Lifelines for Personal Abortion Trauma
The leak from the Supreme Court on overturning Roe v. Wade can be a trigger for men and women who have lost children to abortion. We are barraged with news everywhere we turn through media, social media, and in personal conversations. This can tear the scab off abortion wounds, leaving people feeling raw and exposed. If this describes you or someone you know, you are not alone and there is hope.
There were numerous effects in my life that I had not previously connected to my abortions until I read the facts and heard other people’s stories.
~ Joni W Shepherd
Why Do We Need to Talk About This?
I share this to help others who are triggered in their own abortion trauma and for everyone else to begin to recognize the damage abortion does to a person. Abortion is traumatic to women, men, grandparents, and anyone connected to an abortion experience. The procedure itself was horrific for the moms, and others participated in the deaths of our own children or those of someone close to us.
TRUTH: We cannot participate in the deaths of our children without consequence.
We believed the lies that we could just go on with our lives as though nothing significant happened. Many of us are devastated while we do go on with our lives denying and repressing the pain. We feel we have to keep our abortions a secret, and we don’t feel we deserve to heal. It’s too shameful to reach out for help.
As Christians, we know the blood of Christ covers our sin, but we’re not sure about this sin. Our regret and guilt form a hardness around our hearts, keeping our pain and loss compartmentalized and cocooned. We likely don’t hear our church (or anyone) say, “If you’ve lost a child to abortion, we are so sorry you went through that. Denial and shame makes you want to bury it, but you need to talk with someone safe about it in order to heal. We’re here for you.” Instead, the loud silence on the subject confirms our doubts that we will ever find healing.
We need to talk about this so that those who have lost children to abortion will not continue to believe these lies. Following is part of my personal trauma and healing journey to bring hope to your abortion desolation. Then I will share resources of where you can find non-judgmental help.
My Personal Abortion Trauma and How I Found Healing
I described in Part 1 of this series how I responded to a massive trigger. I was entirely alone. I knew of no resources to help. I was angry and hated myself. I was suicidal, but if I took my own life, I’d also be taking the life of my third child because I was pregnant at the time. I was stuck in the mire of my sin and its consequences. In the words of a friend, I was in solitary confinement. It was there I cried out to God to show me what to do.
After my precious son, Micah, was born I was plagued by repeated nightmares of losing him, which kept be from bonding with him. The thought occurred that if I was this messed up, and millions of women were having abortions, then we live in a sick society. I had to do something to stop this!
I learned of a Crisis Pregnancy Center near my city and decided to volunteer. Their training covered multiple aspects of abortion, and though it was difficult to hear, I gained insight into my own experience. As I began counseling women considering abortion, I was able to share my story and direct them to life choices. That’s when my nightmares began diminishing and I could focus on the beauty of life – newborn life, women’s lives who don’t ever have to experience such loss.
In the process of volunteering, I came across a Bible study written for women who’ve had abortions. I knew (even in 1987) that I couldn’t possibly be the only woman in my church who had been through this. My desire to heal was stronger than my desire to hide my shame, and I asked my pastor if I could share my story and invite others to do the Bible study with me.
Six of us together learned of our need to grieve the loss of our children. We didn’t previously feel we had the right. The study took us deep into God’s Word to bring us to repentance and forgiveness. We learned how denial, while helpful initially, needs to be broken in the light of God’s grace.
We went through each stage of grief – anger, depression, forgiveness, and acceptance. By the time we were done we knew God loved us and forgave us. We were set free from condemnation and wanted to share that freedom with others. In just nine weeks, our lives were transformed! Since healing is a journey, I have continued to heal in hidden areas over the years.
For Moms, Dads, Grandparents, and Siblings Who Grieve
Healing is possible. You are not alone. Here are some practical things you can do to begin healing, with links to helpful resources. A Google search can be dangerous if you are just starting on this journey. You’ll run across articles that deny any harmful psychological effects of abortion. Or you may find sites with graphic pictures that will traumatize you further. Here are trustworthy sources of information with no disturbing graphics.
Here are five suggestions to help you overcome abortion trauma.
1. LEARN THE SCIENCE BEHIND THE EFFECTS OF ABORTION
This helped me tremendously. “When I kept silent [about my sin], my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.” Abortion damages us physically, emotionally, spiritually, and relationally. Both experience and science confirm this.
