How Do I Tell Those I Love?
"In being more open and involved I must begin by being more open with my family . . . as God has prepared me He also has prepared the hearts of those my disclosure will affect the most."
fter the decision has been reached to tell your husband, your children or other people, the next major question becomes, "How do I tell them?" What, exactly, do I say? We would all breathe a huge sigh of relief if we were to read, "Say these words and you are guaranteed to reach the hardest heart, soothe the hurting heart, and mend the broken heart." Unfortunately, there is no formula that works every time. You are a unique individual and your abortion experience has aspects that personalize it and make it different from all other abortion experiences, including other abortions you may have had. Add to this the unique personality and background of the person you plan to tell, and it becomes clear why "pat" answers are neither available nor workable.
Are there any general guidelines I can follow?
Careful planning on your part will serve you well as you prepare to share the depths of your heart with another person. Following are some guidelines that should prove helpful to you:
· Prayerfully select an opportune time (e.g., NOT when your
husband is exhausted from a long, hard day at work).
· Ask God to give you the right words to touch the person you wish
· Pray before you speak that God will soften the heart of the
person you tell to receive your abortion with understanding and
· Keep it simple (especially with young children).
· Pick a time when you will not be interrupted (e.g., phone off
hook, dog outside, children napping or with sitter).
· Speak sincerely, quietly, and calmly.
· If your children are unfamiliar with terms such as sin, repentance,
and forgiveness, take some time before you speak of your
abortion to explain the terms.
What reactions can I expect?
Try to prepare yourself for possible reactions which may include unbelief, shock, understanding, misunderstanding, coldness, compassion, rejection, or acceptance.
A person's initial reactions may or may not reveal his or her deepest feelings about your abortion. Have you ever reacted with shock to some startling news, only to calm down a few minutes later to deal sensibly and caringly about what happened? Remember, the person you are telling probably has no idea you have had an abortion. It will be the furthest thing from his or her mind when you say you need to talk about something important. A million different thoughts may race through his or her mind, and then you zing him or her with "I had an abortion." Don't let the initial reaction daunt you. Give it time to sink in.
To give a few examples: my parents were shocked but compassionate; my boyfriend was stunned, scared, and suspicious; all of my friends on campus knew about my abortion thanks to a juicy secret that someone failed to keep; some were shocked, others awed, and some never spoke to me again; my psychiatrist passed it off as of no importance to my current problem (my abortion was my current problem). The first friend I told was calm and understanding (she had problems in her life too!) The next friend I told was compassionate but amazed at what I told her (after all, I was a pastor's wife). My pastor betrayed no emotion (but he's trained to respond that way).
A woman who was married at the time she aborted says, "I also found that people are shocked to think that I had an abortion, especially being married. Sometimes I feel they look at me differently. Other times, I think they wonder why I don't seem remorseful. But God has helped me deal with it completely."
When we tell any given person, even someone close such as a mother or husband, about our abortion, we present them with a subject that may tear open his or her own background. We can never know everything about a person, no matter how close we become. Events in people's pasts contribute to their current thinking and reactions. A mother may have had an abortion, or lost a child to miscarriage or illness, or may have place a child for adoption rather than abort it. Telling her may open old wounds or may reveal the very act she dreaded happening to you. A husband may have hurts in his past with which he has not yet dealt. Your hurt may rekindle his old hurts. If at all possible, please try to talk it out. Your abortion can be the opener to a flow of communication that until now was stopped by time and fear of "what someone else will think." You may be surprised that the people you tell have wanted to tell you about something equally important to them, but feared what you would think or say. You know, abortion is not the worst sin in the world. We think it is because it happened to us. To other people, their sin is the worst because it happened to them.
How do I tell my child about my abortion?
The most traumatic personal experience I've encountered regarding revealing my abortion was when I told my son. Abortion's Second Victim was about to be published and Michael was six years old. Leigh and I decided he should be told about my abortion because we wanted him to hear from my lips rather than from someone else who unthinkingly might say, "So Mommy had an abortion, huh?"
Mike loves beautiful things, collections (anything from a scraps of paper to magic tricks), math, and most of all his brother and sisters. As a very sensitive six year old, he analyzed life's events with the wisdom of a sixty year old. Now I was about to tell him a truth that would shatter most adults. It would influence his perception of God and life and me.
I prayerfully and carefully chose a time when Mike and I were both rested, calm, well, and alone. As we sat down together, I thought the lump in my throat would never permit words to pass. "Oh, God," I prayed, "Please give me the words, the perfect words, to share with Mike my deepest feelings in a way he will understand." This is what I told Mike:
"Mike, Mommy needs to talk to you about something that happened a long time ago. It is something that happened to me before Daddy and I were married and before you were born."
