Wholeness is possible, say women who have recovered from post-abortion stress. Here are some key steps to healing:
Know you're not alone
Because so many women suffer the lingering effects of abortion, Women Exploited by Abortion (WEBA), P.O. Box 278, Dawson, TX 76639, an organization dedicated to helping women find healing, has chapters in all fifty states and in other countries.
Don't deny it
Most women are so traumatized by abortion, they suppress their emotions and memories. Counselors encourage you to re-experience the abortion by talking about it in a safe environment such as a support group, where you can diffuse the experience's volatility.
Find a support group
Recovered women say you'll find strength in sharing your secret shame. "Ultimately, you realize that if they can forgive you, you can forgive you too," says one recovered woman who now leads post-abortion support groups. One woman compares her support-group comrades to the friends of Lazarus. Even though Jesus called Lazarus from the tomb, she says, it was his friends who unwrapped his grave clothes and allowed him to walk away from the trappings of death.
Recognize abortion as sin
Without exception, women who recovered from abortion at some point said, "I took a life. It was sin." Before you can find true healing, you have to embrace that fact.
Experience forgiveness from God
Counselor Teri Reisser, co-author of Help for the Post-Abortion Woman (Zondervan), says feeling forgiven is hard, especially if you think your relationship with God is beyond repair. The most essential task is to accept emotionally what you already know intellectually, Teri says. Lean heavily on Scripture promising unwavering forgiveness from God, such as Romans 8:1, 1 John 1:9, and Psalm 130:3-4: "If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness."
Forgive yourself and others
It's normal to be angry with yourself, your partner who encouraged you to have an abortion, your parents who made you feel abortion was your only option, or the doctor who performed the procedure. To help you forgive, identify your anger, then write (but don't send) letters telling individuals how you feelno holds barred. Or write down sentences such as: "I feel angry with Mark for saying abortion was the best option because I really wanted him to talk me out of it." Luci Freed and Penny Yvonne Salazar, who wrote A Season to Heal (Thomas Nelson), say just recognizing and expressing these emotions help you release your anger and forgive.
Grieve your loss
Your grieving process is complicated by your lack of visual memories to help you mourn, so "recreate" your aborted child by describing physical features, emotional disposition, and personality, and by naming him or her. One woman named her child Diedre Joy, meaning sadness and joy, and wrote her a letter as part of her grieving process. "I thought I would die if I ever started talking about my child," she says. "Instead, by grieving her death, the pain and the lies died."
Read what's available
Books, Bible studies, and pamphlets exploring healing from post-abortion stress are growing in number. Locate materials by contacting your state's WEBA office (817-578-1681), the Christian Action Council (703-478-5661), Focus on the Family (719-531-5181), or Open Arms (719-573-5790).
Go the distance
"Go through the healing process completely so you don't have to go through it again," one support group leader says. Her experience shows that, after an initial release from guilt, some women stop the process. The short-term grieving process usually takes about three months; the long-term may take a year of consistent work.
Give yourself a break
Limit the amount of time you spend, such as an hour a day, on a post-abortion Bible study and prayer. Decide to spend three or five days a week on the topic, then give yourself a day off. "You want to maintain some balance," one woman warns. "This is supposed to lead you to healing, not to being consumed."
Copyright © 1996 by the author or Christianity Today/Today's Christian Woman magazine.
Click here for reprint information on Today's Christian Woman.