A woman who has had an abortion may be reluctant to accept that her actions contributed to the death of her child. The defense mechanism of denial may help her bob safely over the waves of pain, grief, and anger that threaten to drown her. Negative sentiments from an abortion decision may take time to manifest. Some women report feelings of relief a few days or weeks after their abortions, but as time passes, the protective layer afforded by a woman’s delayed reaction to her choice to terminate is often peeled away. Certain stressors or triggers have a way of bringing the trauma to light, and when these unresolved feelings surface, access to support can be crucial.
But finding the right counsel for help coping with post-abortive grief can be a challenge.
Theresa Burke, Ph.D., founder of Rachel’s Vineyard, a counseling group for women who have had abortions, offers advice when it comes to seeking healing from an abortion. “Post-abortion healing is a specialty unto itself. The average psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker or counselor of any other academic stripe who does not understand post-abortion issues can often inflict more harm than good on the unsuspecting woman.”
“Many may believe they have enough insight to help, but unless they have had additional training, they often don’t,” Burke adds. “Certainly, if your thoughts and feelings become so overwhelming that you feel you can no longer cope, seek professional assistance immediately. But generally, I encourage you to take the time to find one of the growing number of professional therapists and experienced lay counselors who have received special training in post-abortion healing.”
Admitting to the existence of a problem for the first time is scary, but it’s often a necessary step for a restorative journey to begin. It may take time, but seeking help for unresolved abortion feelings can instigate the process of binding old wounds.
“But such healing can only happen when the isolation and secrecy are dismantled, and one’s story is revealed to others who do not seek to judge or condemn,” Burke said. Only then is it finally possible, with the support of a small community of others who compassionately affirm the loss and respect the grief, to grieve one’s losses to their fullness.
Theresa Bonopartis, founder of the post-abortion ministry Lumina, wants women who have had abortions to know it’s possible to face their fears.
“For those of us who are post-abortive, often the very things we have to face are the same fears that caused us to choose abortion in the first place,” Bonopartis explained. “The paradox is that facing these things–pride, self-love, fear of abandonment, etc.–is what will set us free from them.”
Bonopartis imparted these encouraging words for anyone seeking to heal from a past abortion.
“No matter how hard the journey, it is never as difficult as what you are living with now…. We have lost our children. We must be allowed to grieve for them.”
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