Once, I was sitting with a family member after a major surgery. He looked at me and said, “I don’t think I will ever heal.” He was in so much pain that I knew he meant it. True, he was pretty far away from a full recovery, but he would and could mend. In the moment, it sure didn’t feel like it to him.
I listen to those kinds of statements frequently as a therapist. I regularly hear, “Will I ever recover?” Many times, these questions come from women processing their choice of abortion. Women from all walks of life sit in my office, across the table at dinner, or on my back porch and share with me their story of choosing abortion. Each woman is different in her personality, age, stage of life, upbringing, and economic status. They explain to me their story and the aftermath of their decision: the way they view themselves now, the way they view God, and the good and bad ways they have been treated by the church.
The destruction in their life due to the choice to have an abortion is obvious, but how to navigate the emotional aftermath is not. Many of the women I work with can’t imagine healing. The pain runs deep. The shame paralyzes. Sadness and regret become unwelcome companions.
To the women who have had abortions, to partners, and to friends and family that supported the decision, there is healing! The answer to the question, “Will I ever heal?” is a resounding yes! It can be a complicated journey, but at the end is the forgiving and loving Jesus Christ. Your journey to begin healing can happen in many ways, and below are some avenues to start.
TELL YOUR STORY
There is power in words, and even more power in verbalizing those words. Telling safe, healthy people your story helps our minds and hearts process an event. It can help us come out of denial, move an event out of darkness and shame, be honest with ourselves and others, and admit we need support. It is admitting the fullness of our narrative. Telling our story is usually the first step in beginning the healing journey.
FACE THE SHAME
A woman once told me, “It felt as though there was a large ‘A’ on my forehead that gave away my secret. I attended church carrying what I felt was the unforgiveable sin and held my head in shame. What if all these people knew I chose abortion over having a child? Would I be welcome with my secret out? Would I be considered a second class Christian? If what the pastor says is true, that God, in His infinite wisdom has a plan and a purpose for every person knitted in their mother's womb, who would accept a destroyer of this great plan?”
Toxic shame encourages us to keep our secrets and tells us that our worth has been demolished by our sins. This is not the Gospel of Christ. Christ calls us to bring our sins and shame into the light to be forgiven and washed clean. Face and reject toxic shame, and claim your identity in Christ.
There has been a loss of life, and it is healthy and okay to grieve. Grief looks different for each person as it ebbs and flows like the tide. One day you’re fine, and the next day a tidal wave hits. Identify these emotions and express your grief in healthy ways. Grieve with hope. A hope that Jesus is in control of everything. A hope that Jesus has a plan. A hope that Jesus forgives and will bring healing. Grief is complicated and has many faces; healthy grief helps us move forward and accept reality. Don’t forget to acknowledge the possible secondary losses, like a loss of how you viewed yourself, a relationship, or your view of the church. Some of these secondary losses can be restored or redeemed over time. Grieving helps us move through the pain of a loss to accept and release it. Give yourself permission to grieve.
For those in Christ, grace is a never-ending well. Because of the cross, nothing is out of Jesus’ reach. His perfect life, death, and resurrection purchases righteousness none of us deserve. The contempt you have for yourself and the way you try to atone for your own sin is in vain, and it only sends you into more despair. Come find a relationship with Jesus, and through Him, be white as snow. A woman once told me of her experience of finding freedom in Christ’s forgiveness:
“What my pastor spoke was truth, but not the whole truth. What was missing, and what I finally found, was Romans 8:28, ‘Therefore there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.’ When I accepted Christ and asked His forgiveness for all my sins, my abortion was one of my sins that he lovingly and graciously forgave.”
Friends, there is healing from an abortion. Your choice does not disqualify you from fullness of life. Recovery from anything is complicated, and every person’s journey is unique. Begin your journey of healing with a view of Jesus and begin walking down the road.