This is a guest post written by: Dr. Martha Shuping, MD
Many women have experienced grief or depression following pregnancy loss, whether a miscarriage, stillbirth, or abortion. These losses are different in some ways, but there are many similarities, and the effects can last for many years.
One factor in pregnancy loss leading to long lasting grief is that we can't talk about it with anyone. After miscarriage, friends or family who know about it, often don't know what to say, and may say things that are uncomfortable or unintentionally hurtful. With abortion, most likely the plan was to keep the pregnancy a secret, so there may be no one you could tell. But research shows that talking with other women is a vitally important way that women deal with stress. Too often women are left alone and without resources for these losses--women's magazines offer guidance on weight loss, health and beauty secrets, but never an article on four steps to cope with miscarriage or abortion. But for those who are carrying this grief, help is available to resolve issues and move forward.
Starting in September 2014, women in Newfoundland will have a resource for helping them recover from lingering emotional issues associated with a past abortion. A Rachel's Vineyard weekend is being held on Sept 26-28 at a confidential location in the St John's area, and local counselors and clergy are being trained to continue a range of abortion recovery services.
The Rachel's Vineyard weekend originated in the U.S. but is now in more than 50 countries, including 9 locations across Canada. Rachel's Vineyard provides a confidential, non-judgmental setting in which women can express emotions that may have been held inside for years.
In an outcome study of 241 past participants in Rachel's Vineyard weekend, women were asked to rate the weekend using a negative number if the weekend was harmful to them, a zero if it didn't hurt but didn't help, or a rating of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest, if it was helpful. The average rating was 4.75 with no negative numbers and no ratings of zero. Women say, it changed their lives.
It's certainly true that not everyone desires help with pregnancy loss issues, but some do. A 2013 study recruited volunteers among students at McGill University and Concordia University in Montreal. Of 150 volunteers, 89 students had an abortion in their past. The students who had a previous abortion all had grief and symptoms of PTSD that lasted on average three years. More than half of these students desired treatment.
Counselors associated with the Centre for Life are aware that a number of Newfoundland women have even flown to Ottawa to attend the Rachel's Vineyard weekend, so they are interested in seeing this established in St. John's as a local resource.
Many women feel fearful of making that first phone call, and are relieved to find out that each Rachel's Vineyard includes team members who have had a past abortion. Women are also sometimes fearful of disclosing when there has been more than one abortion in the past. But actually, about 50% of women having abortions have more than one, so it's usual on any weekend that several women may have had two, three, or more abortions.
One woman told us, "During the first evening when the women began to share their stories, I was so amazed at the honesty of the women, they just bared their souls. When my turn came, I was so eager to get it off my chest. I never thought I would have the strength to say it. The shame and the pain that I have felt for so many years is passing. I am hopeful for the future. Rachel's Vineyard is a safe place. I am so glad that I came."
Want More Information? Those interested in more information about the Rachel's Vineyard weekend can email Dr. Shuping at [email protected] Although Rachel's Vineyard is especially for those who have had abortions, those seeking help for other pregnancy losses are welcome to email her or to phone the Centre for Life to get more information about individual counseling options.
This is a guest post by Dr. Martha Shuping, MD. She is a psychiatrist with over 20 years experience in helping women with post-abortion healing. She led the first-ever Newfoundland Rachel's Vineyard Retreat Weekend for helping women cope with pregnancy loss on September26-28th, 2014 here on our beautiful island!
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