The pretty blonde stood in front of the church. “I had an abortion when I was nineteen.” Her eyes scanned the crowd. “And I will be leading a Bible Study for others like me.”
I lowered my head. My hands trembled on my lap. I was sure by my response that everyone around me could guess my secret. Yet, a flicker of hope stirred. There’s someone like me. Someone who knows this pain.
I’d been a Christian for many years, but the shame of having an abortion at age fifteen weighed heavy on my heart. During years of attending church, I had no idea other women also dealt with the same heartache.
Women Like Me. Each year, about 50 million women worldwide have abortions. In the U.S. alone, 43 percent of women will have an abortion by the time they are 45 years old. Yet for a Christian woman, it may feel like she’s the only one dealing with this issue. And so often, church leaders don’t know how to approach the subject of abortion for fear of stirring “controversy.” Instead, leaders need to realize that these women need hope. They need to hear that others have faced the same pain and have found healing.
Post-Abortion Healing. After having an abortion, many women cope through the defense mechanisms of repression and denial. Oftentimes, this helps women avoid the pain for 5, 10, even 20 years. But during a woman’s life, events such having children or facing infertility, can bring these negative feelings to light.
Yet even before a woman realizes her pain, suppressed shame and guilt express themselves in many ways, including low self-esteem, insomnia, nightmares, and flashbacks. It is also common for women to turn to alcohol or drugs to numb the ache.
Steps to healing. Still, women do not need to remain prisoner to their silent suffering. According to J. Willke, there are five steps in the healing process:
(1) Counter the denial. A woman must take responsibility and admit she killed her baby.
(2) Grieve over her lost child. Releasing pent-up tears often brings healing.
(3) Seek divine forgiveness. In my case, it helped to realize Jesus’ grace was greater than my sin.
(4) Forgive others. There are many people I resented for their part, including family members and my old boyfriend. But I soon realized that this hatred hurt me the most.
(5) Forgive herself. Romans 6:16 states that “sin leads to death.” When I was able to forgive myself for believing Satan’s lies, I found inner peace that I’d not experienced in years. And afterwards, I knew I had to help others find the same peace.
Reaching Out. After my own healing, I began to lead post-abortion groups using the book, Forgiven and Set Free by Linda Cochrane. I also share my testimony in person and through writing. I know my words of hope maybe exactly what the women listening in the pew–or the one reading my blog–may need. Just like another woman’s words had once helped me.
Even though my abortion happened nineteen years ago, a part of me has forever been changed. My life reflects it. My writing reflects it. In fact, I feel it’s no coincidence that themes of bondage, forgiveness, and hope are found within the pages of the novels I write.
How about you? How has your Real Life Pain and Real Life Healing transformed your ministry?
Footnote: J. Willke, P.A.S. Five Steps on How You Can Help, Life Issues Connector, Mar. 1996