A reflection written a few months back, for those wondering how I got started in this ministry:
Susi O Fanabba was born in early ’95 when I was 10 years old, although I didn’t find out about her until almost 11 years later. And it was several years after that, before I actually really got to know her. She is becoming better known, especially in the pro life movement, but still I am trying to do my part to share her story with even more.
How did I come to know her? Well, frankly, I am her. As are millions of others, in fact, whether they know it or not. For you see, Susi O Fanabba is not a name, per se, but rather an acronym for surviving sibling of an aborted baby.
Upon finding out about the loss of my youngest brother, Joey, I wanted nothing to do with the pro life movement. It’s not that I was for abortion, especially knowing first hand what pain it caused, but I became very defensive of mom, feeling like all who spoke against abortion, and held the graphic images, hated her, judged her, etc. And plus, I was not ready to hear all about how abortions are done, the risks, etc.
Looking back on that time, it’s amazing to see how far I’ve come! Talk about leaving your comfort zone! 😀 Here I was, a person not comfortable with expressing myself, especially in the presence of strangers, and even less comfortable getting involved in debates and such. Yet I had the nagging feeling that I should be the one speaking up on behalf of post abortive siblings, rather than waiting for others to do it. Partly because I had, not many years before also been completely unaware that anyone beyond the baby and the parents (at times) could be adversely affected. But even more so, because I saw how little was available for our healing. In the beginning I was shocked and upset, but then became more determined to see to it that hurting siblings in the future do not face as many obstacles, or feel so alone.
Beyond the fact that this was way out of my comfort zone, I wanted to make sure before I did this, that mom would be okay. I didn’t want to add to her pain, or make her feel I was betraying her. But she set my mind at ease by giving me her blessing, knowing that lives could potentially be saved, and that healing could take place. She and so many post abortives I’ve met have an admirable strength! Admitting what they did was wrong, but sharing their stories to reach out to others in a similar place and raise awareness.
Getting started was kind of tricky, because at that time, no one in the extended family knew, and I wanted them to find out only when mom was ready to tell them, and in her own way, so I was not comfortable using my full name. I could’ve used my first name only, but then Susi O Fanabba came to mind, and I found it perfect! 😀 One, it was a pen name, so even if I someone in the family or elsewhere heard my story, they wouldn’t know it was me, but also, I really like acronyms for some reason.
I started doing searches online just to see what was written about or by us. I also set up an email account under my ‘new’ name, and used it to write to different pregnancy centers nationwide to get a feel for who offered assistance to siblings. At first I was hoping for some online or phone support, rather than somewhere local, where I might be recognized. Annoyingly, there was very little. And most places I encountered (at that point), with post abortive counseling really only had it for the parents. Rachel’s Vineyard is open to all, but I was not yet ready to be in a mixed group.
I finally found what I was looking for, thanks to two groups: Lumina, in New York and Silent No More in Rhode Island. I was thrilled to see that Lumina actually offered a retreat day for post abortive siblings alone! 😀 I knew I probably couldn’t attend, but it was still comforting to know it existed at all! Silent No More was the first I actually contacted, and while we were unable to visit in person, they were very kind and supportive. And while it seemed simple at the time, the way they helped me most, was by mentioning that one of the siblings being helped by them, had found healing through something he wrote in tribute to the one who had died.
Suddenly, I was inspired to write something of my own, unaware, just how far it would lead. It helped me get things out, that had been locked in for years, and was longer than I initially expected. You can read the first reflection here: https://survivingsibling.wordpress.com/2012/10/09/reflecting-on-my-brothers-loss/ I shared it with Silent No More and some of the others I had written to, letting them know, they were welcome to share it if they came across someone who could benefit. Next. I passed it on to Lumina, asking that it be read at their upcoming retreat if at all possible. I was totally shocked and honored when after it was read, I received an invite to the retreat!!! 😀
The day of retreat, there was such anticipation! I was finally going to meet other people who could relate to my pain! I could speak freely, without fear of adding pain or hearing my mom judged! And I knew it was very likely that I would make some new friends that day. It was draining emotionally, but deeply healing. One thing that made it easier is that it took place in a former convent, so there was kind of a cozy feel. We shared our stories, without interruption in the living room. That came before lunch, where the atmosphere was a lot lighter than expected! 😀 Because the group was so small ( 5 siblings and 2 directors), we sat at one table, which was nice, so we could better get to know the others. All five of us from different states, different backgrounds, ages, yet able to relate to each other because of our shared pain, not just over the losses of our siblings, but the fact that we often have to keep it a secret.
Upon getting back from the retreat, I was feeling so much better in some ways. The biggest bummer was knowing that so few are able to make it and receive the same kind of healing (that of being with someone who can really get it, etc,). So I became even more determined to see to it that more siblings could experience similar. I started a facebook account using Susi O Fanabba, and created two pages and a group. The first two ( https://www.facebook.com/AbortionHurtsSiblingsAndOthers and https://www.facebook.com/pages/Siblings-Against-Abortion/586407808051284 ) are open to anybody, and help raise awareness of our issues. I have heard such amazing comments from people who are now helping me spread the word as well, having learned from the pages. Truly an honor!
Another amazing honor is that I have been able to start a secret group on Facebook, exclusively for post abortive siblings! We now have around 70 siblings, different religions, political views, etc putting those differences aside and helping each other during some of the rough times, and sharing in their joy during others 🙂 Like at the retreat in New York, we don’t have to worry about our grief being mocked or minimized, or hearing heartless comments against our parents, etc! As it is ‘secret’ the only way to be added is by having a friend in the group, so I have been trying to spread the word as many places, etc as I can, so other siblings can friend request me and join. It may seem annoying to some, but the nice thing, is that the tradeoff is that there is no direct link. It never shows up in your list of groups, which can be such a relief for those with friends who do not know about the abortion.
I have also started a blog ( www.survivingsibling.wordpress.com ), which has been seen by people in over 80 countries! 😀 All of this and much more have made me so excited! It means that awareness is growing, as is compassion for our pain and there are a lot more resources for siblings today who are searching. Still, I would love to see more events for siblings to meet in person (religious, and non), more unity between the pro lifers and choicers ( we have found common ground with some before, over our defensiveness of our parents after abortion), etc. While abortion is something I hope to see eliminated completely, I want post abortion healing resources (for ALL affected) to continue to grow. Having seen so much already, I have confidence that it will happen! Looking forward to watching it take place, and of course, continuing to help.