Compiled by Georgette Forney For the Silent No More Awareness Campaign
The most common concern I hear from women or men wanting to be Silent No More is their fear or concern in telling spouses, children, family and friends about their abortion experience before they begin to speak publicly. Therefore, we have decided to put together this multi-faceted document as a means of sharing experiences and stories we’ve collected over the last few years. At the end of this long document are two additional resources that can be ordered. If you’d like to share a resource you found helpful, please email it to me, Georgette@SilentNoMoreAwareness.org.
Let me start with a few of my own comments…
When people started to ask me how to tell others, I contacted Linda Cochrane, the author of "Forgiven and Set Free" and asked her for advice. She directed me to a teaching she did at a CareNet Conference. I listened to the tape and found the most critical point she made was to carefully think through your motive or purpose in telling someone, especially your kids.
Her point was that you don’t tell children or others about your abortion pain as a means of absolving yourself of guilt or remorse, or of seeking their approval or forgiveness. We should share our abortion story in the context of a life lesson as one would with a previous marriage or other personal experience. And we can share it as our testimony of God’s forgiveness or as part of our background or history.
My daughter commented last year, when she was 14, about how she would have felt if I had waited until she was an adult to tell her about my abortion. First, she said, she would have felt that I had lied to her. Second, my abortion is part of who I am, a part of my history, and if we are to have a real relationship she needs to know what the important things are that happened in my life that made me who I am today. She’s known about my abortion for many years now and has made peace with it, but she will also say she can’t understand how I could kill my baby.
I believe abortion is hard for kids to understand. I think one of their thoughts must be, "If she killed one child will she kill me too?" We need to re-assure our kids of our love and the circumstances in which the abortion occurred to help them feel safe. Most of the material contained in this compilation is about telling kids, because it is a critical issue that many of us have to face.
I think telling a spouse is also extremely hard. I guess what it really comes down to is this – telling everyone we love about our abortion(s) will be hard (I had to tell my parents as part of my healing process). The key is to do it with lots of love and care, to pray through the right timing and to know when hearts are ready.
These are not magic words of advice but more of a sharing amongst women – women who can be silent no more but at the same time regret their choice everyday.
Mistakes Turned Into Lessons By Georgette Forney
When my daughter, Rebekah, was 8 she learned about my abortion. I remember the day vividly. Admitting my sinfulness was hard as I watched myself fall off the parental pedestal with a thud.
Rebekah is now 14, and she is a full-blown teenager. Brilliant one minute, witty the next and then suddenly short tempered and grouchy.
I never imagined how hard parenting a teenager would be, I thought babies and toddlers were challenging, but her needs were simple then. Now her needs are different and require wisdom, God’s guidance and discernment.
As I move along in this parenting adventure, I’ve come to the conclusion that Rebekah’s knowledge of my abortion and the truth that her mother isn’t perfect has strengthened our relationship and made my parenting more effective.
She sees me as human, someone with whom she can share her mistakes.
It also opened the door to honest communication about all the other issues that teenagers struggle with: acceptance, self-esteem, relationships, etc. There isn’t a subject we haven’t discussed: drug use, drinking, skipping school, lying, fears, jealousies, hurts, and anger to name a few.
I’ve come to realize that it isn’t necessary for kids to think parents are perfect. It is more important for them to be able to communicate honestly without fear of judgment or reprisal (although punishment and consequences still occur).
I never expected that God could use my painful abortion experience as a lesson to teach Rebekah the true value of abstaining until marriage. I often wonder had I just told her not to have sex until marriage, if she would have listened.
As parents, wouldn’t it be great if our life lessons that have been forgiven by God could be shared with our kids to help them understand why we say no to certain requests or advise them not to do some things? Parents need to let God use their mistakes as lessons for their kids to learn from.
Don’t be afraid to prayerfully consider sharing the reason behind your guidance. While you may fear loosing you kids respect and affection, research and personal experience has shown that we gain a closer and more honest relationship with our children when we do.
