Anne R Lastman

Take courage! God has healing in store for you; so, take Courage” (Tb.5:10)       

Because abortion grief is still in its early stage of full understanding and therefore still in the process of discovering the “best way” to understand why it happens when abortion seemed the right decision, we who work in this specialised field have a need to first understand what human being means. What woman means. What conception means, and rigid adherence to one particular approach and feature of counselling would, I believe, be unsuitable for this type of counselling because many things have to be taken into account e.g., Abortion decision. Was it a wanted decision or a forced decision based upon psychological threats (boyfriend, husband, career, and parents). 

abortion grief is not a usual grief following death of a loved one.  it’s a complicated type of grief, which follows the intentional death of a foetal child.  From observation ambivalence is always present; depression always follows especially where abortion decision is made under duress or fear.  Abortion grief is exacerbated because of the need to remain silent and therefore no support network available.  

My role, and programme which I have developed over 26 years through study, reading, experience, prayer, is to facilitate the grieving process of my client which at times has been suppressed for up to 65 years.  Perhaps the best way to explain an abortion grief counsellor is to say that I give the woman grieving an aborted child the permission to weep and mourn and to acknowledge the humanity of that child and the reality of his/her death and her deep regret at the decision she made. To reconcile mother and her baby.    I honour in the person grieving, her now belief that her baby was of inestimable value and not diminished as first believed.   I help her temporarily reconnect with the baby by helping her name the child, establish some history as part of her own life and that of her baby and in due course bid the child farewell with a “goodbye ceremony” This time a farewell with tears but not violence.

When a conception occurs, followed by abortion or miscarriage, there is usually a beginning, a small middle, but no anticipated and usual ending.  This abrupt ending leaves the spiritual and psychological incomplete and its very important to her (or them) to complete as much as possible the story of the child who passed by for a short while and then left. I support the process of grief, which has lain dormant of even deeply hidden but secretly active with its need to be known and this aggravated by self-destructive behaviours.

The journey to the reality and acceptance of the of death is both complicated and at times long.  To reach acceptance means to have negotiated with the self a contract that has been agreed upon and accepted.  

The contract outlines, reviews a life that has been, accepting all events and rejecting none, having learned from them all.  Acceptance means taking hold of the painful events and seeing them also as worthwhile experiences and reasonable for that life and then saying yes to what has been, what is, and what will come.  

Acceptance is not withdrawal into a dark corner to await the inevitable self-projected suffering and punishment.  It’s about moving into the sunlight to catch all the remaining sunbeams.  Acceptance is not lack of fear. It’s a lack of surrendering to fear.  Fear, whilst at times good (self-protective measure against any type of assault) is mostly about absence of good and maybe even punishment.  Acceptance is not about compliance – for compliance is an unwilling force into hopelessness.  

Acceptance is a peaceful appraisal of life and all within that life and throwing out what is excess (fear, punishment and lack of faith) and keeping the essence and belief in the One who gives life, and preparing for an unimaginable journey for which we prepare for all our lives.  Acceptance is saying yes it has been good journey (even the not so good events of our lives, those which have caused pain) but now it’s time to move on to wherever that place might be for each individual.

An abortion grief counsellor/facilitator/carer is invited into the life of the individual.  Indeed, this is a privilege and a great honour that she asks us to journey with her (at times him) through this experience of abnormal loss. Usually, when the call first comes it must be remembered that it has taken much for the caller to make this contact so respect for her courage is first acknowledged.  

It must be said that not all who abort their foetal child will, in the immediate ,be consumed with loss of sense of peace, loss of confidence in present or future mothering. Loss of freedom from guilt, shame, deep sense of continual absence to self, difficulty in decision making, loss of a sense of self, loss of trust towards the medical profession who in many cases were first to offer as a solution the availability of abortion as a solution to present difficulties, loss of trust of partner (or parent or friend who encouraged the abortion) loss of sense of worthiness. Loss of confidence with other children.  

Studies also clearly indicate that increased risk of depression, anxiety disorders, weeping, panic attacks, mood disorders, alcohol and substance abuse, suicide, and all manner of self-abuse which comes from this regret filled grief and pain.

Abortion grief is a grief which overshadows our society especially it hurts women, the heart and stability of society.   It hurts men the strength of our society.  It hurts children the future of our society. Abortion or the intentional killing of a preborn infant has no precedence. 

This disenfranchised grief needs be recognised and dealt with rather than have it be stigmatized.    It’s a grief disenfranchised because even though societal mores have decreed that abortion is a “right” some society also recognizes that it is a “wrong” and contrary to the woman’s design and nature.   Her design is not to take her baby to die but to be protective and indeed to protect the child with her own life.  It’s the guilt, shame and intent which brings the pain and judgement is ill advised for one who has made that decision and seeks help.

Abortion is a death and the death of an infant in its most vulnerable stage.  And knowing this the conscience is unable to cope or rest because the conscience of a human being is that place where the matter of rights or wrongs is determined. It’s the place where the Lord whispers his own words not filled with judgement but filled with compassion for one who has erred.

Having thus wounded this area of privacy a pain begins and continues until ministered to and this is the place where we as, doctors, psychologist, counsellors, mental health professionals, can enter gently and render care to such a hurting mother.  From years of having listened to stories, it’s important that a woman’s doctor stops and is present not only to the woman but to the baby she is carrying.  Her first important carer needs to stop.  There are “three” individuals in his rooms and not two.  The life of the ‘third’ one depends on the professional health provider just stopping and being present and speaking with care, knowing that his or her words will be accepted because these are respected people.  The “third” one is not “tissue” is not “a bunch of cells” is not a product of conception easily disposable but as the Talmud says “He who saves a life saves a whole universe,” There is no one more important who enters the physician’s rooms that day who will be more important than the “third” person. 

Those who dare to enter into this place of abortion pain need first understand that it is not a place for the one in hurry, but a place where anguish is found, but to stop and understand that stopping in this place is to step onto Holy ground where truth (Life) will be enmeshed with untruth. (Not a baby) Where regret is mixed with doubt and sorrow. Where self-disgust is mixed with horror at one’s own decision making and desperate need for forgiveness.

The most difficult part of this is the belief of a message implanted by a loved or trusted one that said that it’s “OK” to abort, e.g., a doctor spoke the words “your foetus is the size of a peanut in a shell-16 weeks) and then it was found to be a lie.  Or a husband or boyfriend, or parents, so that not only was there the lie from loved ones, but also from ones who are held in highest esteem.  “Much will be asked of the one who has been given much” The intentional death of the “third” one ensures loss of creation peace, and especially of feminine peace. The peace of mother.  The one who loves deeply and whom society unconsciously knows is the heart of love. Is the heart which holds future in her hands.