The Secret Pain of Abortion
"I named her Sarah Elizabeth. I think about her every day. I know she's with God, and someday I'll see her again. At first, I had a hard time thinking of my baby as a person. But after I brought this doll home, I couldn't help but think of her as my child."
As we talk, Susan walks out of the room. She returns holding one of the dolls in her arms, and passes her gently to Carolyn. Carolyn holds the doll the way any new mother would hold an infant-with tenderness, a little nervousness and an unmistakable look of pure love. I find myself fighting back tears. I'm looking at a girl who, just a few months ago, couldn't admit to herself that she had really had an abortion. Now, here she sits, quietly cradling this symbol of a child, aching for the real child she didn't have. She will hold the doll for the rest of our interview.
As she describes the memorial service, it's clear to me that having the chance to say goodbye to Sarah was a turning point for Carolyn.
"For the memorial service, I wrapped Sarah in the blanket I had as a baby. I wrote her a long letter, telling her how much I love her, how truly sorry I am to have taken away her life, and how glad I am she's with Jesus. By the end of the service, I knew I had done more than put my baby in God's hands; I placed my pain in his hands too. I felt like I was forgiven, not just by God, but by Sarah too.
"It's the hardest thing I've ever done in my whole life. But I needed to grieve, and I could only do that by acknowledging that Sarah was a real person. She deserves to be cried over, to be missed."
As hard as it was to bring up those long-buried feelings, Carolyn's glad she did.
"I'd been feeling so alone, so guilty, so unworthy of forgiveness. But now I know I'm forgiven. And I don't feel alone anymore. When I look at where I am now, compared to where I was a year ago, I know I've come so far. I still have a lot of healing to go, but I know God will be with me as I get better.
"I can't imagine dealing with my pain without God. There's no way. I know he's the only one who can heal me."
As Carolyn and I say goodbye, I can't help but think about what her future will be like. She knows she'll always carry some of the pain of her abortion with her. She knows it will probably never be easy to talk about the experience with her family. But it's clear to me that no matter what Carolyn faces in the future, she will hold tight to God and the promise of his unending love.
When A Friend Needs Help
If someone you know has had an abortion, what she needs, more than anything, is your support. You can help by:
Listening. Your friend has a lot of emotions to deal with. She may be feeling anger, guilt, denial or just plain confusion. You don't need to tell her what to feel. Just let her tell you what's going on.
Loving. No matter how you feel about abortion, now is not the time to judge your friend. She needs to feel like she can talk to you about her experience. By showing her you care, you'll be reminding her of Jesus' unending love for her.
Leading. Help your friend find the counseling she needs. Encourage her to seek out a Christian post-abortion support group. Ask your pastor to help you track one down in your area. When your friend is ready to get help, you'll be able to provide her with useful information.
Here are a few nationwide resources you can suggest:
Bethany Christian Services
Hope for the Heart Abortion Recovery Ministry
Conquerors Post-Abortion Healing