See the article below or visit the following website to read my daughter, Rebekah’s, thoughts on my abortion in her own words (you may want to share the site with a teen you know, it’s great and covers a lot of contemporary issues). Click here: http://www.gravityteen.com/mirror/mirror.cfm and scroll down the featured stories on the left until you see "Rebekah – sister was aborted."
In Rebekah’s Own Words by Rebekah Forney
When I was eight, I was snooping around my mom's Bible while she wasn't home and found four pieces of paper that were folded up and stuffed between the pages. I unfolded them and read the first sentence: I was sixteen years old when I became pregnant with Elizabeth and I had no idea what to do. Not knowing what I had just found, I quickly shoved the papers back into the Bible and tried to forget about it.
Two nights later, it was still bothering me. My mom, dad, and I were out to dinner and in the middle of my parents' conversation, I blurted out "Mom, were you pregnant when you were 16?" She just looked at me with tears filling her eyes. She explained to me how she had an abortion, and as an eight-year-old, I could only imagine what it was. She said something about my sister, whom she had named Elizabeth, being in Heaven. At that moment it clicked for me that I had lost my sister.
Over the next three years, my mom became more active in the pro-life movement. She became the executive director of Anglicans for Life. I grasped the concept of what an abortion really was and got used to the fact that I was deprived of a sister I should've had. It was scary to know that my mom had killed someone that was so important to me.
When I turned 11, I was invited to speak at the Memorial Service for the Unborn as a sibling of an aborted child. I talked about how much I missed having an older sister and how I missed out on the little things, like watching her get ready for Prom or for her wedding. Spreading my experience of abortion was a big deal for me because it had been so much to overcome. Even though it wasn't me that had had the abortion, I felt bad and cried a lot about it.
As I reached my teen years, I began to write in a journal. Instead of writing Dear Diary, I would write Dear Liz. I became obsessed with finding the father of my sister because I felt like it would somehow bring me closer to her. I wrote stories and poems about this girl I would never know and pretended she was a person. After I had my heart broken by a guy, I wished she were there to help me through it and my tears of a broken heart turned into tears of missing my sister. I was mad at my mom for being so selfish and taking the life of her own child just so she wouldn't have to bear the weight of having a kid at 16.
I finally grew out of my stage of denial that Liz wasn't alive. Call me crazy, but sometimes I would talk to her at night as if she was next to me listening. After a lot of prayer, writing, and talking, I came to the realization that even though Mom did abort my sister, being mad at her wouldn't do me any good. We've resolved things and have a strong relationship. Thanks to her and my aunt, I have overcome denial of my sister's death.
After holding in my feelings for so long, I had to let them out. I was not only dealing with the loss of a sister, but the regular trials of a teenage girl on the brink of life: school, pressure from friends and parents, making decisions for my life, and accepting myself for who I am. I had a few close friends that helped me through all this, and I also did a lot of writing. Writing is the way that I have found I can express myself the most. For some people it's painting, for others it's a sport. After praying about it, I came to the last step in giving up my issues with my sister: I handed them over to Christ.
If you find out that you lost a sibling to abortion, you have to let your feelings out. Don't keep them bottled up inside, because you will drive yourself crazy. Tell your parents what you're thinking so that they know you are with dealing it, and try not to be mad at them for taking the life of someone that could've been in your life. Also, get involved with a youth group. Building a relationship with Christ is the best way to let go of all your pain.
Telling The Children by Susan LeCornu
It has actually been four days since I told Amanda and Christian. I have been watching them closely for signs of any fallout or upset. Actually I have been watching for signs that they would start to mistrust me, or even loathe me for my confession. Their mom did what I know in their Pro-Life minds has become the unthinkable – aborting a child, my child and their sibling.
