“God Why Me?” The Powerful Connection between My Childhood Trauma and Two Abortions – and the Catholic Priest Who Opened the Door to My Recovery and Healing
By Charles Brian
As a young boy, I used to lie in bed at night and wonder…God, why me?
I grew up an only child adopted at birth. When I was 8 years old, my father almost died in a car accident leaving him totally disabled. My mother was diagnosed schizophrenic and had several mental breakdowns and suicide attempts. Verbal and physical conflicts were an everyday occurrence in my home. My father committed adultery when I was 9 with a family friend who used to have us over for dinner and card games.
When I was age eleven, my parents divorced and my mother bought a tavern. By the age of 15, I saw everything a child should not see. My father moved back in with us right before we bought the business and continued his alcoholic and gambling ways. My mother focused 90% of her time working at the tavern, and eventually found a boyfriend even though my father was still living with us. There was constant jealousy between the two as they played their relationships against each other. I felt abandoned and alone most of my childhood.
There were times when my feelings would surface as I struggled to express my pain and anger. This led to angry exchanges with my mother.
She would hold a gun to my head or chest as she threatened to shoot me. Sadly, this type of trauma was the norm for my family. After each incident, I just went about my business not thinking anything was wrong with my mother almost shooting me.
I held intense shame about my parents’ actions and our overall family dysfunction. Having friends over to play or hanging out was never an option. Most holidays I kept to myself or went over to friend’s houses. It was strange seeing “normal families” who loved each other and spent quality time together.
In my teenage years, I was considered a good looking guy and was successful at sports – which got me lots of female attention. For an insecure young man from a dysfunctional family, starving for love and affection, this was powerful stuff.
Young Love…and My First Abortion
In high school, I met a wonderful girl and fell into that intoxicating and immature love of youth. We soon began having pre-marital sex and faced an unplanned pregnancy. We felt our parents would kill us and friends disown us.
The decision was made after a 20-minute conversation. A friend of my girlfriend offered to drive her to the abortionist and the problem would go away. We both agreed and I offered to pay for the procedure.
Two weeks later my girlfriend had the abortion. One evening, I called her house not knowing that her mother had learned about the procedure. My girlfriend answered the phone and told me never to speak with her again or her mother would tell her father, and he would surely kill me.
I was so ashamed that her mother was aware of the abortion! Shame led to anxiety and depression. I had no one to talk to and nowhere to turn. How do you tell your friends that you helped kill your own child? Who can handle that type of drama? As a result, I kept everything inside and eventually became numb.
A Second Chance
In college, I met an amazing young woman and fell in love. We dated for one and a half years in a serious relationship. As the relationship deepened, we began having unprotected pre-marital sex.
I remember experiencing joy when she told me of our pregnancy. I felt God had forgiven me for the first abortion. I told her how excited I was to be a father and that I would marry her.
Her response to the pregnancy:
“This is not going to happen!” We are not having this child! I’m almost 12 weeks pregnant, and I am getting an abortion.”
I tried negotiating and offered many suggestions for solutions that would save the life of our child. She had no interest in anything I had to suggest. With my back against the wall, I offered to tell her family and the police that I got her drunk and raped her, thinking this might persuade her. I was willing to lie and go to jail to save our child.
Being an adopted child, I couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t consider placing the baby for adoption. She was usually the most loving, caring and a very spiritual person, and was from a loving family.
Now she seemed cold and calculated with no sense of empathy for the child or me. She explained that her parents would kill her, and her friends would disown her. She offered me no other choice but to man up, drive her to the Planned Parenthood and pay for the abortion. She called and set the appointment for the following week.
The time in between was hell for me. I slept very little and was an emotional mess. While I hardly ever prayed to God, now I was praying and pleading for him to help me.
When the day came, I drove her to the center and paid for the abortion. I remember the long drive was in total silence. After we parked the car, I begged her one last time not to have the abortion. I remember holding her hands and sharing what was on my heart. She kept saying no!
Back in the day, I knew very little about Planned Parenthood. However, because the name was Planned Parenthood, I was hoping they would counsel us and help us reason things out. Instead, I was directed to go to the back of the clinic to sign paperwork and pay. A person dressed as a nurse asked us if we wanted to donate the body parts for research. In my confused emotional state, I signed those evil forms.
I remember freaking out in my mind and panicking thinking this can’t be happening. I wanted out! I felt like crying but did not want to hurt my girlfriend. I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs stop as she went into the room, but nothing that I had to say mattered. As I sat there alone, my feelings went away, and I once again I became numb.
