Post-Abortion Healing for Hidden Hurts

Off Limits

No one’s talking about it. If they do, they will be told – often by silent or deaf ears – to keep their mouths shut.

Trauma. That’s what this is about. We can – and should – encourage healing forums for victims of abuse, combat, or accidents, but abortion? That’s right. Abortion has victims who are still with us. More of them than we know. You may be among them.

Forget the politics and morality of abortion. Instead, this is about secrets that hold countless women hostage and how those women can break free.

Recently I attended a workshop that made a strong case for post-abortion healing. It was created and run by Linda Keener Thomas, who directed a pregnancy center and founded the National Memorial for the Unborn in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Thomas calls her workshop “Helping Heal the Hurt” and designed it to “put a face on abortion.” According to Thomas, it equips the church to understand and minister healing to those traumatized by abortion.

The session also invited women to join a group Bible study entitled “Forgiven and Set Free” based on a book of the same name by Linda Cochran (Baker Books 2015).

The Pain of Regret

The workshop began with Thomas distributing boxes of tissues, one to a row. Casual conversations gave way to tense breathing. The tissues would soon find their way to teary faces.

Five women spoke of their experiences with abortions.

“My baby was eight weeks along,” one of them said. “I didn’t know that he already had a beating heart, arm and leg buds and brain waves, developing digestive and respiratory systems, and that he was making reflexive and spontaneous movements.”

Thomas, who also had an abortion, offered this: “I asked the nurse beforehand, ‘Is it a baby?’ She sort of patted me on the head and said, ‘No, honey. You want to finish college, don’t you?’”

With a quavering voice and decades removed from her abortions, another woman commented, “I said no to motherhood and yes to pleasing my boyfriend. . . . I hated myself.”

And then there was this: “I went to the gynecologist’s office. Everyone in the waiting room was just kinda blank. . . . As the machine starts up, I break down. I was emotionally and spiritually shattered, at that moment.”

Another woman said, “I lived with deep regret and shame for 28 years.”

Whether privileged or impoverished, young or more mature, self-motivated or pressured by others, these courageous women came to regret their decisions. And lest you think this only occurs outside the church, a couple of the women saw themselves as “good Christians” at the time of their abortions. Others came to authentic faith afterward. But they all concluded that terminating those pregnancies had caused long-lasting harm to their relationships and wellbeing.

One said, “I stuffed the memory for years until I was married, then I began to remember some things about it.”

Yet another shared, “I still had a lot of anger buried inside. . . . Anger was the source of a lot of conflict in our marriage.”

“I unknowingly kept a mask on to hide my true inner conflicts,” said another, “and relationships were never deep or truthful.”

Their selfless and raw testimonials were aimed at other women who’d made similar choices and internalized their emotions – or allowed them to escape with damaging effect. The presenters were touting a healing path from a lifetime of anguish.

These five women have discovered a better place and a more constructive way to release the toxicity of trauma. Relief came by working through their emotions with other women who had already found a way out.

Silent Suffering

Roughly one in four women in the United States has had at least one abortion. If the suffering of these five reveals what other women are hiding, then there are many wounded people carrying a heavy burden and wondering what to do with it.

A program that offers deliverance from such distress merits at least as much attention as the politics or morality surrounding abortion. The Forgiven and Set Free study seeks rebirth and restoration for the hurting without the noise and the controversy.

As an online coach, I’ve learned that secrets can be deadly to a vibrant life. When people become proactive and share their stories with trusted and trained individuals, healing from past hurts can occur – but often not until.

How does the suffering of post-abortive women shrouded in secrecy manifest itself? According to Thomas, some may have difficulty sharing the joy of others going through childbirth. Carrying the secret is isolating and lonely. Some will avoid situations that bring up memories they’ve been trying to suppress. The torment of trauma can even lead to drug and alcohol abuse, eating disorders, and self-harm.

Hope for the Hurting

The presenters drove home two foundational facets of the Forgiven and Set Free Bible study.

First, many women experience overwhelming guilt over their past abortions. And it may take years before they connect that guilt with its various symptoms or choose to deal with it. Post-abortive women may be overly critical of themselves, feel unworthy, or struggle with anger and bitterness. “I could forgive the doctor and my husband,” one woman said, “but I couldn’t forgive myself.”

Women who have undergone an abortion can feel compelled to suppress or deny the consequences of what they’ve chosen – a coping strategy without staying power, but the obvious one. Eventually, the emotions tied to the guilt will spew forth like a beachball submerged underwater.

And then there’s grief and its emotions. Post-abortive women have experienced a loss that our culture denies. Instead of allowing them to grieve, they’re told “it was just a blob of tissue.” “It’s the missing component in the healing process for many of us,” Thomas said. As she pointed out, Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” It stands to reason that without mourning, there is no comfort. The collective opinion of these five women substantiates it.

To address the two Gs: guilt and grief, the Bible study explores the depth of God’s love and forgiveness. It offers a forum to walk through the pain with caring women who’ve experienced the same loss.

Compelling Testimonies

“I believe every bit of this study is God-inspired and effective in the healing process of the whole woman because it continues to be effective and produce fruit in my life. I’m enjoying close relationships with other women—honest relationships—my marriage is being transformed—I trust my husband more now.”

“The weeks I spent in the Forgiven and Set Free Bible study helped me more than my many years of counseling. I was accepted, loved, and not judged.”

If you are struggling due to a past abortion, there’s hope. Find a group study near you. If the tone of this workshop was any indication, the compassion of women who understand post-abortive entanglements firsthand abounds. No rancor over politics, no condemnation from people who’ve made the same decisions, and no expectation to “just get over this.” Healing can be more thorough and effective in a community of people who are going through the same things you are.

As Linda Keener Thomas said, “God can even take death and turn it into life.”

For more information on the Forgiven and Set Free Bible study, contact a Care Net pregnancy center near you.

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