|January 6, 2014 • VOL. 52, NO. 1 • Oakland, CA|
| First person
My journey to forgiveness and healing after abortion
I was 17 when I found out I was pregnant. The woman at the clinic who was supposed to counsel me about my options briefly mentioned that I could keep "it," give it up for adoption or have an abortion, which she then focused on in encouraging detail. Over the next four weeks, I functioned on autopilot. I was not thinking or feeling.
I spent the next six years telling myself and everyone else that women have the right to choose. Occasionally, I would run into a pro-life activist on the street and start a heated debate. What did they know? They hadn't been through what I had been through. What nerve!
I had been a devout Catholic but suddenly felt that I didn't have a right to be in church anymore. It was more than five years before I returned, but I snuck in the back door. I still believed I would never walk in God's light again.
Sitting in church again began to thaw my frozen heart. Soon my true feelings of pain, regret and remorse crashed over me like Niagara Falls. I was suddenly mourning the loss of my child. Overwhelmed by grief and condemnation, I cried myself to sleep many nights in unspeakable sorrow. I prayed often, but did not believe that I had a right to ask God for anything.
As I began to face my buried feelings about my abortion, several things happened that signaled healing was perhaps possible.
One day, as I knelt in an empty pew in the back of Newman Hall Holy Spirit Parish in Berkeley and thought about my unborn daughter, (I always felt she was a girl), I cried and prayed that she and God could hear me and know how truly sorry I was for what I had done. I never said a word out loud. Suddenly, I heard a woman's voice ask, "May I pray over you?" I looked up to see a woman with a kind, gentle face. I thought, "It won't do you any good," but shrugged and buried my face in my hands. In a soft voice, she said, "God has forgiven you and she has, too. They are only waiting for you to forgive yourself." Chills passed through me. I looked up, but she was gone. God sent me an angel that day and a glimmer of hope.
I decided to go to confession, then sought professional counseling, as well as counseling from a priest. I was treated with caring, and forgiveness. Then I was invited to go on a post-abortion healing retreat, called "Rachel's Vineyard," which changed my life. What I received from Rachel's Vineyard was so much more than I ever imagined. I experienced such healing and reconciliation! I was in the company of women and men of all ages and walks of life who had experienced the same grief, pain and regret that I had been feeling so strongly for so long. I felt so safe there — to share and to feel. Finally, I was allowed to heal. It took Rachel's Vineyard for me to accept God's love and forgiveness. There are no words to describe the relief and peace of mind, heart and soul that I achieved there. For weeks afterward, I kept waiting for the grief and guilt to seep back in, but they never have. I feel closer to God than ever now, and when I pray, I believe with my whole heart that He is listening.
There is something I haven't shared with you yet. The sex that led to my pregnancy was not consensual. I was raped. I share this with you because it may surprise you to know that my abortion hurt me more than that young man ever did. A beautiful baby girl for me or an adoptive family would have been the only positive thing to come out of such an experience. I can't take back my decision, but I can share my story and pray that if you are living with the pain of abortion, you will see that there is great hope. I am so grateful to God for leading me ever so gently down this path to Rachel's Vineyard — a path of profound healing and complete forgiveness!
(Note: The author asked that we not identify her to protect her family.)
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