News from Open Doors June 2020

Hon. Executive Director, Alison Campbell Rate

None of us could have expected the way in which this year has unfolded! COVID 19 threw a massive curve ball into everyone’s plans, causing disruption to our day to day routines, sometimes fear and anxiety, and uncertainty about what the future might look like. We wonder, will life ever be quite the same?

In a way, this is how an unplanned pregnancy can seem to a woman or couple who are shaken by the news.  Plans are suddenly up in the air. The future seems uncertain. There may be fear and anxiety about how they will manage. Will life ever be the same?

Abortion holds out a false promise that life can return to normal, but we know that pregnancy is a physical and psychological threshold which, once crossed, is crossed forever. On the other side there is either a living child or the loss of a child. Life can never go back to what it was before the pregnancy occurred.

At Open Doors we continue to help our clients find their strengths so they can handle the ‘curve balls’ of life and begin to thrive in new ways.

We are also making sure to take care of our own people. All necessary precautions are in place at the centre to ensure everyone remains safe and well.

Since the start of April, our volunteer counsellors have been working from home via phone and online video conferencing, supporting post abortion clients and those struggling with pregnancy concerns or decisions. Our professional therapists are also providing counselling via phone, video conferencing and, where necessary, face to face at our Ringwood centre for couples in crisis.

We are experiencing a large increase in new clients. To cope with the demand, we have engaged a fourth therapist to work from the centre on Mondays.

For many, the impact of Covid-19 has made additional challenges such as pregnancy decisions, grief and loss and relationship struggles even harder to manage. A phone call enquiring for ‘relationship counselling’ so often turns out to be the precursor to the unspoken need for post abortion counselling, as you will see in this client story.

 

News from the Counselling wing (all identifying details have been changed)
Director of Counselling, Eileen Carison

During her first counselling session at Open Doors, Ava disclosed a secret she had been holding on to for the last 30 years. She told the counsellor that as a young girl of 20 she became pregnant to her fiancé, Brett.  At that stage they had been engaged for about eight months. She recalled feeling quite excited as they had already purchased a house and had talked about starting a family as soon as they were married. However, when she told Brett, it was obvious he did not share her excitement. He told her it was far too soon to start a family and that she must be crazy to even contemplate having a baby at this time.

Ava told Brett she wanted to continue with the pregnancy and that to end it didn’t feel right for her but her pleas fell on deaf ears. He told her a baby now was no way to begin a marriage and he took matters into his own hands, making an appointment for her at an abortion clinic. Even at the clinic, Ava tried to plead a case for keeping her baby, but Brett told her she wasn’t thinking straight and that she should just go through with it so they could get on with their wedding plans.

Ava and Brett got married a few months later but Ava said part of her died with her baby at the abortion clinic that day.  Despite going on to have two more children with Brett, her marriage had not been a happy one. Brett continued to dominate their relationship; it was always his way or the highway. She told the counsellor that she moved through the marriage on automatic: going through the motions of being the good wife and mother but finding very little joy or happiness in any of it.

Ava’s daughter recently experienced a miscarriage and Ava said this evoked a lot of emotions in her – feelings of grief and loss about the baby she aborted so many years ago.  She has also developed deep feelings of resentment and anger towards Brett. So strong are these feelings that she is considering leaving the marriage. She said she is very confused about why she should be feeling this way now, given the abortion occurred so long ago. She was frightened she was going crazy and this was what motivated her to seek help, hence her call to Open Doors.

The counsellor was able to normalise and validate Ava’s feelings and emotions and assure her that she was not going crazy. She explained to Ava that after the abortion she had shut down emotionally. This may be because on a subconscious level she was protecting herself against experiencing the enormity of the loss or because there was no time or space to do so, with the impending wedding needing all her attention. For whatever reason, she buried her abortion experience, never having the opportunity to acknowledge or grieve her loss.

However, the unresolved grief has hung over her like a dark shroud, negatively impacting her marriage, family and enjoyment of life. To heal from grief and loss, it has to be experienced. Her daughter’s miscarriage triggered her own secret and painful loss, giving her the opportunity to bring her grief into the open at last.

Ava told the counsellor that she had experienced so much relief from just disclosing her abortion. The shame of what she had done had prevented her from disclosing her abortion to anyone before now. To be able to tell her story, have it validated, not be judged and realise that other women have also had their lives negatively impacted by their abortion decision, has given her hope for healing and the possibility of a brighter future.

Thanks to the first empathic encounter with an Open Doors counsellor, Ava is currently continuing her healing journey through post abortion counselling and awaiting the opportunity to do a Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat.                     EILEEN

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We hope to be able to offer a Retreat later this year for ‘Ava’ and others on the waiting list but it all depends on the COVID-19 restrictions. Our monthly post abortion support group is also on hold for the time being, as is our school based educational work.

With the shut down of schools, we have lost all our education income from school presentations and Wonder of Living sales for most of Term 1 and all of Term 2. We’re not sure what the rest of the year will look like as schools try to catch up on all that has been put to one side. So for the first time in years our presentation team is enjoying a lot of down time.

But as I finish off this letter to you, our Ringwood centre is humming with activity: our four counselling rooms are occupied with face to face sessions, the phone is ringing with requests for new appointments and our amazing volunteers are providing phone and online sessions from their homes.

What a sanctuary Open Doors is for so many who couldn’t tell their stories anywhere else! Thank you so much for helping us bring healing and hope to so many.

with our prayers and warm regards,

Alison, on behalf of all the team at Open Doors

 

 

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News from Open Doors Feb 2020
Annual report for the Year 2019