The Descent into Hell
When she came out of the procedure, I’ll never forget how she looked at me with such contempt and pain. I was tortured after the procedure feeling I did not fight hard enough for my child‘s life. This would exact a heavy toll on me in the days and years ahead.
I did not fully understand the powerful connection of abortion and my childhood wounds until I read a book by Kevin Burke called Tears of the Fisherman.
Kevin writes about men who experienced divorce, abuse and neglect as children and later have abortions:
“When men experience neglect, abuse and abandonment from their fathers this rejection leaves the child with the experience of being emotionally aborted. A man who felt emotionally aborted as a child and later participates in the death of his unborn child magnifies an already deep and complex wound. He has the experience of being both innocent victim of childhood abuse and later a perpetrator by participating in the abuse/death of his innocent unborn child (or victimized again by being powerless to prevent his child’s death.) The abortion experience connects in a very toxic way with that wounded child resulting in deep rage, depression, anxiety and acting out this complicated grief in destructive and self-destructive ways.”
I suffered from major depression and attempted suicide after the first abortion. I tried overdosing on pain pills from a sports injury. All I wanted to do was stop the pain, but no amount of pills would help me. Over time, I developed delayed PTSD and OCD thinking about my lost children 24/7.
I had two vivid dreams in the aftermath of the abortions where I entered into a dark and empty cavern of despair. A felt the dreams were revealing my eternal destiny as a soul condemned to hell. I saw God at that time as a stern judge who already sentenced me to hell, as I was beyond redemption. I lost all hope and was filled with self-loathing for many years. How could I kill two beautiful children and hurt two people that I dearly loved?
For years, I was unable to put words to feelings. If someone asked me how I was doing, I would say “I’m fine.” Faking happiness one day at a time was my mantra. I learned to trust no one, especially anyone who tried to get close to my heart. The only feelings I had were anger, self-hatred, and a strong belief that God also hated me. I suffered in silence too ashamed of myself to tell anyone about the abortions.
I tried filling the dark void by sleeping around with other women. However, nothing could fill the emptiness inside of me. As time went on, my depression got worse, and I was fighting it daily and by the hour. I felt this way for many years, unable put feelings to words.
I tried not to think about my aborted children because it was too painful. The emotions were too strong to handle. Seeing a pregnant woman or a newborn baby would depress me. I was unable to go to children’s stores or baby section of a store without crying. I developed irregular sleeping patterns frequently waking up in the calmness of dawn going into the living room to cry my eyes out grieving the loss of my two children. I struggled with overcoming the numbness inside.
Stepping out of the Darkness – and Into the Light
I finally met a woman who came from a similar background of growing up in an alcoholic and abusive family. While she never had an abortion, she was open and honest and had a very traumatic childhood. In previous relationships, I always stayed silent and avoided telling anyone about the abortions. However, I took a leap of faith one night and shared my story.
She supported me with open arms. We dated for three years before getting married. I thought after marriage that I would feel better. I tried counseling and medicine, my wife heard about a 12-step program designed to help people who grew up in an alcoholic family. The turning point for healing was on the program where I learned about a “higher power.” I remember going through the 12 steps having to make a list of people that I had harmed and became willing to make amends to them. I finally got the courage to contact the mother’s of my aborted children and apologized. They both apologized to me.
Learning to re-parent myself and take responsibility for my actions helped me break through the numbness to put words to feelings. As my self-esteem rose, I became a new person helping me heal from growing up in a dysfunctional family. However, the program could not address the deep wounds abortion inflicted on my heart.
My wife and I decided to adopt a child that was in the foster care system and needed a home. This led to a very stressful period of court battles to relinquish parental rights. The child came from an abusive home and was with us from the time he was a baby.
This experience brought me closer to God. I remember being on my knees at night pleading to God to keep our child if that was His will and best for our son.
Out of desperation, I began going to a local Catholic church. I was fearful of church and facing God. But having lost two children to abortions and now fearing the loss of my adopted son, I had nowhere else to go.
Father Mike was a priest at our parish. Something about this priest was genuine, real and trustworthy. I couldn’t wait to hear his homily every week. One homily had to do with Divine Mercy. He shared that God loves the sinner, but not the sin.
After sitting with my arms crossed in the last row of the church every Sunday for about a year, it finally started to sink in that maybe God did not actually hate me.
I decided to visit Father Mike for confession and reconciliation. The appointment lasted for two hours. I confessed all my sins including the abortions. I cried like crazy the entire time fearful I’d be asked to leave the church because of my grave sins.
