Springfield, IL — “Friends who appeared to know what was best for me at the time of my unplanned pregnancy now appear afraid and unsure of the person the abortion has made me. If I bring up the subject they avoid me like the plague.”
This quote from Sharon (not her real name) sums up the current situation over abortion in the U.S. today. While the political issue of abortion is fiercely debated, hardly anyone talks about the personal side of the procedure. Even though more than 50 million American women have had abortions, few feel comfortable talking about it, even with close family and friends.
In their new book Forbidden Grief: The Unspoken Pain of Abortion, leading post-abortion experts Theresa Burke and David Reardon examine the reasons why Sharon and other women like her are so silent about their abortions. The book also explores how those struggling with a past abortion can find help and healing, something the authors say is sorely needed in our society.
“There is no social norm for dealing with an abortion. . . . ” they write. “The silence and isolation that typically surround the abortion experience leave women and men with no place to process their grief.”
Forbidden Grief includes personal insights from hundreds of the approximately 2,000 post-abortive women Burke has counseled. A therapist and founder of Rachel’s Vineyard post-abortion counseling ministries, she drew on her own therapy notes as well as her clients’ letters, journals, diaries, and poems to explore how unresolved post-abortion grief can manifest itself in problems like low self-esteem, depression, substance abuse, eating disorders, parenting problems, suicide attempts and more.
“I am trying to learn to live with this and how to put on a show for the world,” one woman wrote. “Sometimes, I feel like I won’t be able to keep this show going much longer. On the outside it seems like life has gone on like normal, but on the inside I feel like I am falling apart. . . . all I want to do is be alone and cry until I can cry no more, but even then the tears never seem to stop.”
Burke and Reardon argue that the mental health community has ignored women’s pain because of fear that acknowledging this hidden side of abortion will weaken pro-choice support. Yet, Burke and Reardon insist, “healing should not be held hostage to ‘pro-choice’ sentiments.”
“If, as a society, we want to contribute to the mental health of women and men, we must be willing to take a more critical look at the many complex ways abortion can affect their lives. . . . ” they write. “Before our society will ever expend much effort in helping people heal from their past abortions, it must first recognize that healing is even needed.”
The book strikes a note of hope, however, with stories from women who did find resolution and healing after abortion, often with the support of other women through programs like Rachel’s Vineyard.
Burke writes that one of her greatest joys is witnessing the healing power of God in the lives of those who have had abortions: “No post-abortion counselor who has witnessed the journey through ‘forbidden grief’ into the peace and acceptance of healing can doubt the existence of a God who truly cares, truly forgives, and truly heals.”
Everyone who reads this book will forever think about abortion in a different way. This is why it makes a great gift for your friends, political opponents, and especially your local library.
All publisher proceeds will be used for post-abortion research, education, and outreach.
ISBN 0-9648957-8-1 336 pp. Hardbound $24.95Book trade distributor: NBN / Faithworks
Direct orders: Acorn Books, PO Box 7348, Springfield, IL 62791, (888) 412-2676.
To arrange author interviews: (217) 525-8202