In working in post-abortion healing, we often get calls from family members or friends of those who have experienced abortion. Since the passage of Roe v Wade in 1973, over 60 million abortions have taken place in our country. We all know someone who has had an abortion.
The calls usually come in two types:
- Those who know the person they love is suffering and they want to help them, but don’t know how
- Those who do not think the abortion is impacting the person and want them to realize it. They cannot believe it would not bother someone.
Let’s try to address them both, in the hope that it will help those looking for answers.
Suffering After Abortion
It is difficult to see someone we love suffering the heart-wrenching pain of abortion. So often those who have participated in abortion believed that if they terminated their pregnancy life will go back to the way it was before they became pregnant. Sadly, they find out too late that this is not true.
Often the person experiencing the pain will feel alone and isolated. It can seem that those close to them don’t care. Once the abortion is over, it appears that they expect you to move on with your life and seem not to want to talk about. After all, this was supposed to solve the “problem,” right?
Words like, “You have to move on with your life,” or “It’s over now, you will have other children,” are often said in good faith, but are just not helpful, leaving the person feeling even worse. What often seems like the right thing for family and friends to say does not do anything to relive the pain. The problem is not that they don’t care, but that they have no idea what to say. Most often, they too have bought into the lies of abortion — believing it was the solution, or going along with it because they truly thought the person wanted the abortion and wanted to support them. So, what to do?
There is no one answer, but here are some suggestion that may help those you love:
- Listen. Yes, it can get tiring, and you can feel helpless, but it is so important to be there and allow them to process the experience and all the emotions that go along with it. Abortion can leave people filled with feelings of guilt, shame, grief and anger at themselves and others. There is a tendency to play the experience over and over and torture themselves with “would of, could of, should of” scenarios. It is important to point out that it is easy to see in retrospect and there is no way to go back, but they can move forward for healing with the right help.
- Research some materials or educational sites that acknowledge their feelings and support healing, and pass the info on to them. There are some great pamphlets and books out there that will validate their feelings, help them not feel crazy or alone, and aid them on their journey.
- Find some healing ministries, web sites or blogs to send to them. There are some wonderful ministries out there with people waiting to help them through the healing process.
- If they are severely depressed or experiencing suicidal thoughts, encourage them to seek professional help, first making sure the professional knows about post-abortion healing.
- Love them unconditionally.
- Take care of yourself and acknowledge your own loss, especially if it was your grandchild, niece or nephew, or sibling. Considering seeking counseling to help you with your own emotions and loss.
What if they say they are fine?
Often the devastation of abortion does not set in for months or even years. We have had people come forward whose abortions were over 60 years ago! It is often another event in life that awakens the sleeping dragon — like becoming pregnant, the birth of another child, having a grandchild, an illness, or even realizing the child they aborted may be the only one they will ever have.
You cannot force anyone to look at an abortion. There may be many factors stopping them, and currently, a lot of people available to help them in their denial. One only must look at recent events where women were proclaiming the joys of abortion or marching to ensure its rights at any time, for any reason, no matter what to know that this is true.
To those who would like their loved one to look, I say, pray. You cannot force someone to look at an abortion experience, and your loved one may not be psychologically or spiritually ready to face the truth honestly.
Look to make sure that your motivation is not more about your addressing your own pain about the abortion. While you should never condone the abortion, you should never condemn the woman either. Only God knows her heart and can judge her. Reassuring her of God’s love does not mean telling her the abortion was okay — it never is — but it could mean saying things like, “I’m sorry you felt like you had to make that choice.”
In truth, you do not know what’s in her heart or how she is when she is alone. She may be struggling deeply in her thoughts but puts on a front to make it seem like she is okay. Many women are terrified to look at their abortions and so rationalize and justify it it to make it okay when they know it was not. It is important for her to know that she can come to you when she is ready by not condemning her with your words, while at the same time never condoning the abortion.
Stepping forward for healing is frightening. The self-loathing that often comes from an abortion is a terrifying thing to face. The most important things you can do is pray for the person to become willing to step out for healing, trusting that God is working because He knows what they need better than you. Then, as before, take care of yourself and your own loss.
Abortion devastates many people. But, as hopeless as it may seem at times, He is there, always waiting to embrace us all with His mercy!
Theresa Bonopartis is the director of Lumina and co-developer of Entering Canaan Ministry, which offers retreats for women, men and siblings impacted by abortion and those who aborted because of an adverse diagnosis. In addition, Lumina provides training for clergy members and mental health professionals on post abortion stress.