In our February 21st webinar, Support After Abortion Executive Director Kylee Heap and Men’s Healing Strategist Greg Mayo explored the Top 10 Resolutions for Abortion Healing Providers.

 

INTRO

 

“Did you know that by the second week in January, most people have given up on their resolutions?” Kylee asked.  “That’s why we chose to talk about resolutions in February, getting past the January hump of the new year.” 

 

Kylee and Greg explained that the goal is to “refresh ourselves and the commitments we want to make with abortion healing” and to be “intentional with plans, organization, our team, and self-care.”

 

RESOLUTION #1 – BE MY HEALTHIEST SELF

 

Self-care is important because we can’t pour from an empty cup. Kylee made an analogy to airline cautions to put on our masks before helping the person next to us.

 

“I can’t help you if I can’t breathe,” Greg agreed. “Working on your own recovery – everyone’s path and needs are different. Having spent over half my life in some form of recovery, I once thought maybe I’ll be done at some point. But, there are always ways to grow and improve, and that’s part of being your healthiest self. The other part is realizing when you have a need that you need to address. Ask yourself, Am I getting super anxious? Do I need to take a walk to clear my head? Do I have a sick loved one or pet or something that needs my attention and I can’t stop thinking about it? We all have different things happen in our lives. If we’re not healing-aware and take those moments to care for ourselves, we won’t be healthy for others.”

 

“We recently had a team retreat where we talked about how self-care isn’t selfish,” Kylee said. “It can be hard for people who give so much of themselves to remember that loving yourself is willing your own good. Willing the good of others, but willing the good of yourself first.” She recommended a 12-minute video with Fr. Mike Schmidtz advocating the importance of self-care.

 

“Something that I’ve thought about multiple times a day since our retreat,” Greg shared, “is a different way of thinking about how we pour into others.” He described Fr. Schmidt’s analogy of a pipe versus an overflowing cup. “We often think about God’s love pouring into us and flowing out through us as if we were a pipe. But Fr. Schmidt said we pour into others as God pours into us. And when our cup starts flowing over, the abundance of what we receive is what we give to others. That was one of the most profound things I’ve heard in a long time about the nature of caring for yourself.” 

 

“What a beautiful thing it means for us and those we serve,” Kylee said, “that we’re not just conduits running water of God’s love through us, but really overflowing God’s love.“

 

Greg shared about a recent situation that made him nervous and stressed out. He had an opportunity to take half an hour for himself before the event and went to the lake. “I was very conscious that I needed some time to breathe and reflect. That 30 minutes to really focus on myself allowed me to be absorbed in calm and then go serve others.”

 

RESOLUTION #2 – SET HEALTHY BOUNDARIES

 

Pouring into others and self-care segues into setting healthy boundaries. How many of us struggle with having healthy boundaries? It may be with our teams, our clients, our families, our friends, whatever. 

Greg shared some of his struggles and recovery journey. He talked about consequences of not setting boundaries including burnout, setting back your own personal healing, pouring from an empty cup, bitterness, and inefficiency. He described how such experiences trickle down and negatively impact the people we serve.

 

RESOLUTION #3 – FOSTER A SAFE AND SUPPORTIVE ENVIRONMENT

 

“These are all interlinked,” Greg said. “If we’re working on ourselves and we’re trying to present our healthiest self and we have healthy boundaries, then we’re able to be our most impactful, which leads to fostering a safe, supportive environment for our team, volunteers, and the people we serve.”

 

What does safe and supportive look like? 

 

“It means I’m not projecting my issues on the people around me,” Greg said. “I’m not exhibiting dysfunctional behavior. I’ve set up a space where people have the best opportunity for the best possible outcome.”

 

He described a safe environment as one in which people can share their stories, their pain, and be supported. “Safe and supportive can’t be separated,” he said. “You have to have both.”

 

“It’s supporting people with what they need, not what I think they need,” Greg said. “Those may align some times, but not necessarily.” 

 

Greg gave an example of when he works with clients or facilitating groups, “I talk about this is what worked for me – not telling any of the guys I work with or my group participants what they need to do. It’s providing them the freedom to explore their own avenues, and I will support them as they walk down that path.”

 

Kylee went on to emphasize the shared responsibility within organizations, highlighting that it’s “not a top-down or a bottom-up” approach, but rather involves everyone in the organization contributing to creating “safe and supportive environments rooted in being their best selves and setting healthy boundaries.” 

