Post Abortion Healing Programs
If you are suffering after abortion, you may feel very alone. You may have
experienced abortion many years ago and never told anyone. You may be struggling
with a more recent abortion.
As you investigate the resources listed on this website, keep in mind that
not every program is a good fit for every person. Keep trying until you find a
person or group where you feel safe, comfortable and welcome. Bear in mind that
anytime you reflect back on a painful time in your life, you will most likely
feel worse before you feel better, because you will be thinking and feeling more
on a daily basis about what happened. That’s normal, and it’s one reason why
support is so helpful on your journey.
However, some people may try a particular resource, and continue to be in a
lot of pain, experience flashbacks and intrusive thoughts, or have behaviors
that they dislike and want to stop but which are continuing. If that happens,
you may be tempted to say, "It must be me, and I can never expect to truly
experience peace and joy again. Because of what happened, I will always have to
struggle with destructive thoughts and unhealthy behaviors."
Please keep trying!
Many, many people have experienced complete healing of their post-abortion
symptoms through one of these programs. You might want to read
recovery feel like? if you are wondering whether more healing and recovery might
be possible for you.
Types of Programs
When seeking support and healing for post-abortion trauma, one basic choice
is between group support or one-on-one counseling.
If you're not sure whether a group setting or an individual setting is a
better fit for you at this time, go to Thinking about a Group? (below) for a
collection of comments about that, and Thinking about One-on-One Help? (below)
for comments about that.
Another choice is between in-person support (attending a weekend retreat,
working with a therapist, a clergyperson or a peer counselor, or going to a
weekly group) or online support (online chats, internet message boards, e-mail
groups). Several organizations offer a combination of email or internet-based
group support and in-person support. See Thinking about on-line support?
Thinking about in-person support? for reflections on these options.
Another choice is between programs with a spiritual component and those
without. Spiritual beliefs are personal and are often tied-in with how we look
at abortion in general and our own experience with abortion in particular. It is
not uncommon to feel that we are unacceptable to God if we have had an abortion,
or to feel that abortion is "the unforgivable sin". That pain is hard to bear.
It is one reason that many, but not all, post-abortion groups have a spiritual
basis. I indicate information about that with each listing.
Thinking About a Group?
Is group support the right choice for where you are on your journey?
"Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of overcoming
"Mutual help groups are a powerful and constructive means for people to help
themselves and each other. The basic dignity of each human being is expressed in
his or her capacity to be involved in a reciprocal helping exchange. Out of this
compassion comes cooperation. From this cooperation comes community." - Phyllis
Silverman, PhD, Dept of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, from Introduction to
the Self-Help Sourcebook, 1995, p. 24
Research indicates that self-help groups can have a powerfully positive
impact on us. In post-abortion healing, this would be found at a weekend
retreat, a weekly bible study or recovery group, in a structured online group or
in a more free-wheeling e-group.
Yet, entering into a group can be scary. Imagine going to a first meeting of
Alcoholics Anonymous and saying for the first time outside the privacy of your
own mind, "I am an alcoholic." Or even just going to the first practice of a
sports team at your new high school, or any other new group setting.
It's common to have many anxieties and fears about attending a weekend
retreat or group support meetings. "Will my confidentiality truly be respected?"
"Even if people didn't say anything harsh, will I witness fleeting facial
expressions of condemnation and judgment, and experience even more shame?" "What
if I start crying and can't stop?" "Will I be the only one there with multiple
abortions?" The people who coordinate your particular support group probably
experienced the very same fears at one point, and will be able to talk about
them with you.
Besides abortion, you may have had other experiences in your life that cause
you to experience other people as damaging and untrustworthy. These can include
childhood sexual abuse or an abusive family environment. Meeting others in
groups is a chance to experience people who are safe and trustworthy. If you
have had bad experiences with people, it can feel risky. The rewards can be as
great as the risk.
Here is a link to a website with many quotes about the advantages of mutual
Theresa Burke of Rachel's Vineyard (www.rachelsvineyard.org) shares her
thoughts on the value of a group support experience in "Forbidden Grief: The
Unspoken Pain of Abortion":
"The profound healing that Michelle experienced was new to her, but not to
me. I have been privileged to witness literally thousands of such transforming
moments, when the labor of grief ends in the birth of a new, restored woman.
