Abortion’s Survivor Guilt
“Sydna, I wouldn’t change my life now,” the young mother wrote. “I can’t imagine life without my children today. If I had not chosen abortion, I may very well not have the kids I have or be where I am right now. That gives me immense guilt because I enjoy my life today.”
Abortion finds many of us at a crossroads. Abortion decisions are often made under pressure by the father, friends or even family. Many feel immediate relief because their crisis has been resolved. That respite is often temporary, giving way to deep feelings of guilt and grief. Denial then arrives to help address the guilt with false mindsets that this “choice” had been a good one.
Denial requires a great deal of emotional energy to maintain and doesn’t last forever. When denial breaks, the realization that a tiny human was lost in that choice can be overwhelming. They look at their living children and realize how their world would have been different had they not chosen abortion.
In these clear moments of understanding, grieving an aborted child can seem like a betrayal to their living children. Without choosing abortion, children born since that choice likely may not exist.
God was clear about taking the lives of children He created, as revealed in Deuteronomy 30:19 – This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.
Many forget the added dysfunction they endured because they chose abortion. Rarely does abortion improve a life but often it leads to other problematic behaviors. Basic symptoms of abortion pain are typically part of the family dynamic after abortion.
The biggest aspect of abortion pain is the difficulty bonding with present or future children. Looking into the face of my newborn son, I experienced “motherhood wonderment” and immediately fell in love. This blessed emotion transitioned quickly into a painful realization. I was quickly reminded of the child I had lost to abortion. My aborted child then began to haunt my heart, impacting my ability to bond with my new son.
Another common denial breaker is Infertility issues after abortion. When I worked to have my amazing husband’s child, we struggled to get pregnant. Infertility was something I had feared for years but when the reality of it hit me directly, I was overwhelmed with pain and sadness.
The fact that I could have done something as a teenager that would mean my husband may never hold his own child was overwhelming. While my barrenness was medically remedied, many women may not be able to have children for a variety of reasons after abortion.
My lost child would also haunt me at various points before my healing was anchored in my heart. Isaiah 49:15 helped me understand why my aborted child remained a part of my heart – Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!
I outlined to this post-abortive mother that all our lives would have been different had we made another choice. Before healing, many are unable to fathom a life different from the one they are living and can feel quite guilty for being happy. That idea is quickly met with grief because in order to have this current life, their child(ren) had to die.
Keep in mind that God is the author of all life on earth. He knew the circumstances of our birth before He created us. Jeremiah 1:5 states – Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart….”
All our days were recorded in God’s book before we were even conceived. God knew every child that would be aborted as well. He knew all about the rest of our lives – who we’d marry, our children and how He would move to draw us closer to His grace and mercy.
Because of this Biblical truth, our lives today – even with our choice of abortion – is the one that God planned before the world was formed. While I miss my Jesse immensely, and would love to go back and make another choice, that is not possible. Re-living my teenage years again is impossible.
The siblings of aborted children can also struggle with a level of “survivor guilt” when they know about their aborted sibling. My oldest son was 13 years old when he commented, with a pained expression, “I know losing Jesse was your biggest regret. But if Jesse had been born, I wouldn’t be here, Mom….”
God helped me with a fast response as I could sense his survivor guilt over being alive since his older brother had to die for that to be accomplished.
I said, “That may be true but God knew all about you before He formed the World. He knew that I would abort Jesse too and you can see by all that we do that God turned his death into something that has brought life to thousands of other children. So never believe that your life is wrong because Jesse’s death was the only way you are living today. You know that we have turned Jesse’s death into God’s good – and you are part of God’s good.”
Survivor guilt is something I endured growing up as well. I have two older sisters that died in infancy from separate birth defects. My mother endured three pregnancies before having a healthy child – a son. Since she wanted a daughter, she worked really hard to get pregnant with me.
When we were doing a pregnancy center training seminar in the area where my sisters were buried, I went to visit their graves. It was the first time I had ever felt close to them. When I came home I shared with my mother about that visit. I outlined how I had always dreamed of having my older sisters brushing my hair and keeping my older brother in his place.
My mother laughed and said, “Oh, Sydna, I never wanted four children. If just one of your sisters had lived, I never would have gotten pregnant with you…”
Survivor guilt hit my heart immediately. Thankfully, God helped me process that it was only through my sisters’ deaths that I would have be born!
As I pondered that reality, God reminded my heart of Jeremiah 1 again. He had my sisters safe in His care and was using me in a way that would certainly make them proud. There is no sin in heaven so unhappiness does not exist there. God is the only judge. I’m grateful that my sisters were there to welcome home their nephew on that fateful day of his death in September of 1981.
The enemy enjoys plowing our hearts up with thoughts like these that are designed to increase our wounding and destroy our happiness. Abortion’s lost children are safe and at peace in the company of their Creator. Until the day comes when we meet them, God wants us to find His healing so that we can live life in peace and perhaps help be part of ending abortion’s impact on our world.
If you are feeling guilty about loving your life today, please understand an abortion recovery class can help you find healing. The Her Choice to Heal on-line healing site is available to help you begin to address this pain today. Please take a moment to review the first session and learn more about how this pain impacts women who have made this choice!
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Abortion impacts hearts at an emotional, spiritual, psychological and physical level. Her Choice to Heal’s free online abortion recovery course offers nine detailed modules that provide understanding of abortion’s impact. These specific healing strategies can begin the healing process.
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