 

She suggested gathering feedback from diverse perspectives, stating, “One of my favorite tools lately has been gathering different-minded people together to get their feedback on the experience they have with our organization,” and encouraged evaluating various touch points, including virtual experiences and interactions to ensure individuals feel welcomed and safe.  

 

RESOLUTION #4 – BEGIN WITH LISTENING

 

“Begin with listening,” Greg stressed, in order to understand how to best serve the person. He emphasized the need for a curious approach. Greg advised against making assumptions and instead advocated for having thoughtful conversations, noting, “You’re not thinking about what you’re going to say next because you are truly listening.” He suggested asking questions and letting the answers guide the conversation, saying, “The answer to that question will lead you to whatever the next question needs to be.” 

 

Greg went on to point out the significance of authentic listening, stating, “being intentional about listening, truly listening, will help you get through the anger, get through the fear, and get to what’s really impacting that person.” He concluded by asserting, “I don’t think we can help anybody if we don’t truly listen to them.” 

 

Kylee then shared an experience during a recent After Abortion Line training review of interactions with clients. It highlighted the importance of actively listening to clients’ experiences to overcome biases and improve services. She emphasized the benefits of revisiting conversations outside the pressure of the moment, leading to continuous improvement. Kylee noted the significance of avoiding personal biases and refraining from imposing our own story onto others. She underscored the importance of understanding differing interpretations of words and phrases, advocating for clarifying meanings directly with those we serve. Specifically, she mentions the practice of asking clients to elaborate on statements like, I just can’t live with this decision or I can’t live with the way I feel right now to understand their perspective before making assumptions. She says, “Instead of jumping right to, this person is experiencing suicidal thoughts, we ask them, What does that mean for you? What does that look like when you express that?

 

Greg recalled a time in his 20’s when a therapist jumped to asking if he was having suicidal thoughts instead of delving into a conversation, which he believes could have brought to light his deeper troubles, including his abortion experiences, which they hadn’t yet discussed. This experience highlights the importance of asking good questions to navigate conversations effectively. As Greg points out, “You can go the wrong direction if you don’t ask good questions.”

 

Greg provided an example of asking deeper questions to uncover deeper emotions and root issues:

 

Guy: I’m just so angry. I’m spitting nails. I don’t know what to do.

 

Greg: I understand that. I’ve been angry too. What do you think you’re angry about?

 

Guy: I don’t know. This and that. She did this, that person did that.

 

Greg: Did you have a feeling about that, or are you just feeling the anger right now?

 

Guy: Well, yeah, the thing is, I couldn’t do anything about it.

 

At this point, Greg began to key in on what this man could really be dealing with: helplessness.  

 

Greg: Is that something you think about a lot?

 

Guy: Well, no, it’s just life, but I mean, you have to wonder. I’ll never know. I’ll never know what it’s like to throw a ball with my son. 

 

Greg: Do you have a feeling about that? Help me understand what’s going on right now. 

 

Guy: Well, it’s just sad. It’s sad because I’ll never know, and there was nothing I could do about it. 

 

Greg has now noted that this man is most likely struggling with some depression in addition to his feelings of helplessness. The conversation continued, revealing that as a Christian, his main fear was that God would never forgive him. 

 

Greg pointed out that “whether you’re religious or not, his statements should tell you that there’s a deep level of shame there.” This exchange demonstrated how it only took an 8-minute conversation to uncover that he was dealing with a variety of emotions: fear, anger, helplessness, shame, and regret. 

 

Greg shared that this particular client ended up entering a Keys to Hope and Healing group and, although there was still work to do, he was in a much better place after only six weeks. 

 

RESOLUTION #5 – MEET CLIENTS WHERE THEY ARE

 

“Meet clients where they are,” Greg said. “It’s important to really understand what that means.” He stressed how crucial this concept is and cautioned that, while it’s a familiar phrase, its depth warrants deeper understanding. 

 

He illustrated this with an anecdote from a one-on-one session where the client started off asking if Greg was religious, worried that it could impact their discussions. Greg reassured the client, “I am, but the fact that you’re not is totally fine.” One way this played out was in not commenting on the client’s frequent swearing because  “I knew I would lose him permanently and not be able to help him at all” if I did that. He needed to be able to  express his emotions authentically. Greg explained, “It’s walking beside them, sitting down, figuring out who they are, what they need, and what moment they’re in when you approach them.”

