By Kevin Burke, LSW
Theresa Bonopartis is the Director of Lumina, offering hope and healing after abortion. A special area of her outreach features the “Entering Canaan” sibling retreat weekends which focus on the struggle of siblings who learn of a parent’s previous abortion, and the realization they have lost a brother or sister.
I asked Theresa, based on her years of ministry with sibling survivors, to share some thoughts on the movie Unplanned:
Theresa: The impact of abortion on sibling survivors is very complex and varied. Many parents tell their children about a past abortion, and then believe they are fine once this secret has been disclosed.
But when it comes to abortion the parents are often the last to know the interior struggles of the child they have told. I hope what I share can help them better discern if their child should see the movie:
- Many kids see the suffering of a parent who has had an abortion. It is not unusual for them to express a sentiment of “now everything makes sense” surrounding their life once they find out about a sibling. Wanting to shield the parents they love from further pain, they often hide their own pain and conflict at the expense of their own healing.
- They are also wanting to be loved by them. The knowledge that their protectors were involved in the death of a sibling is often very hard to reconcile but they do not express this to their parents. Many times they are left with multiple questions but feel unable to ask for fear of causing more turmoil.
- As Kevin shared in his recent blog, the movie has some disturbing and necessarily graphic material. Discern carefully if this is the best way to educate your child about abortion. Chances are they know the destruction of abortion just from their personal experience and so there is not a need to subject them to what could be additional trauma that they are already trying to reconcile many times on their own.
- Sibling survivors can manifest the impact in many different ways. Many feel guilty for being alive, wonder if their name would be the same or if they would even be here had their sibling lived. It is unrealistic to think that there are no implications to knowing. Most either become very pro-life or as in the case of children of abortion supporters they join their parent in justifying abortion for any reason.
If your child does knows of a past abortion, and sees the film, they may benefit from connecting with others who have this type of abortion loss in their families. It has been our experience over the past nine years of offering these retreats that it is very helpful to share and learn they are not alone, in an environment that does not judge their parents, but offers support, and helps with understanding. Many of the friendships made have been long lasting.
We have a support network where siblings can connect with others who understand their loss. Our Next sibling retreat is August 16-18 and will be led by Father Fidelis Moscinski, CFR, and a sibling with abortion loss; both have extensive experience in this ministry. Scholarships are available.