Offering healing after an abortion
A girl, 22, dies of an accidental drug overdose.
When family members open a diary she kept in her room, they learn that she had had an abortion five months earlier, and from that point on, spiraled ever downward.
The simple, sad reality is that women will continue to have abortions. And as much as Catholic Social Service (CSS) offers programs to dissuade women and couples from doing so – such as adoption counseling and Teen Moms – they found they needed to provide a program for both women and men that offers post-abortion healing. For this they turned to Rachel’s Vineyard, a retreat experience for any man or woman who has struggled with the emotional and spiritual pain of abortion.
For eight years, Donetta Robben has directed the Rachel’s Vineyard program in the Diocese of Salina. Recently, the first ever retreat was held in the Diocese of Dodge City.
“None of the women who have been on the retreats felt like they had a choice” as to whether or not they would have an abortion, Robben said.
In fact, Robben explained that many pregnant women seeking help are actually counseled to have the abortion. More than 80 percent rush into the decision because of the negative reaction of a person whom they told. They may be lectured about the high cost of having and raising a child, or that abortion is wrong in other cases, but not in their case.
What many don’t stop to consider are the emotional, spiritual, and physical after-effects.
“A baby cannot be [killed] in its mother without hurting the mother,” Robben said. “It violates the sacredness of the womb. Abortion is a trauma. They bury the secret deep within themselves.”
And women aren’t the only ones affected. “Post Abortion Trauma” is the term used to describe a woman or man who is suffering with deep rooted guilt associated with a past abortion. What takes place during the actual abortion is so horrific that the reality is denied and suppressed. These repressed feelings and grief may be responsible for a profound array of psychological and emotional disturbances in a woman’s lifetime.
Symptoms may include: bouts of crying; guilt; intense grief or sadness; emotional numbness; eating disorders; drug and alcohol abuse; suicidal urges; anxiety and panic attacks; inability to forgive yourself; sexual problems or promiscuity; anger or rage; nightmares; difficulty with relationships; and/or flashbacks.
Married couples, mothers, fathers, grandparents and siblings of aborted children, as well as persons who have been involved in the abortion industry have come to Rachel’s Vineyard retreats in search of peace and inner healing.
“That weekend allowed me to feel again,” one participant said. “I thought I did not deserve to cry when things happened in my life because of what I did in the past. I learned to forgive myself and allow God to heal me. They allowed me to talk as long as I needed to. The retreat saved my life. Now I am feeling again. I feel God’s presence and love. It is amazing.”
Another participant had had four abortions between ages 18 and 30, and although she rid herself of a drug addiction by the time she married at 32, she was still suffering emotional after-effects from the abortions.
“I had buried the abortions so deep inside of me that I never even considered that could be part of my problem,” she said. “I always felt like a fake, that I could never really be honest because if people knew who I really was, they would think I was a terrible person.
“I can only say that it was a weekend of transformation for me. A weekend of taking responsibility for my actions, a weekend of being forgiven and a weekend of allowing the beautiful people to care and love me like I had never known before.
“Rachael’s Vineyard has given me the opportunity to be loved and love. To know that Jesus forgives me and loves me and that my children are with him and being loved and cared for.”
“If someone brings up abortion,” Robben said, “give them a hug and tell them how much Jesus loves them and their child loves them. And tell them about Rachel’s Vineyard. Jesus can take our grief and make it a grace. He is truly a healer. Retreats are like walking the streets when Jesus was around. You see miracles around every corner. Not only did Jesus heal them, but they realize they have gifts to give.”
For more information, go to Rachelsvineyard.org or call Hattie Stein at (620) 227-1584. Much of this information came directly from the Rachel’s Vineyard website.