Post Abortion Grief
Since 1995 I have counselled over 1800 grieving women following their one or more abortions. After experiencing the redemption of my own grief after two abortions, through counselling and the ministry of a Catholic priest, I gradually came to realize the need for specific type of counselling for those suffering from post abortion grief, and trauma.
In 1999 I established the office for the Victims of Abortion and to this day continue to offer both counselling and information services.
With over 40 million abortions per year, world wide, clearly there is much silent, unacknowledged suffering in the community. The symptoms of the grief are manifold. And the wounding and disruption to the woman’s, men, family and societal life is enormous. The effects of abortion not only on the women involved but also in the wider circles, I believe, are contributing to and indeed strengthening the culture of death which seems to show no signs of abating. Noteworthy also, is the reality of the predominant fact that often sexual and other abuse is found to be linked into the abortion experience. Most specifically where multiple abortions are the reality.
Abortion sorrow and grief can be ‘redeeming’ and indeed can only be healing when experienced as a redemptive type of grief. This of course is easier in the context of religious faith whereby the suffering is raised to a spiritual level. At a secular level, because forgiveness of many is the key ingredient, it becomes more difficult to achieve (though not impossible) to experience. This of course because our harshest critic is often our very self.
The women who have persisted in counselling and activities designed for healing, and who have experienced and accepted (this is important) forgiveness and healing have returned to joyful living and satisfying personal relationships and personal lives. They can do this without forgetting their experience of abortion and their lost child. They now carry both in their heart without pain.
It takes courage to confront the reality of abortion. It takes courage to admit the evil of abortion and it’s after effects. It takes courage to accept responsibility for an abortion. It also takes courage to proceed on the journey of healing of the effects of abortion and its aftermath.
Because the term post abortion syndrome, grief, is associated with the word “abortion” it is often associated with right to life. Post abortion after effects is really a situation that occurs after the “right to life” consideration has stopped its influence, or benefits, and has not been influential in changing the woman’s mind. At this point the human life in the womb has been terminated, and the only living victim remaining is the woman and sometimes the man as well.
Although there is a strong similarity between pregnancy loss (miscarriage, stillbirth) and abortion loss, post abortion the trauma is much greater due to the participation in the decision making, by the mother, that is, the compliance . Although this participation is at times little more than the giving of consent, at times under severe pressure, the guilt mechanisms, and the eventual realization of what she has done is enormous. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (DSM IV) specifies that a trauma is more severe and longer lasting when the stressor is of human design, e.g. the volitional aspect of the decision to abort.
It is difficult to imagine that a woman, who is designed by God to be a life-giving and nurturing being, can agree to the abortion process which is a medical violence. Yet hundreds of millions or even billions of women have done so since the 1960s thus not only breaking the invisible bond of love between herself and her offspring, reshaping negatively her feminine design, but in the process she has diminished her own sense of self respect. Her own feminine genius. Her womanhood. And she has wounded deeply her emotional and spiritual self.
We must realize that with the termination of the human life in her womb, a part of her womanhood, a part of herself is also terminated and the person after the ordeal of the abortion is no longer the person she was before. There has been a deep loss now etched into her being. It is almost as if two whole human beings have died on the operating table, one physically and one spiritually and emotionally.