Much to my surprise just the opposite happened. Fr Mike was so loving and gentle. He made me feel safe at the most difficult time in my life. There was no judgment or shame towards me. He was empathetic to my suffering, and I was shocked – that he was not shocked hearing my story.
Fr Mike also explained that our church was full of sinners, not saints. I did my penance, and out of my old habit of stinking thinking, I waited for something bad to happen.
As time went on, just the opposite happened. I ended up teaching Sunday school, and I became a Eucharistic Minister. I served at masses and did rounds at our local hospital. For the first time in my life, I began to trust God and the church.
Fr Mike helped me during the stressful period when my son’s adoption was in jeopardy. He taught me how to pray to God with an open heart asking only for his will for me and to pray for the best outcome for my son. Thankfully our prayers were answered, and we were awarded full custody of our son.
Even though we were overjoyed with the adoption of my son, over the next few years the pain of the abortions would not go away. A counselor diagnosed me with depression. My general practice doctor prescribed medication but with no real results. No one knew how to help me with post-abortion grief.
It wasn’t until Fr Mike encouraged me to attend a Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat that I started truly healing. At the program, I met the most amazing people including two loving Priests serving on the team. I was able to share my story and fully participated in the program. I named my children, and in the memorial service at the close of the weekend, I read a love letter I wrote to them. I also named them; Marie and Jacob.
For the first time in my life, I was able to deal with the hurt, sorrow and pain in a loving way towards myself, my children and their mothers. It was very helpful being around other people who understood my pain, and validated my suffering. I also experienced God’s loving mercy and grace.
I left the Rachel’s Vineyard program feeling free of pain for the first time in my life. I attended several reunions with the team and other participants.
Unfortunately, my work moved me to another state. As time went on, the pain and anxiety over the second abortion began to emerge again. I called the Director of Rachel’s Vineyard Retreats in my area and shared my situation. She suggested that I attend a second retreat to deal with unresolved grief and trauma from my second abortion.
Three months later I attended my second retreat that ended up being as equally beneficial as the first one. While the program was the same, I became completely open to God’s healing and mercy. I met another man serving on team who lost a child to abortion and this made a huge difference for me. We shared common experiences and really bonded during the program.
The Director of the program did an amazing job supporting and encouraging me to fully participate in the program to receive God’s mercy. She modeled for me what a true representative of Christ is all about. Later she called me to reach out to other men with abortion loss, and I became a member of the Rachel’s Vineyard Team. We are planning on offering a men’s abortion group in addition to our Rachel’s Vineyard weekends.
For the past 6 years, I’ve been a regular member attending Catholic Church. Our pastor Father Rick is just overflowing with love for his flock. He is truly a Christ-like man and an inspiration to me. I am also involved with the pro-life team at the church.
God is now the driving force in my life. My goal in life today is to spread the word about Divine Mercy. I had a very warped view for many years about God and that caused me great pain and anguish. There is amazing healing to experience if you open up and trust God.
Fruits of Healing
The Catholic Church is going through a very painful process as the light of truth exposes some very dark and damaging acts of abuse, neglect and sexual immorality by some clergy and Bishops. As a child who has suffered abuse and neglect, my heart breaks for all who have suffered at the hands of men consecrated to be servants of Christ Jesus. This is truly an abomination that strikes at the heart of the Church’s mission.
Yet, while acknowledging this darkness, I must also witness to the fact that my story reflects the power of a holy priest like Father Mike to lead me from despair into the light of recovery and reconciliation with God. I have been blessed by the sacraments of Confession and Eucharist, and the ministry of Rachel’s Vineyard that brings the mercy and healing of Christ and His Church to women and men wounded by abortion. I have been fortunate to experience the Church at her very best.
My wife and I later adopted our daughter from Ukraine. She is truly amazing and fills our heart with joy.
In three year, I also met my biological mother, two sisters, and two brothers. They are amazing people who love me. Since both of my adoptive parents have passed away, I get a second chance at happiness with my new family.
I also want to recognize my biological mother Marilyn for being a hero to me. Even though she was going through a difficult time as an unwed mother with multiple children, she decided not to abort me. As a result, she changed the lives of my adopted parents, friends and family. I love you mom!!!
As you can probably tell, I am a staunch supporter of adoption. It’s a great alternative to abortion and a terrific way to build a family.
In Christ Jesus,
[Charles serves with the Rachel’s Vineyard ministry. He is also active in supporting several ministries for post-abortive women and men. To find out more information about Rachel’s Vineyard retreats in your area please go to www.rachelsvineyard.org/ ]