men who have lost children to abortion can find Father’s Day celebrations challenging,” said after-abortion healing expert Greg Mayo, who lost two children to abortion and leads Support After Abortion’s National Men’s Task Force.
“Men’s emotions and grief around abortion are often ignored or dismissed,” continued Mayo. “But their pain and feelings are real, and on Father’s Day their thoughts often go to their missing children perhaps even while celebrating the joy of the day with their living children.”
Support After Abortion’s national survey of men who experienced abortion through a partner’s termination found that 71% of men report adverse changes after abortion, such as depression, anxiety, and anger.
Five men whose abortion experiences range from three months to 44 years ago shared their Father’s Day struggles, tips for navigating the day, and suggestions for how family and friends can be supportive.
Father’s Day Can be a Struggle for Men after Abortion
Mayo’s two abortion experiences three decades ago really hit him years later when his son was born two weeks before Father’s Day. “I was sitting there holding him,” Mayo said, “and became acutely aware there were two children who weren’t there. I pushed it down because I didn’t have any tools at the time to process it.” For years he did “normal Father’s Day stuff,” hanging out with his three kids, but described “a sort of empty feeling around the kids who were not there.”
Thomas*, whose abortion experience was 15 years ago, said “There was always something missing that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I was stuffing it so far down I didn’t even know.” Thomas shared attending Mass with his family “definitely affected me” when the priest would “ask all the fathers to stand up and people would clap.” He said his parents didn’t know, “so I held it in – hearing all the negative voices and thoughts in my head – I’m horrible, I should be a father.”
This is the first Father’s Day for Mike* since the abortion. “To be honest, I’m afraid for next Sunday,” he said. “I’m going to think about it no matter what. I hope I don’t wake up crying.” He shared that he had been excited about the baby. They were making plans, buying baby clothes, Christmas books, and looking at getting a house. Their baby was 18 weeks along when “she changed her mind. She’d been showing, then the next time I saw her, nothing… It’s really hard,” Mike said. “Even though I’m pro-choice, I was surprised I felt so much. I thought since I was okay with abortion I wouldn’t be affected, but it just destroyed me.”
Keith’s* abortion experience was over 40 years ago when he and his then girlfriend were young college students. He said he “didn’t give Father’s Day much thought. Probably stuffing it” for decades. “It was my secret.” Later after he got married and started a family, Father’s Day had “some darkness, but a lot of light” because of celebrating with his children.
“I remember the first year when Father’s day came around just a few weeks after the abortion,” Cole* said, “My main thought was What kind of father am I? I failed to protect my first child. It really dragged me down to a pretty dark place in my mind. Later Father’s Days I mainly just tried not to think about it. Now that I’m trying to work through it,” he continued, “maybe this Father’s Day won’t be as bad.”
Facing Father’s Day After Abortion
Support After Abortion CEO Lisa Rowe, a licensed mental health therapist and social worker, said “Releasing emotions in a healthy way can bring a measure of peace and allow men who have experienced abortion loss to participate in the rest of Father’s Day, especially if they have living children.” Rowe suggested, as she did for women on Mother’s Day, that men “take the first hour of the day to themselves to experience the grief, so they can enter into the joy of the moment.”
Mayo said after healing from father wounds and the abortions, “Father’s Day was a great day, but there’s always a part of it where I’m by myself and think about the children who aren’t with me. I’ll go to a park, hang out on the creek bank, even just run to the store – and have a silent moment to reflect.
Mike said he would be spending the day with his eight year old son. “My plan is just to let him lead and to keep very, very busy. That will give me a distraction.” After hearing Rowe’s advice and Mayo’s habit, Mike said, “That makes sense. I’ll do that – an hour to myself to reflect before I spend the day with my son.”
Keith also plans to spend some time on Father’s Day “dedicated to thinking about” his daughter. “I might write something – maybe a story or a song, or give myself a physical challenge.”