It’s as though an emotional key turns, simultaneously releasing all the muck and
grime and weight of past abortions while opening a door to a fresh new
future...Tears of sorrow are mixed with tears of joy as women and men experience
their first taste of freedom after years of cruel bondage.
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. 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. The importance of social support to the grief
process reflects an important aspect of our human nature. Though we are
individuals, we are inescapably social beings. The lack of social support will
degrade or destroy our well-being. Conversely, the experience of social support,
in even a single relationship, can strengthen our well-being.
For most of us, it is only when we have the support of others who will not
judge or condemn us that we feel safe from social rejection. This support makes
it easier for us to confront and explore the deepest part of our souls. With it,
one learns how to accept forgiveness from God and one's aborted child. With it,
one learns how to extend forgiveness to oneself and others. And with it, one
discovers how the most difficult, soul-breaking experiences imaginable can be
used as the foundation for building a richer, deeper, and more meaningful
From p. 246 of "Forbidden Grief: The Unspoken Pain of Abortion
Thinking About One-on-One Help?
Is one-on-one help the right choice for you at this time?
One-on-one support and therapy as you begin to heal from post-abortion trauma
could come in several forms.
You could seek help:
- From a mental health professional (a psychiatrist, psychotherapist, social
worker, or other mental health clinician).
- From a clergyperson
- From a peer-counselor who will most likely
use a recovery approach such as "Forgiven and
Set Free", "My Guilt, Grief and Shame are Ending
Soon", the PACE program or
"Her Choice to Heal", and meet with you one-on-one for a period of weeks at a
time convenient to both of you. (Generally, these sessions will be free or have
a very low cost.) Individual email counseling through a number of different
online sites that offer it.
Advantages of one-on-one counseling include:
- Personalized attention
- Flexible scheduling
- Ability to tailor sessions to your particular issues
Here is an excerpt from a comment made by someone who participated in
one-on-one sessions with a peer counselor from Victims of Choice:
"My 10 counseling sessions have ended with my lay counselor from Victims Of
Choice (VOC), and I wanted to write and thank you for this life changing
experience. I learned of the VOC Ministry when you led a workshop at our church.
I attended it because I was curious about a ministry dealing with men and women
who have had abortions. Although I considered myself a committed Christian and
had known the Lord for 15 years, I evaded the issue with Him that I too had had
an abortion 25 years ago. I knew abortion was wrong and for years I had
conditioned myself not to think about it. I told no one about my abortion -
struggling to stay in denial even to myself.
The abortion experience itself is very traumatic for a woman to endure. I
learned that years of sleepless nights and other phobias were directly related
to my abortion. My low self-esteem was mostly due to the tremendous
guilt...hidden deep in my heart so no one could see what an awful thing I had
But our wonderful God loved me too much to allow me to be in bondage to this
buried sin. I clung to Isaiah 50:7 that says the Lord God will help us. I would
set my face like a flint and ask Him to help me get over being so ashamed.
After the workshop, I contacted VOC and made an appointment with a lay
counselor. I really appreciated the discreet way in which I was treated. This
very special person helped me to feel God's cleansing, healing and forgiving
Here are some weblinks that offer advice on finding a compatible therapist:
In-Person or Online Support?
In-person support for post-abortion healing would either be on a weekend
retreat, one-on-one counseling with a therapist, clergyperson or lay
facilitator, or a weekly support group.
On-line support would be through a message board, e-group, online recovery
group, scheduled or spontaneous online chats, or email.
If you're reading this, you're already experiencing one of the many benefits
of the internet: Quick, fast, information on a targeted subject of interest to
you, entirely at your own convenience, and with complete anonymity.
Ever since the internet came along, people have wondered how "the online
experience" stacks up against face-to-face experiences. Therapists wonder
whether online therapy can be effective, Catholics wonder what it means to pray
before the Blessed Sacrament that is displayed on a webpage, young lovers wonder
if it is "real" love if you only know the person online.
For most people, as they journey toward healing, face-to-face contact will
end up being an indispensable part of the healing process. Online support,
however, has great strengths: immediacy and anonymity are two of the advantages.
For most people, it is not an either/or choice (either in-person or online
support) but a both/and choice (both in-person and online support).