A Grandmothers Story of Abortion Trauma and Family Healing

 

Mother Daughter 2

My Daughter Lisa age 19 approached her grandparents in their kitchen one evening after dinner.  “I have a friend that is pregnant,” she said “and the boyfriend and his family want her to have an abortion…what do you think she should do?”

When I spoke to my mother about the incident, she said her response was to have the child.  We both agreed that she was testing the waters…and that she was likely pregnant.  As time passed it was clear that behind the scenes (with the coercion of her boyfriend and his family) there were plans being made to take the life of my daughter’s unborn baby.

Lisa told me one evening a few weeks later that she was staying with her boyfriend over night and they were going skiing the next day.  I immediately suspected that there was no ski trip planned, but an appointment at an abortion clinic.  As I sat at my desk the next morning at work, I felt a powerful urge to do something to try and save the life of my grandchild.  I prayed for the Holy Spirit’s assistance and called the first abortion business in the area.

Miraculously, Lisa was in the waiting room and the receptionist put her on the phone.  She was crying and confused and said she had to go.  I spoke to the receptionist and made it quite clear that given my daughters current state of mind and her mental health issues that if they went through with the procedure I would immediately initiate a lawsuit.  Thankfully they cancelled the procedure, and the baby was safe.

My daughter has struggled since age 15 with periods of emotional and relationship instability and impulsive behavior at times that is likely an inherited condition triggered in a powerful way by the challenges of adolescence and perhaps the use of prescription drugs and alcohol.   Given the stress of the pregnancy, her own struggles with the decision and the coercion from boyfriend and his family…she reacted to my intervention with rage.  In time she calmed down and appeared to be moving toward an acceptance of the pregnancy as she shared with her father about the pregnancy.  (I divorced her father when my son was 6 and Lisa was 1, as he was a serial adulterer and physically abusive.)

A Tragedy Unfolds

Lisa was having regular visits with her gynecologist.  Tragically, Lisa once again gave in to the pressure to abort and her own fears of motherhood and scheduled an abortion at a nearby hospital.  Fr. Dominick, our parish priest was stationed at Assumption Church in Emerson, New Jersey at the time.  I explained the situation and he immediately rushed to the hospital to try and persuade Lisa to change her mind.  He gave her a rosary, blessed by Pope John Paul, and spoke of what a gift this child would be to the family and how loved a son/daughter, grandchild and great grandchild they would be.

Lisa walked away from the priest in tears and went into the procedure room to allow the doctors and nurses to assist in the destruction of her unborn baby.  I called my sister-in-law and she shared that the procedure was complete…and my grandchild was dead.  I cannot explain the level of grief and anger that flooded my heart and soul.   I was filled with rage at the hospital and all involved with the procedure.  But I was especially so deeply hurt and angry at my daughter for participating in the death of her child…and my precious grandchild.

Reaching Out from the Pain

My mother and father have always been very close to my children and they were aware of the abortion. They were deeply grieved by the loss of their great-grandchild and for Lisa. My Mother shared that when she learned of the abortion she prayed immediately and asked her dad (my grandfather, Adam) in heaven to receive the baby since the child died on my grandfather Adam’s birth date.

Shortly after the abortion I went to talk to Fr. Dominick.  He suggested I consider a Rachel’s Vineyard Weekend healing program to help me find a deeper healing of my loss as a grandparent. In the aftermath of the abortion and having to wait approximately one month to attend the retreat, I reached out to Sydna Masse at Ramah International, a ministry for those suffering after abortion.  Sydna was very kind and helpful and she connected me with Karen, a grandmother who suffered the loss of a grandchild to abortion.   This was so crucial to my continued healing because it kept me from being alone and isolated with my powerful feelings of grief and anger.

The Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat was a powerful experience of healing for me and really went to the heart of my post abortion trauma and grief and helped me to find peace and closure.  I formed a number of close friendships from that experience and we remained in touch at support group meetings and social events loving and supporting, and praying for one another.

During this period I would pray during Eucharistic Adoration and beg Jesus to call my daughter to healing.  I could see how she was suffering terribly after the abortion.  She knew of my Rachel’s Vineyard experience and my friends from the retreat.  Lisa would react with cynicism and mock my “abortion friends.”  But beneath that defensive behavior, she was hurting and in need of healing.

A Miracle Unfolds

Six months after the abortion, my son asked Lisa to be the Godmother of his baby boy.  This event triggered a release of her pent up post abortion grief and pain and Lisa suffered a nervous breakdown requiring hospitalization.  She recovered from the breakdown, but remained deeply wounded.

Two years after the abortion she met a man with an abortion in his history.  He encouraged her to consider the Rachel’s Vineyard weekend.  When Lisa told me she was considering making a retreat, I was overjoyed.  She expressed some reservations… “Did they already know her story? Would I be able to name my child?”  I let her know that on my retreat I told my story…not hers.  I assured her that the name I gave my grandchild was a temporary one and that she as the child’s mother would rightly provide the name God would put on her heart.

I was blessed to be able to attend the memorial service on Sunday of the Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat with Lisa when retreat participants honor the child with a special ceremony and Mass and entrust the children to the Lord.  When I opened the memorial service program I looked over the list of names of the babies being entrusted.   I knew right away the name Lisa had given my grandchild…Dominic Leonard.  Lisa named the baby after the priest, Fr. Dominick who had been so kind to her and who tried to stop the abortion…yet even after the abortion continued to reflect the love and mercy of Christ to my daughter.  She gave the baby the middle name of Leonard after my dad, who Lisa loves dearly.

This memorial service was deeply painful but it was the suffering of the cross with the knowledge and faith in the resurrection, and the peace, hope and joy that not all is lost.  We know now that Dominic is alive with the Lord.  We grieved and honored the child together as mother and daughter… as mother/grandmother. This was a time of great grace and healing to our relationship which had been so deeply damaged.

For the next 6 years I had the privilege of serving in various capacities on the Rachel’s Vineyard Retreats offered by the Archdiocese of Newark. It was such a blessing to serve with the amazing retreat team under the guidance of the former site leader and assistant director of Respect Life, Michelle Krystofik.

A Message to Grandparents

Mother Daughter 1

This past February 2nd was the nine year anniversary of Dominic’s death.  My daughter and I were both able to acknowledge and support one another.  I am so thankful to God that we were able to heal of this family wound together.  I know that without this healing my daughter would have continued in her descent into self destructive behavior and our relationship as mother and daughter would have remained critically wounded.  While challenges remain in our lives, we continue to try our best to discern God’s will for our lives and our families.

In closing I want to share a special message to any grandmother/grandfather of a child lost to abortion.  Even if your daughter or son is not ready or willing to attend an abortion recovery program, please do this for yourself.  Not only will this be a powerful experience of God’s healing and peace, it will open the door for additional grace and healing in your family.

– Leann Domico-Vasquez

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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