The night that set the stage for the confession had all of the earmarks of a regular Wednesday. I had no intention, at least consciously of tackling this thing. A typical hurried dinner was being prepared, a snippet of family time would happen, and hopefully a race to the church for youth group would allow John and me to have some rare quiet time. The kids had been begging all day to stay home from Youth Group, but I had declared it mandatory. The kids even listed reasons why they didn’t want to go, but I discounted all of them, hoping so much for a quiet hour with my husband. Dinner though, took longer and tasted better than I had planned. It was .07 minutes to the start of Youth Group, and we weren’t even finished eating. A trip to church was simply not materializing. Suddenly and amazingly, it seemed quite appropriate to capitalize on the moment and do "Devotions and Family Worship…" something my Grandfather always did, something lost on our generation, and something John and I muse about instituting on regular basis, but do rarely. One child thought of lighting the table candles, casting a sweet warm glow on all of our faces. The other ran around our house collecting everyone’s Bible and journals…even a Bible trivia book. These excited preparations took seconds it seemed, and before we knew it we had unanimously decided to read about St. Paul, and landed on Philippians as our text. They were clearly thrilled with the prospect of staying home, but even happier to be spending family time together in the Word.
My children LOVE Paul. They consider him brave, faithful and true. They have laughed about seeing Jesus first in heaven, Grandma Jane next elbowing Jesus out of the way, and then meeting St. Paul!
It was at that moment, admiring Paul again for his words in Scripture, that I asked Amanda and Christian, "Tell me what you know about Paul before he converted to Christianity. What kind of a guy was he?"
They remembered him primarily as a persecutor of Christians. They knew he was present at the stoning of Stephen. And they knew that Stephen had interceded for his murderers with a prayer similar to Jesus at his crucifixion, "Forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing." We continued reading in Philippians, staying awhile on the verse 1:9 that says "And this is my prayer, that your love may abound more and more in the knowledge and the depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is pure and blameless until the day of Christ."
It was then that I asked them, with my heart pounding, "Do you think that God really forgave Paul? How could He? I mean he murdered innocent Christians!"
They emphatically nodded yes, and by now my dear husband knew where I was going (or being led!)
Amanda said with absolutely certainty "As far as the East is from the West!"
I then asked, "Is there any sin that God doesn’t forgive?" They shook their heads in unison agreeing, "No way!"
I let a silent hush settle in. Silence is not my habit, and I am not comfortable in it, always feeling compelled to "fill air time." It was quiet for a few long seconds, and I asked, "Do you guys know why I do what I do in my ministry" They were still quiet, John, sensing the need to clarify this question asked them, "Do you know what mom’s ministry is?" They nodded.
I repeated, "Do you know why I do what I do?"
They look startled for a fraction of a second, and Christian answered, "Maybe it’s because you have some first hand experience in it….". He trailed off and looked down.
Amanda, ever sweet and affirming interrupted, "Because you love the Lord and want to serve Him?"
Here it comes, I thought. Strangely, my heart had stopped pounding. I was well into this thing I had prayed about, longed for, yet avoided with everything in me. There was no turning back. There is a strange comfort sometimes in not having a choice.
I nodded slowly, and then said, "You are both right. I myself had an abortion, and I have been forgiven like Paul, for so much. I want to do all I can to help other women like me."
A few breaths, and then the first question was Christian’s: "WHEN?"
I answered calmly, "It happened many years ago. Many. And I have regretted it every day of my life since then." Silence.
Amanda said quietly, "I love you mommy." Tears.
The kind that burn hot on your cheek, the kind that spring directly from the soul, move through the broken heart, soothing places that are parched and sore and raw. Both children got up from their chairs and covered me with their arms and cried for a few minutes. They were smiling though. They did not seem sad. They seemed honored. They were affirmed. They understood. I could see that. But I could also see clearly for the first time that it was not I – the Post-Abortive mom working with wild abandon to near exhaustion to pour into them this faith that saved me - but it truly was our loving Savior very present in their huge hearts.
My husband is so cool. He went along on this "wild ride" (one of many) without fair warning, yet the Holy Spirit in him led him to say and do the exact right things. He affirmed Scripture. He affirmed me. And he sat there loving all of us while we pressed into something that has truly framed our family and will for years to come.