"What is it Mommy?"
This was it. Now he sat before me ¾ earnest, inquiring, expectant. "Oh Lord, give me wisdom!" This small boy who had accepted Christ as his personal Savior at the age of three because he wanted to spend eternity with Jesus in heaven. This boy whose first prayers were, "God, please help the sick person in the ambulance" each time he heard a siren. This boy who knew only love and happiness. What would my words do to his secure world?
"You know Mommy has been writing a book, don't you? Do you know what the book it about?"
"No. Is it a good book?"
"Yes, a good book that Mommy and Daddy pray God will use to help many people who are hurting. The book is about abortion. Have you ever heard that word before?"
"No. What does it mean?"
"Abortion is when a Mommy has a baby in her tummy and the baby is taken out of her tummy before it is ready to be born. (Mike had a younger brother and sister at this time and understood that babies grow in a mommy's 'tummy.') The baby dies because it can't live yet outside the mommy. Abortion kills a tiny baby before it is born.
"A long time ago I had a baby growing in my tummy. I did a terrible thing and had an abortion. I killed that baby. It was a sin. I have asked God to forgive me, and He has forgiven me. Now I want to ask you to forgive me for killing a baby that would have been your older brother. Will you forgive me, Michael?" By this time tears were streaming down my cheeks. Mike knew I was hurting so very much and that what I had just told him was of great importance to me.
"Yes, I forgive you Mommy."
"You know, Michael, each of us does some bad things in our lives. Some sins do more harm than others. I can never get back the baby I killed."
Mike thought for a moment and then with a very serious expression replied, "Isn't God good, Mommy? He gave you three children to replace the one you lost!"
God spoke to me that day through my child, and His love and compassion are ever before me.
How old should my child be before I tell him?
I don't recommend telling very young children (under age six or seven) about abortion for the simple reason they usually cannot understand. Michael was advanced for his age and able to grasp the main concepts when presented simply. However, he now barely remembers our talk. Our other children were told about my abortion when they were ages ten, nine, and seven.
If you do decide to tell your children, keep it simple. If possible, go to the library beforehand and borrow a book showing pictures of an unborn baby's development. Children are naturally curious. Seeing a picture of what an unborn baby looks like will help them understand it was a baby you aborted.
Tell them the truth, stressing that you know you were wrong and that God has forgiven you. With an older child, it might prove a good object lesson to mention that although God forgives, there is usually a penalty to pay with any sin. In this case, you live with the memory of having killed your own child.
How do I tell my fiancé or boyfriend about my abortion?
A lady named Pat says:
I had two abortions ten years ago. The second abortion came only two months after I had received Jesus as my Savior. It seemed as though I had broken God's heart forever and I certainly wondered if any other man would care for and love me. About five years later I met my husband-to-be. Since this time I had received God's forgiveness for the abortions. The Lord had told me He would confirm when I was to tell my boyfriend. One night, after dating several months, he told me that he really loved me. I knew then that I must be honest and share my testimony. This man sat there listening very intently to my story, and he began to weep and reach out to hold me. He said that if this other person could not accept the responsibility, that he would. I knew then that this was the man God had picked for my mate (we became engaged that night) and that God was showing me His wonderful forgiveness through another special human being. Things haven't always been perfect ¾ we still sometimes struggle with thoughts about the abortions ¾ but it's good to know someone understands. Most of all, Jesus loves me and cares the most.
How do I tell my husband about my abortion?
Two women share how they told their husbands:
About six weeks into my therapy I decided to tell my husband about my abortion. . . . I gave him a poem to read which I wrote dealing with my abortion. I held my breath as he read it, wondering ¾ will he still love me, will he want anything to do with me? He took me in his arms and held me as I cried and cried and cried. I didn't know it was possible to cry so hard for so long. Abortion is a death and I had never allowed myself to grieve. (Paulette Hawkins)
I had managed to stuff the memories of [my] affair and abortion deep into my subconscious until a situation forced them to the surface. I shudder to think what would have become of our marriage had the memories not been shaken to the surface. Until then I didn't think about them, ever!
