“I was hoping you could help my daughter. She needs counseling…my daughter, Gina, is dating this guy. He’s verbally and physically abusive.”
Mr. Davis sounded desperate. In his voice I could detect anger and hurt but worst of all helplessness.
“I can’t just sit back and watch my daughter ruin her life…I love her so much but I’m losing her.”
I informed Mr. Davis that [as a counselor] I couldn’t break them up but I could help Gina examine her relationship and sort out her feelings about this man.
Then I asked Mr. Davis if anything else had happened between Gina and her boyfriend. The question itself was a threat.
Mr. Davis hesitated. Finally he answered;
“Well, there is something but it should really come from her. I think she should be the one to tell you.”
“Did your daughter have an abortion?” I asked in a matter of fact tone.
The word was said – Abortion.
There was silence, as is almost always the case. I had a telephone listing for Rachel’s Vineyard Retreats (For Post Abortion Healing), yet still people would often struggle to explain why they were calling.
I met his daughter that night. Gina was 19, with long blond hair and sad blue eyes.
“My dad made me have it,” she explained. “He told me I could not live with them if I didn’t. He knew it might make me hate him but he was willing to take that risk. I’d get over it, he said. I was not raised to believe in abortion. In high school I even wrote a paper on it.”
Gina’s story came out in between distressing sobs and gasps for air.
“I came home from college on a Friday to tell them about the pregnancy and what we were planning to do…. My dad hit the roof. Dad took my boyfriend into the kitchen to have a man-to-man talk. They would not let me in. Dad tried to pressure him to convince me that abortion was the best thing.”
With much difficulty, she continued.
“Two days later I was up on a table, my feet in stirrups. I cried the whole way there. My mom took me. I kept telling her I did not want this…They killed my baby.”
After a long tearful pause, Gina continued,
“Just as quickly as it had happened everyone seemed to forget about it. My parents never talked about it. They were furious when they found out that I was still seeing Joe. Things were not so good between Joe and me either. We were always fighting.”
Joe signified Gina’s connection to their aborted baby. Gina feared that giving him up would destroy the only bond remaining to the child she still needed to grieve.
Gina was trapped in a vicious cycle by which she was punishing both herself and her father.
Once Gina was in treatment for the emotional trauma of her abortion, she was able to express these feelings. It was important for both her sake and her family, however, that her parents should also enter into the therapy process with her.
Father Knows Best?
The night before our [family counseling session, Gina’s father] called me.
“My stomach has been upset all week since I heard about this meeting,” he said. “I want to do what is best for Gina.”
Then his tone became more formal and forceful:
“I just want you to know that this is NOT a moral issue to me. Gina had to have that abortion! I still think we made the right decision…”
With renewed determination, I explained,
“Mr. Davis, I know you love your daughter very much. The fact remains that your daughter lost something. What she lost was a child. Gina thinks about it every day. She cries about it every night. The event is far from over for her. You need to hear how the abortion has affected her.”
Mr. Davis did not respond. With conviction, I continued:
“When someone dies, the worst thing another can say is ‘it was for the best, its better this way.’ This does nothing to comfort and console; it only makes the person angry because you are not appreciating their loss or grief. Worse for Gina is that you do not recognize the life that she is missing. Gina misses her baby, a child you have not been able to acknowledge.”
Eventually, Mr. Davis agreed that he would try to listen and that maybe he had something to learn. I really couldn’t hope for more than that.
When Mr. Davis came in the next morning, he opened with a surprising statement.
“I had no right to make that choice,” he said.
After wrestling with various points in our conversation all night, he admitted that for the first time he realized that abortion was not Gina’s choice.
A Shining Light
The family session began and it was very intense.
Gina expressed her anger, hurt and feelings of rejection. She also shared her grief about the aborted baby.
Suddenly grief came upon Mr. Davis. He stared in disbelief, as if a light had abruptly cast shocking rays into a blackened room.
His voice broke with anguish.
“Oh my baby, my sweet baby, my Gina,” he cried. “I am so sorry. I was so wrong.”
He pressed his face against her cheek and the tears finally came.
His tears mingled with Gina’s as they both wept. Gina put her arms around him. They embraced tightly as her father gently stroked her long hair. All the anger, the bitterness, the pent-up emotions, the grief, gave way. They sobbed in each other’s arms.
Mr. Davis begged for her forgiveness. Between tears and tissues, he told Gina she would have been an incredible mother. In one beautiful moment, her motherhood had been validated and Gina wept with relief.
[Excerpts from Forbidden Grief: The Unspoken Pain of Abortion, By Theresa Burke, Ph.D. with David Reardon.] You can read the complete chapter and purchase Forbidden Grief here.