Post-Abortion Healing

(This Testimony by "Liane" was given after the Sept. 27, 1998 Homily at Holy Family Seattle.)

I am a Pro- life Catholic woman who was raised in a strong, pro-life Catholic family, I went to Catholic schools, I worked in a Catholic convent, I have always attended Mass at least once week, -and I have had two abortions. It is not easy for me to reveal my life to you today. As I do so now, there is a certain pain that I feel - a pain that I will feel for the rest of my life. It is this pain that gives me the strength and the courage to choose to speak out and make myself vulnerable in hopes that many men, women, and families will be made whole again.

The first abortion took place when I was 19. 1 had moved out of my parents home and became involved with a man in the business world. He had money and paid lots of attention to me. I wound up getting pregnant and I was scared. He took my fear and worries away by telling me would get married and keep the baby. Everything was smooth for a few weeks until he gradually stopped talking about marriage, and started talking about abortion.

My instincts told me "no" to abortion and my Catholic faith told me "no". I fought it as best as I could in the two short weeks legally given to me at the time because I was 10 weeks pregnant-but I lost. My defenses were down and my power was down. Two weeks later, in November of 1975, 1 walked into an abortion clinic and aborted my first conceived child. I was never the same again. After the abortion, this man abandoned me and I was left alone. I felt very much like a dead person. No life-I just functioned. No purpose---I just existed.

When I was 22 I met another man, this time forming a serious relationship with him. Six months later I became pregnant. I did not want another abortion, but he kept saying "what would our families think, especially his mother, about my pregnancy". The pleaser in me took over and eventually I gave into the pressure. I walked into an abortion clinic in January 1978 and aborted my second conceived child.

My relationship to that man changed immediately. I contradicted everything he said, I resented him, my stomach ached every time he touched me. I withdrew from him and more into myself refusing to deal with either abortion. I was totally numb. I never smiled nor could I have fun. I did not know how.

The next ten years were very difficult and painful-only I never knew why. I just knew something was wrong and on many occasions I felt like committing myself to a mental hospital. For years I had a strong urge to cut myself while cooking and when I did I passed them off as accidents. I had to fight with myself to control my car because I wanted to crash into the side of the freeway wall. I have three children I was unable to bond with. I was unable to hug them or tell them I loved them. I did not have the love for myself to knew how to love them. What I did not know then is that these are SOME classic symptoms of self abuse stemming from an abortion experience.

What gave me the most pain was the my ability to forgive myself. I had been going to confession for years over the same sin but I was unable to grasp onto the gift of forgiveness. I left feeling as empty as before I went in, but at least I knew I could receive our Lord in Holy Communion. Eventually, the voices of guilt and shame would scream at me so loud again that I would feel the need to go confess once more.

I lived this way until I found a priest to help me. Through counseling and praying with this priest, I was constantly reassured that I was not a rotten person. This was the hardest thing for me to accept, but I made a conscious decision to work on it and then I finally got it in my heart. Through this decision my healing had begun.

My search for healing within our Catholic Church continued but I could not find proper help from anyone in the Church to deal with post abortion so I joined a Protestant based support group called Heart to Heart. It was there that I began to learn that I was not crazy, that others had experienced the same feelings and behaviors as I did. I felt that I was finally being understood. When I finished the support group I had a new outlook on life although I still had not completely forgiven myself, and I needed desperately to connect with someone in my own faith who had similar experiences.

Six months later I began attending healing weekend retreats and as a result I began to have a deeper outlook on life. My self esteem began to rise rapidly. The fog and confusion were being lifted and I was experiencing a new spring, a new resurrection. I was able to grab the truth that I was a child of God and my spiritual life was deepening. Still, there was a deep hunger within me for my Catholic faith, to know I was accepted 'in the Church, to believe deeper in our Lord as the Great Healer, to believe EVERYTHING He said. On retreat I was 'inspired to look deeper into the Mass, to understand its meaning 'in power and healing. I knew there was a meaning behind every word that was spoken at Mass. There were four specific phrases which kept inspiring me:





The power of these phrases were telling me that the Holy Spirit, the Giver of Life, did not desire me to live in death. That the Lamb of God has taken away my sin, He has had mercy on me and He would grant me peace in my heart, and even though I was not worthy to receive Him, our Lord was healing me. Through the Mass I rapidly became a changed person, I became in love with life itself, finding new meaning in everything I did. I began bonding closer with my three children and having fun, the fun that I did not know existed before. I was finally learning how to live!

I finally believed I had a purpose and that God loved me unconditionally. Yet, I found I desperately needed to connect with women who had similar experiences. Through these connections I came to realize that many women and men who leave the Catholic faith do so because they have had an abortion experience and feel in some way alienated and/or rejected by the Church. I felt pain for and with these women and men, knowing that up to 35-40% of all abortions are performed on Catholics. Knowing, they often feel abandoned by family and friends as well as Church, my desire to do something for our Catholic people grew even stronger, so I began working on starting a support group.

With the support of Archbishop Murphy, I began working with a team of lay and clergy members to bring Project Rachel to Seattle. Project Rachel provides referrals to trained priests and professional counselors. Volunteer facilitators lead women and men through a 12 week process of healing which culminates in a Healing Mass of Dedication. Project Rachel also has a facilitator able to lead a group for grandparents of aborted children. Project Rachel gave me hope that has been turned into a reality. A reality that other Catholic women and men would have an opportunity to heal the wound of abortion and that families would be made whole again and, through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, people would believe that they had been completely forgiven.

As I look back on my life twenty three years ago when I had my first abortion, and the isolation that I experience through not being able to talk to anyone, along with the years of life that I lost, I am convinced that if I had heard another Catholic woman admit she had an abortion I would be twenty three years ahead in my healing now. Also, by hearing her story I would have realized that abortion is never the right choice. It is a choice that will affect the rest of your life and all of your relationships- especially with God.

Of greatest importance to me now is the quality of bonding I have with my children. I am enjoying them more, hugging them more, and loving them more. One lesson I have learned is to keep open communication with them and teach them to respect themselves enough to remain abstinent until marriage. I continue to work on accepting them where they are, and encourage them so that they can tell me anything, no matter what.

As I said in the beginning this pain will be with me for the rest of my life, but the major obstacles have been overcome. My hope and prayer is to continue growing deeper in my faith and accept where God is using me *in helping other men and women.

I have one final message for the entire family of God. Never judge a woman who has had an abortion. This decision was not made on her own. More often than not, she has been pressured, forced, and walked to that clinic. So many others are always involved, whether it's the boyfriend, husband, parents, in-laws, grandparents, or doctors and nurses. But more often than not, it's the woman who is the first to suffer the guilt, shame, and self-hatred. Nobody knows where each woman has been in her life, what previous abuses she may have suffered, or what damage had been done to her self-esteem. A woman who has lost a child through abortion needs to be made whole through time, love and patience. This will happen by changing stumbling blocks of judgment and condemnation into love-filled stepping stones of understanding and forgiveness.

I want to thank you for allowing me to share myself with you today for the sake of other men and women. Most importantly I want to thank God for the whole of my life. For all the blessings, graces, and gifts He has given to me. For guiding me in my struggles. For rising me up when I was down. For bestowing such great and generous amounts of mercy upon me. And for holding me in the palm of His hand.

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