The Grief of Abortion
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People ask how I can possibly speak to children (and next week to my parish through a faith-sharing group) about my experience.

 

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The Grief of Abortion
Friday, June 3, 2016

The Grief of Abortion

As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, I have worked for many years supporting others through the grieving process.  I have viewed this as a ministry over time; one that speaks my language.  One that was launched from an upbringing that brought with it the death of many people I loved.   I was blessed with a wise father who also knew that language of loss.  He knew how to guide me through each chapter and season with an emphasis on my own ability to cope and my simultaneous need to empathize with others.  Nothing, however, prepared me for the complex and unspeakable grief I would experience following my abortion.  And how could it?  There was nothing that acknowledged my self-inflicted depth of anguish and subsequent years of internal heartbreak that followed.  30 years of what the Founder of Rachel’s Vineyard, Theresa Karminski Burke and co-author David Reardon, wrote about in a book titled Forbidden Grief.  

Through the stumbling blocks of my traumatic grief and my journey toward healing, I have taken note of the complexities surrounding the individuality of my own grieving process.  I have likened it to an onion.  It seems to emerge in layers over time and through experiential and spiritual growth.  It has been wrought with moments of intense pain and intermittent moments of complete despair.  It has required me to develop a foundation of self-reflection and a belief that I am forgivable.  It has required faith and a depth of courage that is capable of truly reconciling my fear.  It has been nothing like the model of traditional grief as once defined by Kubler-Ross within her original five stages of grief--denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.  It was dramatically different and this misunderstood disparity kept me paralyzed for decades.  My journey toward peace in my heart didn’t begin until the emergence of something different and that something was ignited by hope, and from hope; wisdom, and from wisdom; courage, and from courage; compassion, and from compassion; love for others with a burning desire to interrupt the destructive paralysis wherever it exists.  This path pointed in only one direction and that was to embrace God’s love for me and to believe in his mercy.   And so it began…..my healing and path to wholeness that I know will continue as a lifelong journey.   

How can I adequately describe the grief that enveloped me?  It was a complicated grief that simmered from the tug of war burning in my soul.  It called out and reminded me that I caused this; that I took the life of my child.  It told me that I was lost and couldn’t be found.  I was stuck and I remained stuck in one isolated moment, constantly wanting to go back to only a few minutes before when the choice was still there.  When I could have walked away….and didn’t.   The tug of war presented itself in ways that confused me.  Initially, I experienced a detachment from any recognition of the gravity of my abortion.  I couldn’t face it and I wouldn’t face it.  I wouldn’t let it in and I ran.  This coincided with a multi-faceted emotional and behavioral reactiveness.  Need I say depression, despair, spiritual paralysis and denial, self-loathing, and an undignified lack of self-respect.  My heart and my soul were broken and I couldn’t bear the pain, but it was there and it didn’t go away no matter how hard I tried.  It took many twists and turns over the years and even looked different at different stages of my life.  It sometimes lay dormant, hidden in silence, only to manifest within my passive disappearance from any situation that scratched the surface.  Only I knew why I left the room or why I couldn’t listen to a conversation or why attending Mass was too painful.  So, I wasn’t there…  

This changed one day following a simple prayer to our Blessed Mother.  She opened the floodgates to her son and relentlessly offered me opportunities that would result in a purging of my internal agony.  It was anything but easy, but I followed her.  

I followed her guidance into Eucharistic Adoration, which further transformed my life and continues to do so.  I followed her into Rachel’s Vineyard one October evening.  The next three days would peel away even more layers of the onion.  I would tell my story to others who understood.  I would engage in an experiential enlightenment of God’s Holy Scripture.  I would support others who needed me to be there for them.  I cried from the depths of my soul for my child and I gave her a name.  I put my feelings into words and shared them with her and I asked her to forgive me.  I took a magnificent step in learning how to forgive myself and left the complex grief behind me.  I learned to look again, but in a dramatically different way.

Grief following an abortion can last for years, even decades.  It is different because of its devastating nature.  There is hope, forgiveness, mercy, and healing through a deeper understanding of the grieving process and through involvement in programs designed to support the unique grieving process that post-abortive men and women experience.  One of them is Rachel’s Vineyard; yet another is the RESTORE program through Carenet.  

I pray this helps you to reach out and find the transformative peace and healing that awaits you.  It is only one prayer away and one phone call away…

My journey continues to lead me, which is why I am Silent No More…

Jennifer
Regional Coordinator for the Silent No More Awareness Campaign

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