Dinner was over. I told the kids that they could ask any questions they might have in the days or years to come. I told them that abortion was NEVER an option. They still listened with shining eyes and quiet smiles. I reminded them that upon arriving in heaven, they would meet Jesus, Grandma Jane and their sibling as well. They clearly loved this thought, and a return to a normal Wednesday night happened in an instant. Clanging dishes, discussion of homework and television news shows.
That night taught me the real meaning of "step in faith." I felt an immense burden lift off of my heart. I had carried it FOR SO LONG that I didn’t recognize it anymore. The lightness in our home and my heart has been palpable, and I am forever grateful.
They have not asked one question. I know they are processing somewhere deep in their young hearts. I am ready for the questions though, because I know Mercy and I know Forgiveness. Because of that, I know all that really needs to be known. Amen
Questions or comments regarding this story, or permission for publication or further use can be directed to Susan LeCornu thru email@example.com
Two other resources to consider reading
"How to Talk With Your Children About Your Abortion"
International Institute for Pregnancy Loss and Child Abuse Research and Recovery
Philip Ney, MD, MA, FRCP(C)
P.O. Box 27103
Victoria BC Canada V9B 5S4
"Sharing the Secret of Abortion"
by Sydna Masse
click on resources
The following message was written by Leslie Graves and originally published in Oaktrees - an on-line e-letter for those who have labored in Rachel's Vineyard, she now facilitates Rachel’s Vineyard retreats for after-abortion recovery:
The questions: "Who have you told about your abortion?" and "How did it go?" come up often when Rachel's Vineyard alums gather.
When I first heard the question at my Rachel's Vineyard reunion, my answer was, "I've told no one except my husband, and I am certainly never going to." As the saying goes, "God laughs when men make plans."
In the years that followed, I eventually shared my experience with my children, my family-of-origin and the media. This happened slowly over a period of years. Not unexpectedly, these diverse experiences of "telling others" have been a mixed blessing. It has been very emotionally challenging at times. Yet, I have seen God's grace work in quiet, unmistakable ways.
I now am blessed to know many women who have shared their stories privately and publicly. Each of their experiences of telling others has been different. And yet, there is a common thread. The common thread is a mixture of a new kind of peace won through the struggle of opening up and an awareness of just how much support, discernment, prayers, courage, pain and struggle is often needed in the process.
How, when, why and whether to share one's story is a personal decision. The right answer is different for everyone. We all listen intently for God's voice as we pray to know His will for us. The stories and advice below are offered in the spirit of Alcoholics Anonymous: Take what you like and leave the rest.
Talking to a friend or to a group about our abortion experience feels different than talking to a close family member. We care more about what they will think and we are more concerned about how the information will affect them. Remember: "All you can control is yourself. You can't control anyone's reaction to your story and your experiences. That is between them and God."
Here are some thoughts about sharing with close family members and children:
1. Before you make this decision, pray and discern carefully. Talk to your friends in post-abortion ministry, especially those who know your children. Set up an appointment with your clergy to talk it over beforehand. Consider reviewing your plan to do this with a Christian therapist. Are you and your husband in agreement about this disclosure? Your marriage is a vocation that God has called you to and it deserves every consideration. Making this decision together, and openly and honestly exploring any problems and concerns can greatly strengthen your marriage.
2. If you are caught up in shame and guilt--as opposed to a humble, trusting penitence and acceptance of God's mercy and forgiveness--your shame and guilt will definitely come through to your kids (or anyone else you tell). This could traumatize your kids and keep the cycle of trauma alive in another generation.
3. There's a danger that your child may think, "All my Mom does and thinks about is this abortion stuff. That baby from 20 years ago is way more important to her than I am." Does your family life involve lots of interactions between you and your children, where you clearly enjoy, treasure, and cherish your time with them? Or are you often distracted, unhappy and not able to enjoy daily life with your kids?