Thomas shared that for the first time he’s “actually looking forward to Father’s Day.” He described a 15-year struggle with “alcohol and drug abuse, acting out, poor decisions, and destruction” after encouraging his then girlfriend to have an abortion in their early 20s. He said, “getting help with the alcohol was the start of healing.” As his healing process went deeper he realized “the root for me was the abortion.” Going through Support After Abortion’s healing program Keys to Hope and Healing “helped me to process the sad thoughts, regret, sorrow, and shame I used to feel.” He said this year is different. “My last drink was Father’s Day two years ago.” He will spend this Father’s Day with his dad “celebrating the healing and reflecting on all the positive growth of the last two years.”
Tips for Men Navigating Father’s Day After Abortion Loss
The men shared that they know the emotions will come on Father’s Day. “Having a healthy way to deal with that is the only option we have,” Mayo said. “Find somewhere that makes sense to you to just be still and consciously acknowledge the child(ren) you’ve lost, or do something – take a walk by yourself, write a song on the guitar, whatever is meaningful for you and brings you some modicum of peace.
Some of the tips the men offered include:
- What you feel is valid no matter what anyone else says; the pain is real.
- Express your grief. Confide in someone.
- Seek help. It’s not easy carrying that burden by yourself.
- Don’t be afraid of the pain because it’ll lead you to joy and freedom.
- Don’t isolate from people. Go out. Try to be around people.
- Talk to your child – share your regrets and sorrows.
- Don’t give up hope, the healing process takes time. Stick to it. It gets better.
“It’s such a cliche and stupid phrase, but know that you’re not alone,” Mike said, “this has happened to millions of people. That doesn’t take away how impactful it is for you. Father’s Day will be different for each man. It could be a day of reflection or a day that feels catastrophic. It’s going to be hard for most. But you’re truly not alone.”
Suggestions for Family & Friends to Support Men on Father’s Day After Abortion
Mayo urges families, friends, church leaders, and communities to “be conscious that by age 45, one in five men will experience abortion¹; you may know a man who has an abortion loss – whether you are aware of it or not.”
Mayo continued, “Here’s the thing, men are left out of the abortion conversation on all ends – so on Father’s Day, being given the space to grieve and someone to listen may be all that guy needs to make the day a little bit better.” The men echoed this advice, emphasizing the need to discern his wishes.
Cole cautioned family members or others who were involved in the abortion discussion or decision to recognize the man may feel “quite a lot of resentment” and urged people to be “patient, understanding, and careful with your tone of voice.”
Keith urged others to “be present, slow to speak, and quick to listen.” He advised, “Don’t get into the whys when he tells his story, just be a willing listener, a safe space, so he can speak freely and know he won’t be judged.
“It’s Father’s Day. It’s everywhere,” Cole said, “Everyone’s talking about it. Be sensitive that it’s a tough one for men [with abortion loss].”
Next Steps for Men Grieving Abortion Loss
Grief is a common and natural response to loss that varies for everyone, and grief after abortion is no different. Mike said he would want people to know that “it really does impact men much more than people think.”
Men and women who are struggling after abortion may contact the Support After Abortion team for confidential, anonymous support here.
Men are invited to Base Camp, an open-forum, virtual weekly discussion group for men who have been impacted by abortion led by Mayo. No registering. No pressure. No commitment. Base Camp meets weekly on Tuesdays at 7p EST, just click here to join us on Zoom!
* Names have been changed to protect the men’s privacy.
¹ National Survey of Family Growth, Feb 2022, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.contraception.2022.01.012
About Support After Abortion
Support After Abortion is a nonprofit dedicated to helping men and women impacted after abortion by (1) connecting them with healing options they prefer, and (2) equipping providers with curriculum, resources, and trainings. Support After Abortion’s free resources include an After Abortion Help Line, a national therapist and counseling directory, and an introductory abortion healing program.
About the Author
Michele serves as Communications Manager for Support After Abortion. She and her husband have experienced reproductive loss through three miscarriages and stillborn twins. They live in Greenville, SC with their three daughters.