After [my husband] and I had been married about six months, we ran into some friends we'd associated with at the time I [had my affair and abortion]. All of my stuffed down memories flooded into my consciousness. I knew that this secret was TOO BIG for me to contain. Besides, [my husband] and I valued honesty in our relationship, and I felt that keeping a secret like this was somehow deceitful. Also, it might perhaps backfire on us someday. I was scared to death to tell him, but without thinking about it too much I went up to him the following Saturday and said I had to talk to him. . . . I just spit it out. I explained . . . [about the affair and] how I wished it had never happened. I could see [my husband] was approaching the point of exploding. . . . He had known the man and knew how he had used lots of girls. . . . He kicked over a potted plant, banged his fist on a car, and put his head down on the roof of the car. I saw there were tears in his eyes. He looked in a state of shock, hurt, disbelief and rage all at once. At this point I was very much afraid he wouldn't feel the same about me after this, and I hadn't even told him about the abortion yet. I forget what ensued directly after this, but I remember being in our bedroom later in the day. I told him about the abortion. I think we were both crying, but we were able to talk about it. And thanks to God, I knew he still loved me. I could see how hurt he felt over the whole thing ¾ the affair much more than the abortion. I felt so awful and guilty. How I wished none of it had happened to mar our marriage. Afterwards, though, we both felt relieved (me, especially) for having no more secrets. We resolved to always be honest with each other. (Mary Ann)
Mary Ann also gives some practical guidelines to women who haven't yet told their husbands about a past abortion:
I would say to pray first to ask the Lord [to help] you to be honest and courageous, and to give your husband an understanding heart. . . . Then I would say to get it over with as soon as possible. Hard tasks become monstrous if we think and worry about them too much beforehand and put them off. Then, I would say to trust in your husband's love for you. Also, to trust that the Holy Spirit is present in our marriages that we may minister Jesus' love and healing to each other. I believe that when we keep secrets from each other . . . we cut ourselves off from forgiveness and healing. It will become lonely and overwhelming to keep these things hidden.
Will the person I tell forgive me?
We may need to seek forgiveness from someone. This offers a perfect opportunity to bring up your abortion. You might say, "I have done something wrong and need to ask your forgiveness." I asked forgiveness in person whenever possible because that is what the Bible teaches in Matthew 5:24-25. I asked my parents' forgiveness for murdering their first grandchild. They may not have offered all the emotional support I wanted, but they always wanted me to have my baby. I went against their wishes when I aborted. You may have to seek forgiveness from the father of your aborted baby. If you are now dating or married to the aborted baby's father, this can open a wonderful world of communication for the two of you. I had to seek Leigh's forgiveness. Although he was not the father, because of my abortion I had not been the wife God told me to be. For many years I still loved and wanted to be with the father of my aborted baby. Leigh was denied the companionship, sexual relationship and love he deserved. Seeking Leigh's forgiveness let him understand I knew I was wrong.
Some people will not forgive you. They may even say they forgive you, but secretly hold your abortion against you. They may do this from some private hurt inside of them or from a lack of understanding regarding God's forgiveness. The important fact for you to embrace is that once you have asked a person to forgive you with love and sincerity in your heart, you stand clean before God. If these people fail to forgive you, it is now their problem. As difficult as it may be, continue to show love and tenderness toward the person who fails to forgive you. Don't allow the other person's wrong attitude affect your peace with God.
What if the person doesn't want to discuss my abortion?
If people already know about your abortion as a fact, but you now want to discuss it more fully, you could simply approach them with the words, "Could we talk about my abortion?" or "I have a problem with something and I am hoping you can help me with it." This latter phrase places the other person in a position to offer advice and help.
Abortion is an emotionally charged topic. The very word stirs hidden feeling inside each person. Please try to speak calmly, quietly, and sincerely. Keep your voice low but audible. If the person you are telling becomes loud or enraged, keep your cool. Two of you flying off the handle will only make matters worse. The Bible wisely tells us, "A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger" (Proverbs 15:1). It may be necessary to postpone further discussion until another time. Seek God's wisdom before bringing up your abortion to that person again. Ask God to prepare his or her heart.
How can I keep it from hurting those I love?
One woman made the statement, "I need to know how to be sensitive in my sharing." I think this is a key principle in how we tell others about our abortion experience. There is no easy way to tell someone you have had an abortion. Likewise, there is no formula of words to say. The Bible tells us to "speak the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15). Gentleness in relating the facts of your abortion is necessary. Remember that as abortion hurt you, so it will often hurt those you choose to tell. Abortion affects the lives of all those around you. People will hurt both for you and for their own loss once it is revealed to them. Your love, gentleness, and understanding of their feelings will go far to ease their pain. Remember, just as you needed someone to "be there" to hear you, so the people you choose to tell might need you to "be there" for them with a listening and understanding heart.
Before I read this chapter, I had a question about . . .
In this chapter I have learned . . .
To resolve my post-abortion trauma, I will . . .
I need to talk to God about . . .
A verse from the Bible which helped me in this chapter is . . .
After reading this chapter, I have hope because . . .