 

Kylee acknowledged the challenge of not imposing our desired solutions on others’ journeys, recognizing that although we may see a path that could take someone “quickly from the grief and pain they’re feeling to relief and freedom, maybe we’ve experienced it ourselves, but we can’t drive their story.”

 

Greg agreed with Kylee, and emphasized the risk of losing someone by imposing desired solutions on their journey. He shared from his own experience, reiterating  the importance of allowing individuals to choose their own path and walking with them. 

 

Kylee reflected on the complexity of individual journeys, remarking, “There are just so many variables that you can’t account for.” She recounted a significant moment when she first joined Support After Abortion, where someone expressed a desire for a different response from their friends to their pregnancy announcement. Rather than the typical, impulsive “congratulations,” they wished that someone would have asked them how they felt about it instead of making assumptions about their emotions. Kylee said, “When we try to tell people how they’re feeling or what it means or what it might be connected to, that takes away from their experience.”

 

Kylee went on to discuss why an options-based approach to healing is so imperative in being able to meet people where they are and allowing them to guide their own journeys. “Through our After Abortion Line, we discern with clients” what option best meets their needs, she said. “Sometimes that’s going to be one-on-one care, sometimes a group setting, sometimes straight to clinical care, sometimes to peer-led care, sometimes religious, sometimes secular.” 

 

And it’s not a one-and-done experience, she explained. “When they want to go to the next step in their journey, we revisit the conversation all over again, because we can’t assume that their first step is going to be what they need for their second step. And sometimes people want to repeat a step, which we need to be open to as well.” 

 

Greg commented on a key aspect that links the first five points together, stating, “Be comfortable with the uncomfortable silence.” Greg pointed out the importance of allowing individuals time to process and connect with their emotions without feeling the need to constantly provide information. Greg highlighted the common urge to rush in with advice or explanations, acknowledging the discomfort of silence but emphasizing its value in allowing people to engage with their thoughts and feelings. 

 

RESOLUTION #6 – COLLABORATION

 

“The next one has a lot to do with how we all work together in this world: collaboration,” Greg said as he introduced the sixth resolution. He emphasized that one of the most impactful ways to help others is through pulling on different experiences, healing journeys, ideas, and gifts of other people and organizations. “This is how we learn and grow,” he said.

 

Greg underscored the crux of strengthening the abortion-healing movement through collective effort for the common goal of helping as many people find healing as possible saying, “We will strengthen the abortion-healing movement by working together, learning from each other.” 

 

Kylee encouraged seeing invitations to collaborate not as one more thing to do, but as opportunities to “walk forward together” to help people by “inviting the conversation about abortion healing.” 

 

She gave examples of agencies that work with individuals in circumstances that have a high intersection with abortion, such as domestic violence shelters, addiction support groups, homeless shelters, sex-trafficking agencies, and prison ministries. She described different ways agencies might opt to assist their clients, such as referring clients struggling after abortion for support, making abortion-healing resources available to their clients, or even integrating abortion-healing into their own programs.

 

Greg agreed and highlighted his collaborations in equipping leaders and agencies whose expertise is sexual dysfunction, pornography, and addiction to engage with their clients in navigating conversations about abortion experiences and referring for or incorporating abortion healing. 

 

RESOLUTION #7 – RECOGNIZE & EMBRACE INDIVIDUAL STRENGTHS, TALENTS, DIVERSITY

 

Greg discussed the importance of recognizing and embracing individual strengths, talents, and diversity and allowing people opportunities to effectively do what they’re good at, and not push your team and volunteers into space that aren’t “their gig.” He emphasized that “letting people be what they’re good at and helping them develop” is the way to thrive, as individuals and as an organization.

 

Kylee echoed Greg’s sentiments and highlighted the benefit of assessments in understanding team dynamics. She discussed the importance of identifying team members’ gifts and talents and matching them to the best seat on your organization’s bus. She pointed out that we often “see somebody who is really competent and really doing a great job” and “promote them to different gigs because we see some fire burning” and think that because they’re so good at one thing, we should get them to put out this other fire. But that’s “not necessarily honoring the person,” she said. She humorously quipped, “If I took Greg, a very competent staff member and sent him into an accounting burning building, that would be a disaster on so many levels.” Greg jumped in, “And that building would continue to burn!”