4. There may be some tears and other signs of sorrow from you when you talk with your children. Kids would ideally like their parents to always be happy, positive and confident. Yet this is a chance for you to model resilience, faith, and confidence even during a difficult revelation. This lets them know that "bad news" isn't the end of the world, and that life, love and a close relationship with God continue no matter what. It lets your kids know that "in this family, we can talk about hard things. Yes, it's hard, but we can do it."
5. Be sure to let your child know that this is something they can talk about with you again. If you are weepy or stressed during the conversation, the child is most likely not going to want to bring it up again, because he or she won't want to see you cry. Therefore, let your child know that you will be checking in with how they feel about this sometime down the road.
6. Let your child know that you understand and respect that this is difficult news to hear.
7. Most people have no idea how common abortion is, certainly adolescents and children don't. It might be worthwhile to share that. Apart from everything else, it is just embarrassing to a kid to think that their Mom did something that only maybe 1 out of every 1000 women did. It would be helpful for your child to know the reality, which is that 43% of middle-aged women have had at least one abortion.
8. Don't hesitate to rely on your friends, church and your network of friends in post-abortion ministry for daily support during this period.
9. Consider inviting your children to a memorial service for their sibling. This again honors the child in a way that is indicative of an attitude of trust, faith and hope.
Thoughts and comments from others about speaking in public
Loss of Privacy:
- "I speak about my abortion to the media, and I am glad I do. But be aware that if you do that, you are giving up a certain amount of your privacy, and that is a real loss. Be prepared to mourn that loss. You have chosen to speak out because of a greater good. But that doesn't mean that the loss of your privacy won't hurt."
Feelings in turmoil after giving a talk:
- "A friend was invited to speak in front of a small group about post-abortion pain. She had never done this before. She showed a short film and then spoke somewhat briefly about her own experience. She told me that afterward, all her old bad feelings rushed back. However, she had a good experience in her life the next day and started to feel better again."
- "A beautiful priest shared a wonderful insight with me one time when I was having a particularly hard time afterward I spoke in public about my experience. He compared my experience of sharing with giving birth and the post-partum depression that will sometimes set in after childbirth. A new life is there to celebrate and yet this can be accompanied with some sad feelings. This particular talk that I gave with a group of young people and this priest made me realize that just as much prayer support, if not more, was needed for me after my talks as well as before. How difficult it is to share, stir up all those feelings, and at the same time know God is winning souls for Himself through us. It's edifying and uplifting as well as very painful and difficult at times. I don't know that it will ever be that some of those old feelings and pain won't be stirred in my heart each time I talk, but I do know that I am doing what Our Lord has called me to do - being an ambassador for Christ, allowing Him to turn my mourning into gladness, to bring another heart to healing and peace through my own journey."
- "I feel pretty good after speaking about abortion. Maybe it's because I had been so bottled up for so very long that I feel so good after speaking. And sometimes while witnessing I learn something new about my own feelings and myself. Then again, I stuffed everything down so much, and my feelings were a mystery to me for years, so it's kinda fun exploring them now. So after speaking or witnessing, I feel lighter, freer ... I feel like whistling. Especially if someone has been helped by the talk. God is so awesome."
- "I haven't yet spoken in front of a group. God just hasn't called me there yet. I have written letters for our parish anonymously though, which were subsequently pasted into articles for the diocese. I find it very freeing. I've also witnessed privately with people when the Spirit moves me, and each time it has been an amazing experience. Also I'm hooked up with our priest teaching Chastity for our parish now. When the topic comes up in general, I have a comfort and passion talking about it that I never would have, pre-Rachel’s Vineyard."
- "My talk yesterday was the most moving presentation I have done so far. I went into more depth for some reason on the actual procedure and how I was emotionally, physically and spiritually affected. It was a powerful, Holy Spirit experience, unlike what I have felt before. When I received a standing ovation, I was stunned. All these people are involved in serious pro-life work, but somehow they haven't heard too much about the other side. They only know us as statistics.
