Forbidden Grief

Forbidden Grief

The Unspoken Pain of Abortion
by Theresa Burke, Ph.D., with David C. Reardon, Ph.D.

For more than 30 years, our nation has argued about abortion. In that time, over 30 million women have had one or more abortions.

It’s time to move beyond the politics of abortion.

While the political battle rages, little has been done to address the emotional needs of those who are struggling with trauma, depression, grief, pain or other problems after abortion. Instead, social taboos stifle discussion of abortion-related feelings. Women are left feeling isolated, and their recovery is inhibited.

Forbidden Grief (also available in Spanish) is a haunting review of Dr. Theresa Burke’s experience in counseling hundreds of women for abortion-related emotional problems. She discusses the pressure and coercion faced by many women before abortion, the ordeal of the abortion itself and the obstacles in the way of resolving and healing from the experience. She also reviews the full range and depth of post-abortion adjustment problems, and illustrates how we can create a more understanding and healing society where women will no longer be required to hide their pain.

It’s time to listen and help.

  • Learn about the pain and trauma that is often revealed only to a therapist, but that everyone should understand.
  • Understand how unwanted and/or traumatic abortion experiences can be reenacted through repeat pregnancies, multiple abortions, substance abuse, eating disorders, and broken relationships.
  • Discover how to help loved ones — or yourself — take take steps toward healing after abortion.

Psychotherapist Theresa Burke, Ph.D., has specialized in treating women struggling with post-abortion issues through individual counseling and group therapy sessions since 1986. Many of the women she treated had been rebuffed by other therapists who would not believe their abortions had caused such trauma. Others came to her because their family and friends refused to acknowledge the reality of their pain and grief.

In Forbidden Grief, Dr. Burke explores the cultural and psychological obstacles to post-abortion healing. She examines why friends and families erect walls of silence around a loved one’s grief and reveals how we can and should listen to those who are struggling with past abortions.

Drawing on the experience and insights of hundreds of her clients, Dr. Burke shows how repressed feelings may be acted out through self-destructive behavior, broken relationships, obsessions, eating disorders, parenting difficulties, and other emotional or behavioral problems.

Forbidden Grief also explains how to help loved ones, or yourself, simply by better understanding the nature and origin of unresolved abortion issues — and what steps will help you find healing. You’ll also learn about the latest research on abortion problems, and the inside story of the fight within the psychiatric community over recognizing post-abortion trauma.

Order your copy today and find out how you can help bring healing, peace and hope to our nation!

Table of Contents
Get this book in Spanish

About the Authors

Theresa Burke, Ph.D., is a psychotherapist and founder of Rachel’s Vineyard, a post-abortion training and healing ministry that annually serves thousands of women and couples throughout North America and overseas.

David C. Reardon, Ph.D., is one of the nation’s leading researchers and authors on post-abortion issues and the founding director of the Elliot Institute.

Readers are raving about Forbidden Grief:

“I had an abortion when I was 16 and struggled with the aftermath for 19 years. This eye-opening book offers the general public a clear picture of the everyday realities of the post-abortion experience. Most importantly, it gives women permission to face and resolve their feelings of loss, ambivalence, guilt, or grief.” — Georgette Forney, post-abortion counselor

“Insightful…an astute integration of experience, research, and testimonies. Those of us who have faced this ‘forbidden grief’ can be thankful for Burke and Reardon’s beautifully written book. It lights the way for women and men who seek understanding, healing, and peace.” — Susan Stanford-Rue, Ph.D., psychologist and author of Will I Cry Tomorrow?

“A strong, thoughtful, and compassionate revelation.” — Dr. Laura Schlessinger, syndicated radio host

“Wonderfully and clearly written, full of stories that grip the attention…Forbidden Grief stands to become a classic on many levels: as a source of self discovery for the millions of women who have had abortions, as a learning experience for all the other lay readers, as a textbook for psychotherapists, and as a source of insight and research design for policy analysts who ponder the effects on society.”–Dr. Patrick F. Fagan, former Deputy Assistant Director, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

“Once in a while a rare book comes along that wrenches every nerve in our bodies and seeks out every crevice of our souls. This is one of those books, and it must be read from cover to cover.” — Diane Irving, Ph.D.