I learned that the post-abortion trauma I was experiencing was normal. There were numerous effects of abortion in my life that I had not previously connected to my abortions and the loss of my children until I read the facts. Validation of pain and trauma is healing.
EFFECTS ON WOMEN
Secret Sin: When God’s Children Choose Abortion by Mary Comm
EFFECTS ON GRANDPARENTS
EFFECTS ON SIBLINGS
EFFECTS ON MEN
EFFECTS ON WOMEN AND SOCIETY
Complications: Abortion’s Impact on Women by A. LanFranchi, I. Gentles, E. Ring-Cassidy
EFFECTS ON EVERYONE AND THE CHURCH
Why Can’t We Say the “A” Word in Church? By Joni Williams Shepherd
2. HEAR OTHER PEOPLE’S STORIES OF ABORTION TRAUMA AND HEALING
It is comforting to know others identify with what you’re going through. God’s Word confirms this. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
Every story is as unique as the individual who tells it but hearing other stories will help you make better sense of yours. It is also helpful to write your own story or keep a journal of how you are feeling every day.
Memoirs of a Christian Who Chose Abortion by Joni Williams Shepherd
Abortion Hurts God Heals Podcast
James tells us “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” Healing begins in earnest when we confess our sins to others. When we hide them, the opposite happens – healing is prevented. If no one knows what you’ve been through, they can’t comfort and pray for you effectively.
We were created to be integral parts of family and community. Abortion isolates us and hinders healthy community. It is counter-cultural and feels counter-productive to share your secret. But when you share it in a safe place, Satan will no longer be able to beat you over the head with it. Plus, when you confess it makes it easier for others to confess.
One of the main reasons I’m doing so well in overcoming abortion is because I let go of the secret. Instead of the fear that my life would be turned upside down if I told, it began turning right side up. I no longer live with the fear of someone finding out. Satan knows the freedom we experience from confessing, so he works extra hard to convince us not to.
My children’s father knew about my first abortion but not about my second, which was his child. My parents knew about my second abortion but not about my first. It was hard to keep my stories straight. When I confessed everything to all of them, I experienced great relief. It also allowed them to process their own grief.
If you aren’t ready to confess to family, consider your pastor or women’s, men’s, or youth pastor. Regardless of who else you tell, I feel the best place to get the whole story out is joining a healing Bible study or retreat. Like me, you can heal in community with a small confidential group, guided through each step of the healing process.
4. JOIN A CONFIDENTIAL GROUP BIBLE STUDY
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” Studying the Word with others for perspective on abortion trauma, using a proven method, yields results beyond imagination. Professional counseling can be helpful for related issues, but nothing can take the place of working through this in community.
Most of us try hard to convince ourselves we’re okay following a trauma, and we don’t need help. That’s a denial problem. When it’s just you working through your abortion trauma alone, you don’t have outside perspective. When you cry, you cry alone. When you overcome a difficulty, you do it with no one to cheer you on. When you meet with others you learn things about yourself that you didn’t previously think were an issue.
I’ve led abortion healing Bible studies for women over the past 35+ years. I guarantee that not one woman, including myself, who has been in my studies realized the depth of her brokenness before she joined. However, by the end of the study it’s a completely different story. The healing is profound, the transformation vibrant on their faces.
Regardless of your reason for abortion – bad timing, pressured from others, or medical reasons – you need healing beyond what you currently recognize. Whether you are a man or a woman, a grandparent or a sibling, the wound can go deep. It doesn’t matter if you’ve lost one child to abortion or multiple children. Your sin and your grief cannot remain hidden if you want to heal.
The past few groups I’ve led, I’ve asked everyone to take a good look at each other and observe the countenance of each member. I’ve also asked them to draw a picture (or use words) of what their abortion wound looks like. I collect these, and at the final meeting I return them.
I ask the participants to take another good look at each other and remark about the changes in their faces and spirits. They love this because the evidence of healing is obvious! I hand them back their papers, and they are astounded at how much they overcame in just a few weeks of their life.