"After the question and answer period, people came up to tell me their stories of a friend, mother, sibling and even themselves. The greatest impact seemed to be on the men. I had a few men that looked me straight in the eye and asked for prayers as the tears came streaming down their faces. 'It happened so long ago,' they said, 'I don't know what to do now.' I was at a loss for words. I hugged them and agreed to pray that God would lead them."
My Experience Telling my Child:
"I told my son when he was fourteen. My husband (not the father of the aborted child) and I asked him to sit down. He could tell it was going to be one of those heavy conversations. It was hard. He was shocked.
"It's hard to tell a child that they have a sibling they didn't know about before. It's hard because you know it will be difficult for your child to absorb the reality that at one point, you didn't treasure, cherish and protect the life of that sibling...quite the opposite.
"On the other hand, a child that was once rejected from the family is now being acknowledged and honored. This says to my child, "Everyone is important and deserving of dignity and recognition." This is a message that implicitly supports and honors everyone, including him. There is an affirming, protective and supportive message there.
"After we told him, he sat in silence for a while. Then he asked, "What happens to babies who are miscarried who haven't been baptized?" That was a hard question to hear since it meant obviously that he wondered what had happened to his aborted sibling. We were able to share the teaching of the Catholic Church together with him. That was a moment of grace.
"It has been a year since we told him. Our relationship was strong before and it continues to be strong. I have pangs of sadness that my son still needs to absorb this difficult truth. I am also glad that this secret no longer comes between us. Until we told him, we didn't realize the impact that this secret was having on our family. Now that there is no secret, there is a greater sense of intimacy and trust in our family."
Comments by others about sharing with family:
- "My family is spread out throughout the country. When I first became involved in Rachel’s Vineyard after my retreat, I really took my time discerning whether or when to tell my family (my siblings, as both my parents have passed away). So when I finally came to the point where I was comfortable telling them, I never really got the chance. We don't see each other very often, and our family traditions said, "Don't ask questions." For a while I really wanted to tell them, but opportunities never prevented themselves. And now, it's not as important to me that they know. Maybe it's another stage of healing. My abortion no longer defines me the way it used to. I hope one day to tell them, hoping that it may help them to know it."
- "I know women who have told their loved ones about their abortion and their experience with Rachel's Vineyard, where great healing has happened as a result. I know two cases where a mother who took her daughter to the abortion clinic eventually came to the retreat, after her daughter told her about it, where there has been inconceivable and miraculous healing in that relationship. That hasn't happened yet in my family. My family is angry at me for telling them, and they are angry at me for being involved with Rachel's Vineyard. One of my sisters stopped talking to me when she found out--not because she was upset about the abortion, but she was upset that I regretted my abortion. She heard this from another sister and hasn't talked to me for two years. My dad has been very cool to me since the one time I talked to him. I know that God will bring good from this. Maybe part of what I have learned from this is something that is always hard for me...there is no quick fix. I am learning to pray for an outcome that doesn't seem very likely. It is good spiritual discipline. I have also learned that I can survive without the approval of my sister."
- "I have learned that when we fear telling others a secret, we are either afraid of how they will now see us, or we are afraid of the impact the secret will have on them. Most often when we fear telling our children, it is for the second reason. We wonder how knowing this secret will affect their lives. When we are caught in uncertainty about that, it could help to reflect back on our own lives. Did we hear a secret when we were growing up that hurt us? How were we told? Who told us? Did they tell us to hurt us or for some other reason? Were we given a chance to process and talk about our feelings about that revelation? If we can take some take to think about the role of revealed secrets in our lives, we might realize that our fear of harming others through the revelation of a secret is clouded by a time that someone hurt us that way. Yet we have the tools and ability to share a painful secret with someone in different ways and for different reasons than when someone hurt us by telling us a secret when we were kids."
In closing, remember Rick Warren says, "Your most effective ministry will come out of your deepest hurts." And, he’s right. Telling our stories is hard, like challenging work that we don’t always want to do – but I’ve learned that when I share my story and think instead about the help it offers others, it doesn’t feel like work but an opportunity to honor God.
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