"I cried and cried for days, which now I am aware that I was doing the grieving I had never allowed myself to do for twelve years. You can imagine how that must have been after holding it in that long!"
o you ever cry over a sad movie? Do you cry when someone's experience touches your heart? Do you cry when a passage in a book moves you deeply? Do you cry when you are sad? Our emotions usually produce normal, healthy responses to situations which touch our lives ¾ we laugh, shout, cringe, cry.
Yet in the area of abortion, women often find it difficult to shed tears. Although we may feel like crying, we often hold those tears inside as we stoically face a less than happy life. Why do we not cry when we feel like crying? I think that most of us feeling remorse from our abortions feel guilty about our feelings. That's an awkward way of saying we don't think we have the right to cry. "After all," we tell ourselves, "abortion is legal, it's accepted, it's the right thing to do. Now that I've gone ahead and done the 'right thing' I have these terrible feelings of remorse. That can't be right. I must let no one know my abortion has affected me so adversely. What will people think? Only a crazy person would feel this way after having done something that is supposed to be right."
Supposed to be right. There is the key. We know deep in our being that what we did was not right. It doesn't matter how much we were told it was right. We know we did a terrible thing. Even though we might not yet fully understand why we feel so bad, still a small voice inside of us says, "I am sad. I want to grieve."
Would you cry if you suffered a miscarriage? Would you cry if your child was injured or worse, had died? Yes. Mourning in these circumstances is considered normal. Indeed, not to cry would be the less understood action. We tend to cry when our emotions tell us to mourn. It is only in this area of abortion that we tend to deny our true feelings in an attempt to do what we believe is expected of us. As Kate asks, "When I listen to women (and men) cope with the grief of losing a child by miscarriage or stillbirth, I want to receive the help, but I feel like my grief is illegitimate ¾ almost like I have no right to grieve for my baby. Do I?"
Your abortion has caused great grief because your child, unborn, perhaps not completely formed, died. Grief is natural when we lose a child. The problem is that abortion is accepted by society, and therefore when we experience grief, we feel guilt and confusion at that natural emotion because it wasn't supposed to be that way. Debbie K. Weiser expresses her feelings following her abortion: "I grieved for my lost baby but I had to push it down and out of my mind because I was the cause of my baby's death."
What is abnormal is not to grieve ¾ to hold it inside ¾ to ignore your normal emotions.
How does grief manifest itself?
First, let's consider the basic feelings we have. Here are listed dictionary definitions of the common "sad" feelings about our abortions.
· Sad: Having, expressing, or showing low spirits or sorrow; unhappy; mournful; sorrowful.
· Mourn: To feel or express sorrow; lament; grieve.
· Regret: Sorrow or remorse over something that has happened, especially over something that one has done or left undone.
· Remorse: A deep torturing sense of guilt felt for one's actions.
· Grief: Intense emotional suffering caused by loss, disaster, misfortune, etc.; acute sorrow; deep sadness.
Where do you find yourself in the above definitions? Are you merely saddened by your abortion? Do you go a step further and regret your action of abortion? Possibly you suffer from remorse. Grief comes when we are more than saddened by actions done to or by ourselves. Grief may cause emotional suffering that can debilitate us. That debilitation can be temporary or long-lasting, depending upon how we respond to our grief.
In order to better understand our turbulent emotions, let's look at some aspects of grieving. Grieving involves more than crying for your lost child. Grieving may include: relief, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and/or acceptance. Let's look at each briefly to determine what occurs.
Relief is that initial feeling of having a particular action over and done with. It doesn't consider whether the action was right or wrong, merely that it is finally accomplished. "WHEW! I did it. It's done. It's over with." As the reality of our abortion sets in, relief often gives way to denial. Denial is much easier than facing the guilt we feel. A women in denial might say something such as, "I didn't do anything wrong," or "My awful feelings are false because abortion is legal and must be okay to do," or "I only terminated a pregnancy," or "It was the right decision at that time."
At the moment of my abortion, way in the back of my mind, relief flickered for a moment ¾ the decision had been reached and carried out. Relief gave way to guilt which quickly changed to denial that I had done anything wrong. Pro-abortion phrases such as, "It's my body!" became my motto. My denial did not include refusal to believe a baby had died (as with some women) because my abortion was done at twenty-three weeks with a vaginal delivery. I saw the "blob of tissue" with his ten perfectly formed fingers and ten perfectly formed toes. I could never deny I had killed my own son ¾ only that it had been wrong to do so.
Bargaining is thinking or sometimes verbalizing, "If you do this, then I'll do this." For instance," If you heal me, God, then I will love you," or "I'll forgive my parents (or boyfriend) if they tell me they are sorry for convincing me to have an abortion." Bargaining refuses to give unless something is received in return.
Anger is that emotion which lashes out at others and/or festers inside of us, depending on our response to those who have hurt us, or whom we believe have hurt us. Anger can destroy relationships, people, things, and us. However, not all anger is wrong or harmful. When released under control it can prove beneficial. Anger will be discussed in greater detail in Chapter Eleven.
Depression occurs when we turn our eyes inward and focus on our situation. It begins with the "woe is me" pity party we indulge in from time to time. Chapter Ten discusses depression in greater depth.
Acceptance is realizing that something has happened, that we can do nothing to change it, but that we can go on with our lives.
Why is mourning beneficial?