There are numerous resources available for healing women and a few for men, couples, grandparents, and siblings. You can purchase books on the internet and talk yourself out of doing the study with others. Please resist that temptation. I will list links below to find a study near you. If there isn’t one close enough, do as I did and invite your friends to go through it with you.
I’ll also list my favorite books that I’ve either used or reviewed. I’ve led groups that last nine or ten weeks and weekend groups. I feel that those that last longer allow for deeper processing, but shorter is far better than nothing!
Group Bible Studies and Retreats
abortionrecovery.org Care Directory (USA), Abortion Recovery CARE Line: 866-721-7781
abortionchangesyou.com Find Help (International)
Rachel’s Vineyard (International – ministry of Priests for Life)
Lumina – Hope and Healing After Abortion (Catholic)
Bible Study Books
Forgiven and Set Free by Linda Cochrane
Healing a Father's Heart by Linda Cochrane and Kathy Jones
SaveOne: A Guide to Emotional Healing After Abortion by Sheila Harper
(SaveOne also has books for men and others close to the woman who aborted)
5. POUR YOUR GRIEF AND ANGER INTO MAKING A DIFFERENCE
In the first instance of anger in the Bible, God told Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4:6,7)
It is more comfortable to wallow in our grief and express anger in unhealthy ways. We often wait for our feelings to change before we behave better. According to God we have it backwards. Our feelings follow our actions, not the other way around.
A very important source of healing for me was volunteering at the nearest pregnancy center. Organizations like these are on the front lines of saving lives daily. They help women and men through free counseling and with resources without judgment. You can help others avoid the trauma of abortion by supporting them in life choices.
Pregnancy centers will be grateful for your help and can give you meaningful opportunities using your gifts and skills. Like me, you’ll find healing in it. One way is training you to lead others in abortion trauma healing. It can change your whole outlook.
Find a pregnancy center here:
- Tell Your Story
Look for opportunities to tell your story. Silent No More Awareness reaches out to people hurt by abortion, encouraging them to attend abortion after-care programs. They educate the public on harm done by abortion emotionally, physically and spiritually. They invite men and women to share their stories of hurt and healing to help others.
- Bring Hope and Grace to Your Church Community
Be the vessel the Lord uses to begin making your church a safe place for people in pain or trouble to run. Hope and Grace International, Inc. equips the local church to become a safe haven that PROACTIVELY champions biblical sexuality and life and REDEMPTIVELY heal those wounded by sexual sin or abortion. Join HGI by becoming an Hope and Grace Ambassador or Advocate and starting a Hope and Grace Partnership in your church.
Watch for the final article of this series which provides ideas for how pastors and ministry leaders can use a national event to start the conversation about abortion and endorse the need for those who have lost children to it to find healing.
By Joni Williams Shepherd
Joni Williams Shepherd is the Executive Director of Hope and Grace International and author of two books that help equip the church to address abortion with hope and grace. To start the conversation, Memoirs of a Christian Who Chose Abortion gives perspective of a the journey of a fellow Christ-follower who lost two children to abortion and found redemption and healing through repentance and the grace of God. Why Can't We Say the "A" Word in Church? (Overcoming Our Dirtiest Secret with Hope and Grace) contains the stories from Memoirs in less detail, along with The Scenario of abortion and its ensuing trauma in the world and the church, The Dilemma the church faces in addressing abortion, and The Remedy for how to address abortion in the church comprehensively and with compassion.
If you your abortion trauma has been triggered by recent events, what do you feel will help you the most from this article?
- If you know someone whose abortion trauma may have been triggered by recent events, what in this article can help you reach out to them?
- If you are a pastor or ministry leader, how does this article better equip you to help men and women in your church community who have lost children to abortion?
Return to Part 1 Read Part 3.
 Morgan CL, Evans M, Peters JR. Suicides after pregnancy. Mental health may deteriorate as a direct effect of induced abortion. BJM 1997 March, 314 (2084): pp.902-3.
 Angela Lanfranchi, Ian Gentles, Elizabeth Ring-Cassidy, Complications: Abortion's Impact on Women (Ontario, Canada: The deVeber Institute for Bioethics and Social Research, 2013), p. 281.
 Psalm 32:3 (NIV)
 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV)
 James 5:16 NIV
 2 Timothy 3:16