Living with the memories is the part of your abortion experience that is ongoing. On a daily basis you will be faced with reminders: pregnant women, diaper commercials, babies and small children, not to mention your own child's birth date or the anniversary of your abortion.
Learning to live with those reminders and the subsequent memories they call to mind is the measure of how far you've come in your healing process. What I mean by that is this:
The woman who has successfully dealt with her abortion has become a whole, functioning person. She is able to cope with the ongoing reminders as they arise instead of feeling overwhelmed or paralyzed by them. [This, by the way, should be your goal.]
This is not to say that you will never feel pain at the remembrance of your abortion. As with any deeply emotional loss and grief, reminders will be painful. Likewise, as with other forms of grief, the painful periods will lessen in both intensity and frequency to some degree.
To expect that you will never be upset or feel pain again, even after successfully going through all the steps to healing, is unrealistic. If your pain is overwhelming, however, if it keeps you from functioning at a normal level, or if it sends you reeling as in the beginning, it is likely there is an area (or areas) of healing through which you need to go again. Perhaps you dealt completely with mourning the loss of your child, but didn't get rid of the bitterness toward those who participated in your abortion. Or perhaps you forgave those involved, but haven't fully accepted God's forgiveness for your choice.
If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or incapable of coping when the memories surface, go back through the steps to healing.
Note: Be sure to give yourself adequate time to heal. Don't expect complete healing overnight. We live in a fast-food, one-hour martinizing culture. But healing from the painful memories of abortion can be a long and arduous task. Also, once-healed always-healed does not apply to post-abortion trauma. The painful memories may always be there. The difference is in how you deal with them as they occur.
When you have reached the goal of remembering without being unable to cope you will exhibit these characteristics:
- You will be able to resume your life in a normal manner. The paralysis or disruption you experienced before in your routine and/or your personal relationships will have improved greatly.
- You will be able to honestly deal with your feelings and communicate more openly with those closest to you.
- You will be able to speak more openly about your abortion when it is appropriate to do so. It will no longer hang over your head as the "deep dark secret" you must keep from everyone.
- You will experience the freedom of forgiveness brought about by accepting and understanding that your "slate" has been wiped clean.
- You will no longer rationalize or blame others for your abortion. You will be able to admit you made a wrong choice (or were forced to do so) for which you have been fully forgiven. There is no more anger or bitterness toward yourself or others. (Note: If you were forced to abort without any choice or say-so in the matter you still need to accept forgiveness for being helpless in the situation. Do not continue blaming yourself for being helpless. Likewise, you must forgive those who forced you to have the abortion.)
- You accept God's unconditional and total forgiveness.
- You are able to stop hating yourself and to extend that same forgiveness to those involved in your abortion. (Note: This includes an understanding that those who were involved or participated in the decision to abort or in the actual abortion must resolve the burden of their own guilt on their own. The most you can do, if appropriate, is tell them of your healing and express your forgiveness toward that person (or persons) releasing them from any retribution and guilt from yourself.)
- You feel reconciled with your child.
- You are able to look forward with anticipation to do the day when you will be reunited with your child in heaven.
- You are uninhibited in your relationship with God and can peacefully continue your life on earth until that time. (Note: If you expect the reunion with your child to be a painful one or are not assured your child is at peace with God, you have not fully accepted His forgiveness and should continue to work on this area.)
Initially dealing with your abortion is like living through an earthquake. Dealing with the ongoing memories is similar to experiencing the aftershocks following the earthquake. When you sense some "aftershocks" are coming, if you have fully dealt with all the issues, you will be able to recover your balance fairly quickly. Your life will no longer be turned upside-down as it was initially. And although you may lose your footing momentarily, you will recover without being dessimated.
Again, let me remind you that having successfully dealt with all the issues of your abortion does not insure you will never feel pain or emotional upset again. It merely means you will be able to cope with the memories without having your life crumble around you. When you begin to experience the memories again, lean into the pain. Accept it. Grieve it. And remember, as a child of God all is forgiven. Let Him be your strength, your comfort, your peace. Rest in Him and in His Word. He will carry you through.
For more information, see Help for the Post-Abortive Woman
by Teri Reisser, M.S., and Paul Reisser, M.D.