Mourning is beneficial because it allows you to release pent up emotions, to clean your internal house, if you will, to clear the air. Mourning allows you to express your emotions in a natural way. Women tend to be more emotional than men. When something touches us, we cry. Grieving goes beyond crying to a pouring out of turbulent emotions over something for which we feel great remorse. It is good to feel great remorse over your abortion. You have lost a child. You carried your child in your womb for six weeks, three months, six months, or longer. That baby was literally formed from your flesh. Not only that, but you were your baby's sole means of protection from the world he was not yet ready to enter. A unique human being totally dependent on you, its mother, suddenly and with finality, gone. That you were instrumental in the death of your child is not the primary focus here. You are sorry the child is gone. Mourn for the dead child, not for your own self. The child whose life was lost because of the abortion must be the focus of your grief.
Why is mourning an aborted baby so difficult?
Women have difficulty mourning an aborted baby for one or more of the following reasons:
· There are no memories of experiences with the child.
· The woman’s part in the death of the child causes guilt.
· Society does not equate the loss with the death of a baby.
· Because of shame, guilt, or fear the woman may refrain from
sharing her grief.
· There is usually no support from others (i.e. sympathy and
condolences are absent).
All the above contribute negatively to your realization and acceptance that a baby died during the abortion procedure. With a still birth, you can hold the baby, name, and bury him. It's not easy to mourn a baby you never knew and never even held in your arms.
How can I mourn?
Women have found various methods to express their grief over the loss of a child to abortion. Several women have sent me poems.
You need not be a poet to write a poem mourning the loss of your child. You will be surprised at how words may flow from your mind through your pen as you allow your heart to express itself. Not only will you have you expressed your sorrow, you will have also left a written record of your feelings.
Another way I encourage women to work through their grief is to write out their abortion experience. Many women have written to me ¾ pages and pages telling how they became pregnant, why they aborted, what it was like, how they felt, and/or why they are sad. At the end they usually say something like, "Writing . . . helped so much because I felt like I was talking to someone who understood me and didn't condemn my actions or my feelings" (Renee Cochlin).
You know, even if you have no person to write to, you can still write your feelings down on paper. Pour out your heart through your pen. There is someone who knows all about the way you feel, who feels the same grief you do over the loss of your child. That someone is God. He will see your words and will understand.
Many of you have told no one about your abortion experience. When you finish writing, tear up your letter or burn it. No one but you and God need see it. The important thing is to get your feelings out of you ¾ to release them in a healthy manner.
Have you ever thought of singing as a means of expressing your grief? Make up your own words and sing your heart out.
Perhaps you feel more comfortable expressing yourself visually rather than with words. Draw, paint, or sculpt as you allow your hands express your feelings or grief and remorse.
The most obvious method of mourning is to cry. You know that when you have cried over sorrowful events in your life, a tremendous feeling of release comes just from having let it out. That's what crying is ¾ a release. A healthy and normal release of emotions. Did you know that Jesus wept at the tomb of His friend Lazarus (John 11:35)? Don't be afraid to cry. If you have someone whose shoulder you can literally cry on, go ahead. If you don't, cry alone. But let it out! It's okay to cry!
Who can help me to grieve?
Sometimes the tears just won't come. We need a little help in releasing them. Is there someone in whom you could confide? Someone to whom you could talk? We'll discuss in a later chapter possibilities of people to confide in, but for now, if you know of someone whom you trust, why not tell that person your story? Talking about it in an honest way may begin those tears. Then, don't feel awkward about crying ¾ let it out!
How long should mourning last?
Mourning is good, but there comes a time when we must put off the mourning and resume our lives. Although changed by the death of our baby, we come to realize he or she would want us to continue forward, to grow wiser and stronger and more determined that abortion will not happen again in our lives.
The length of your grieving depends largely on your desire and willingness to put your abortion to rest. Women frequently write and ask me to caution others to "be patient ¾ it takes time to work through an abortion."
What if I cry unexpectedly?
This is a valid question and one that needs answering. There were times, in the earlier stages of resolving my post-abortion trauma, that I would discover, to my horror, that I had tears in my eyes at awkward moments. Perhaps I had just read something about abortion, or heard a news broadcast, or listened to a sermon in church. Perhaps I was in a group of women and the topic of abortion came up. WHEW! Was I embarrassed. How could I explain those tears? What would people think? Would they guess I had had an abortion?
Let's explore the options. You could excuse yourself from the room as soon as possible. You could think up a quick reason for the tears. You might laugh and say, "I have something in my eye." (You do have something in your eye ¾ your tears!) You could stifle the tears and hope no one else noticed. You could openly cry and let people think what they may. Or you could speak up and admit why you are crying. No option works all the time. Each situation is different. I often tried to stifle my tears. As I look back, I'm sure people wondered about me. After all, the topic was abortion. I found the best way for me to cope with unexpected tears was to admit I’d had an abortion. Then my tears could flow naturally.
When I speak publicly, I invariably shed some tears. At one point during the writing of Abortion's Second Victim, I began crying so profusely that I called a friend and said, "I can't write this book, it's tearing me apart."
My wise friend said, "Pam, you aren't crying for yourself any longer, you're crying for the millions who have yet to find the forgiveness they seek." May one day your tears come not for your own grief, but for the millions of women who still need to learn that grieving is okay.
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 . . .
Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language, college edition (The World Publishing Company, New York, 1966), pp. 637, 962, 1225, 1231, 1282.