 

RESOLUTION #8 – KEEP MY LANES CLEAR / STAY IN MY LANE 

 

“I know what I know, and I know what I don’t know,” Greg said as he spoke on the importance of staying in our own lane. As an example, he described a situation with a client going through Keys to Hope and Healing. “As we get through one layer of healing” the client’s pornography addiction surfaces. “I don’t personally know how to help him with that,” Greg said. “So I stay in my lane, which is abortion healing,” and I refer him to someone whose lane is pornography addiction who can help him navigate dealing with that. Sometimes we want to try to help our clients with all their challenges, but Greg pointed out that “when I get muddled down with things that aren’t in my lane, I am less impactful to the people I’m trying to serve.”

 

In response Kylee said, “Knowing what you don’t know is such a valuable contribution to your team.”  She stressed how important it is to recognize one’s limitations and expertise, even within your own team. She pointed out how walking in excellence “doesn’t mean that we have to be excellent in everything, it just means that we need to know where we can operate within our zeal, gifts, and talents and stay in that space.”  

 

Greg affirmed that these are key elements in having “a truly effective and impactful team,” saying, “You collaborate, you talk, but you stay in your lane and do what you do. They’re not rigid boundaries, but an understanding and awareness of where I belong and what I’m doing.” 

 

RESOLUTION #9 – REMOVE OBSTACLES TO ACCESS HEALING

 

Removing obstacles connects to the previous resolutions, especially listening to our clients needs and recognizing the kind of healing they desire. Greg mentioned key findings from Support After Abortion’s national research studies on the impact of abortion on women and men. For example, just 40% of men want a religious approach to healing and 77% strongly value anonymity. “So if you hang a shingle out on your church and it says Men’s Abortion Healing Tuesday Nights at 8,” you won’t reach the majority of men in the area who may be struggling after abortion but want a non-religious, anonymous approach to healing.

 

Kylee illustrated this by sharing a story about a pregnancy resource center that saw about 100 people a year who they could not serve because that center didn’t offer the type of care that those 100 people needed. The solution was to expand their options to allow for a new resource to be added. The outcome was that more people were able to receive healing and not be left to continue struggling after their abortions.

 

Greg discussed another example from when he was first asked to facilitate a virtual healing group. He shared that he was convinced it would not work, that guys wouldn’t like that format. He said that his 20 years of recovery experience “had taught me that you meet in person, and that’s how healing works.” But, he said, he “learned that guys are actually quite a bit more comfortable sitting in the brown den or garage on a Zoom call than they are sitting in a circle in some strange building.”

 

Kylee described how an organization’s intake process can be an obstacle for clients. She pointed out that while, like her, we may love data and desire more information, long intake forms and processes can feel burdensome for clients who “just want to have a release and experience healing.” She described how Support After Abortion simplified its process and shortened its form to reduce that barrier to care.

 

Another example Greg addressed was language barriers, for example if there’s a large Spanish-speaking community, not having a Spanish option is an obstacle for them to access healing. Greg summarized this resolution by saying, “The more options you have, the more obstacles you remove.”

 

RESOLUTION #10 – ENSURE MARKETING, MESSAGING, DECOR, PROCESSES, RESOURCES… SPEAK TO ALL CLIENTS

 

Greg drew attention to the importance of ensuring that marketing, messaging, decor, processes, and resources speak to all clients. He reflected on his own experience 15 years ago and encouraged providers to view how their spaces, wall colors, and design elements resonate with different people. He encouraged providers to create welcoming spaces, marketing, and social media posts that appeal to both men and women, regardless of socio-economic status, or religious background. 

 

In response. Kylee expanded on this idea, stressing the need to consider factors beyond gender and socio-economics, such as religious setting, and suggested forming advisory committees to ensure inclusivity and to address blind spots, stating, “We have mystery shoppers in grocery stores, we can have mystery shoppers in our clinics and spaces as well that can help to give us feedback and guide us on things that might be a blind spot for us.”

 

CLOSING

 

Kylee shared a worksheet that covers all 10 Resolutions. “It’s going to challenge you,” she said. She encouraged providers to do this exercise on their own or with their teams to reflect and assess how they’re doing in these areas. She encouraged providers to ask themselves, What is at least one thing in these resolutions that we could do in 2024? 

 

NEXT STEPS

 

Click here to watch the video of this webinar.

 

Click here to access the Top 10 Resolutions Worksheet.  

 

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.