Voices For Life

Voices for Life is an e-publication dedicated to informing and educating the public on pro-life and pro-family issues. We cover issues from conception until natural death, as well as all family life issues.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

What Happens When People Share Their Abortion Stories

What Happens When People Share Their Abortion Stories
An old saying suggests that what we
cannot put into words we cannot put to rest.
By Cullen Herout
The Federalist

In April 2011, I began working with the post-abortion ministry Rachel’s Vineyard. The ministry hosts weekend retreats for men and women who have chosen or been a part of an abortion. Over the years I have witnessed many amazing transformations in the lives of retreatants. Not only that, I have learned an incredible amount about faith, forgiveness, and the pain that abortion can cause in a person’s life.

The retreat weekends have a unique way of helping men and women come to know forgiveness and experience the loving acceptance of others who have also chosen to abort their children. The weekends offer a safe, non-judgmental, non-politicized environment for post-abortive persons to tell their stories, examine how abortion has affected their lives, and be heard.

But what makes the weekends so effective at bringing about healing and peace in a person’s life? Perhaps the secret lies in the importance of storytelling.

An old saying suggests that what we cannot put into words we cannot put to rest. In other words, without the ability to verbalize something negative that’s happened to us, without the ability to process and make sense of it, it will continue to reside in the emotional part of our brains, unprocessed and continuing to wreak havoc on our emotional functioning. 

It continues to be experienced through the emotional center of the brain, and memories, reminders, or flashbacks to the event can trigger acute emotional responses. These acute responses oftentimes persist until the person has made sense of the emotional, or perhaps even traumatic, event.

So Many Obstacles to Opening Up

I cannot count how many times on a retreat weekend I have heard “I’ve never shared my abortion story with anyone,” or “Nobody has ever asked me to tell my story,” or worse, “Nobody has ever cared or even bothered to ask me about my abortion.” Many times, the retreatants have never had or been given an opportunity to talk about their abortion experience. The emotional or physical pain they experience after an abortion often is ignored or misdiagnosed.

As Theresa Burke points out in her book “Forbidden Grief,” this is due to two factors. One, emotional or physical pain experienced immediately after an abortion is often neglected or labeled “normal aftermath.” When people express this pain, it often meets “Oh, that’s normal, you’ll get over that.” Men and women met with this response are certainly more likely to bury the negative emotions they may experience as the time goes on after the abortion.

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