“An exceptional book. . .It is essential reading for social workers and other mental health professionals.” –Tim Brandyberry, MSSW

“An outstanding book . . .Highly recommended for those who counsel.” — Dr. Paul C. Vitz

“Every page of this book is filled with profound insights into the mind and emotions of those who have been wounded by abortion. . . . Every counselor, every member of the clergy, and every citizen concerned about how abortion is harming people needs to read this book.” — Fr. Frank Pavone

“As you read Forbidden Grief you cannot help but mourn with these women for their missing children. You cannot deny the aftermath of abortion, or the need for hope and healing.” — Serrin Foster, President, Feminists for Life

Table of Contents
Get the book in Spanish

Ordering Information

Price: $17.95 U.S. each plus 6.00 shipping for orders within the continental U.S.

Internet Special: Order 1 copy and get 25% off.
If you are a U.S. customer, visit our book page at TheUnChoice site to order a single copy online.

To order more than one copy, get information on bulk discounts, or to place an order from outside the U.S., send an email to We accept only credit card payments or international money orders for non-U.S. orders; we cannot accept checks. If you wish to order by email, we will send you an invoice through PayPal.

For mail orders, send a check or money order to*:
Acorn Books
PO Box 7348
Springfield, IL 62791

*For orders outside the U.S., we only accept international money orders or checks drawn for U.S. funds drawn on a U.S. bank.

To order by phone:
1-888-412-2676 (outside the U.S.: 217-525-8202)

To order by email with PayPal invoicing:





Forbidden Grief — 4 Comments

  1. yeah. abortion induces very negative feelings. my son is 20 years old. i am having a daughter 5 1/2 years old. cause i did nt want to abort her. i could not. cause i had two abortions. and i felt very miserable emotional vacuum guilty. dint had a supportive set up to heal. so after i got her after such a long gap life hs changed fully as my mother is also no more to support me. but the gap between me and my husband is reduced. most of the time i regret my decision of giving birth at this age. but after reading the symptoms of post abortion i think i made a good choice of delivering her. she is such a cute and loving girl very caring. i hope the destiny will show a good way for us or our family.

  2. I had a medical abortion about five days ago. I am married for 3 years. I have two beautiful girls one just made a year and one will be 5 in a few days. My 5 year old has severe ADHD and ODD so bad it halts her functioning. We run back and fourth sometimes 2 and 3 times a week to doctors for medication and therapy. She sees a child psychologist, a speech therapist, and a mental health worker with the state. I am also a preschool teacher. I miss work constantly with her appointments and her behaviors that cause her to get sent home from school.

    I found out i was pregnant a couple of weeks ago and i just cried. We do not want 3 kids. More importantly we can’t afford 3 kids. Not to mention the needs of my oldest are only going to grow as she grows. They aren’t going to go away. Plus I still have to be available to my youngest. And on top of it all in this economy my husband and I both have to manage to hold down full time jobs to keep a roof over our heads, lights on, heat on, and food in the pantry. We both work full time. We don’t qualify for food stamps or welfare. Obama says we are just poor enough to make it. Both of my pregnancies I was on bed rest. My pregnancy with my youngest I was on bed rest from 6 weeks until delivery. We barely got by. There is no way we could survive meeting the needs of 2 kids and me be unable to work. Not to mention I don’t have insurance and Obama is seeing to it that he costs me half a month’s pay to get insurance. I didn’t want to be one of those people that brought babies into the world that they can’t take care of. I didn’t want to have a baby and say. ” oh it’s ok the government will pay for it.”

    The decision to do the abortion was the hardest decision I have ever had to make. And not one I am proud of. You are probably thinking “Well why didn’t you give it up for adoption?!” First off how many of You screaming adoption has ever adopted a baby? Second there are many reasons.

    Family pressure was a big one. There was no way his family would’ve let that happen or they would’ve wanted it to go to one of them and frankly I didn’t want the child to ask why I kept it’s sisters and not it. (Now comes the well it’s asking that now in heaven-you know what then, God has given it my answers and all I can truly say is I am sorry) or my family would’ve wanted to dictate what family got it and my husband and I would’ve had no control over the process to be ok with it.

    But mostly I know if I would’ve carried that baby for 9 months I would not have been able to let it go no matter where it went. I would’ve broken some poor couple’s dream and I would’ve ultimately made a silly impulsive only emotion based decision that would affect my whole family. My other two children would have to go without in order to be able to support the new baby. The time out of work would’ve killed us financially and we wouldn’t be able to pay our bills. Then what? Go live with relatives with 3 small children? I would have two kids in diapers.

