Healing Abortion's Guilt and Grief
- Friday, January 04, 2013
Editor's note: This article is Part 1 of a 3-Part series on healing from pregnancy loss. Today's author, Kim Ketola, writes on the guilt and grief after abortion.
There is no grief like the grief that does not speak.
~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
It was just another box of old belongings to be sorted for our cross-country move. But the brightly colored cloth journal caught my eye and caused my heart to skip a beat. With equal anticipation and dread I sat down and thumbed through pages written over thirty years earlier.
Had I saved the receipt?
Yes, there it was.
Dated June 16, 1978, the yellowed 3 x 5 carbon noted my name and address, the name and location of the abortion facility, and a fee of $165.00 marked paid in full, in cash.
I cried softly as I read these facts I’d buried but not laid to rest so many years ago.
This January marks the 40th Anniversary of the Roe v Wade decision making abortion legal for any reason. But the date may go largely unmarked by those abortion has impacted the most—the millions of women who chose it. One in three women of childbearing age has had at least one abortion. Yet we all feel alone as we wonder what might have been. We miss the children we thought we did not want but now wish we could have known and loved. Our hearts long to be forgiven but seldom sense it is so.
This is the ache of parental grief after abortion.
Counselor Teri Reisser told me, “Awareness of the need to grieve the loss of an aborted child is almost nonexistent in our culture.” I found this to be true as I’ve researched the need for healing the spiritual wounds of abortion. Perhaps, because women choose abortion, Reisser says, “They do not feel they have any right to a normal grieving process . . . [yet] they do grieve for the lost child.”
It would be much easier if everyone around us helped us grieve. Unfortunately, quite the opposite happens. Few people know words of comfort for any type of pregnancy loss. We stumble when we should be the stabilizing support for women who have gone through miscarriage, stillbirth or infant death. We fail to realize how responsible and guilty women may feel as the primary protectors of the life of a child who dies before birth. And in the case of abortion, we are told the new life within us is not even a child. How to grieve and relieve the guilt when we realize we believed a lie?
Jesus knew the life-giving value of grieving after death. He wept with Mary and Martha after Lazarus died, asking, “Where have you laid him?” (John 11:34) He went with them to the tomb—not just to remember, but to demonstrate God’s glory. After abortion, he will go with us too. He’ll help us find God in the midst of our loss and grief if we’ll risk facing the truth.
If instead we continue to believe the lie that there is no child to mourn, we may clutch the sorrow as the only reminder our child had ever existed. At the same time, as any normal parent wanting love from their child, we have this ache. The ache, somewhere deep in our hearts, is for our unborn child. Only there is no outlet, no child present, and none even acknowledged as lost.
In our isolation and shame we think: I can’t seem to get over this, so there must be something wrong with me. Guilt and grief compete for our emotions as guilt demands we reject our sin, and grief requires us to accept our loss. I wrestled the pain of these conflicting emotions for twenty-three years until I received God’s mercy and accepted that there is truly no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus and who live according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh (Romans 8:1). Embracing the reality of redemption starts our healing journey.
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