    That is why WE made our decision. Logically and level headed for the good of our family.

    Now that it’s happened I am wrought with grief. I know I had to do it. I knew it when I did it. But I just feel such a sense of loss that I don’t feel entitled to have. I feel so empty. I feel like a horrible person. And a lot of people will say I am. Whatever the case the loss for me is real. I wasn’t happy about being pregnant again. I didn’t want to have another baby. Even though it was only 5 weeks and there was nothing in the sac yet and there was no heartbeat to be heard, it just hurts.

    I didn’t think it would since I made the choice. I even made the choice with my partner so I wasn’t isolated. But the past two days I have woken up and had to fight all day this overwhelming sadness. I just cry. My husband doesn’t understand. He doesn’t talk about any of it. He had even said before that he just wanted us to go through it and never mention it again. But I NEED to talk about it. I feel trapped. He is really the only person I can talk to about it cause he is the only one that was there. He went through it too and yet our feelings are so different. He means no harm. He only wants me to be happy, but he doesn’t understand why I can’t be.

    I guess a lot of it is hormones going back to the way they were before. I felt down like this after I had my youngest child. And it only comes in waves here and there. Mainly when I am alone. I do feel it around others and it causes me to seem irritable because I don’t want to seem sad. I have only told one friend about the abortion. She has also had one so I felt I could confide in her. I feel distant from my husband since the whole thing. I find myself not having as much patience with my children at home like I usually do. I am becoming more overwhelmed then usual. I already struggle with chronic depression.

    I just want to figure out how to move past this and not forget it But to be able to be at peace with it. I have read that doing some sort of ritual like a burial or a ceremony or having a little memorial have helped women like myself. I can’t really see my husband going for anything like that. He would think it was nuts. I think something like that might help me. I just have to move past this. It is haunting me. Its not like it was from rape or incest or a one night stand or from a boyfriend I didn’t give two craps about. It was from my husband. The man I love more than I have ever loved anyone else. The man I gave my life to. The man I have made a home with. The man I have had a baby with.

    I can’t help but look at my youngest one’s baby cheeks and think about it. I know I shouldn’t. I know I had to do what was best for our family. But it Just hurts. It genuinely feels like I lost someone I will never know. And I shouldn’t feel that way because I made the choice to end it. It was ultimately MY choice in the end. I didn’t have to swallow that pill. I didn’t but I did. I even thought the second before I put the pill in my mouth that” this is it”. There was no turning back. I keep seeing those awful signs those awful protesters were holding up. The hurtful and down right hateful things they were shouting. None of that helped. None of that made me rethink my choice. None of what they said or did made me see their side. It made me afraid of them. The big thing was most of them were men whom in my opinion shouldn’t have an opinion about a woman’s womb unless it is his own seed growing in her. And the other big thing was they were all spewing these messages from” God” and “Jesus” but the God I have always known is one of forgiveness and love and not one hate and hurt.

    The emptiness I feel is indescribable. I don’t regret the decision I made. I regret the circumstances. I wish I could’ve found out I was pregnant and we could’ve been stable enough to be excited about it and spend months hoping we were finally having a boy. I wish I didn’t have to excuse myself when people start poking about when are we going to have another one and we need to hurry up and have some more. That’s easy for them to say. They don’t have to support them. I wish things could’ve been different. But I had to play the cards I was dealt the best way I knew how at the time without causing my other children to suffer. I didn’t wake up one morning and hope to go have an abortion.

    I even chose to do the pill thinking it might be less traumatic. It still hurts. Can’t imagine the hurt if I had done it the other way. I don’t regret my decision. I did what I had to do. And yes, it HURTS! I chose to have an abortion not to be void of all human emotions and feelings. I feel a deep sense of loss. Loss of someone I will never know. And I cannot stop crying…

    • Dear Heather,

      I understand all the reasons why abortion made sense from every logical point of view you had. I also understand how what is in your head is not enough to ease the pain of your heart.

      I also understand your husband’s inability/unwillingness to talk about it. That is his way of trying to deal with, and perhaps ignore, his own emotional reactions. (It’s likely he too looks at your child and is thinking of the aborted baby).

      I strongly believe you should start talk to women like yourself who have been through the same decision and same post-abortion grief. Please read our page on finding a post-abortion support group or hotline.

      With the support and love of others, you can and will find healing.

      You are in our prayers.

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