Good Grief: Mourning After Abortion
“I can’t stop crying, Sydna,” the caller outlined. “All I can think about is the child I lost 20 years ago. What’s happening to me? Am I going crazy?”
While abortion is a death experience, rarely do post-abortive people give themselves permission to grieve. Since we made the choice to reject parenthood, we often falsely believe we don’t need to grieve. Ignoring tears is often the first step on the typical American post-abortive journey.
The post-abortive can also be terrified that if they allow their tears to start, they may not be able to stop them! Fears of potential suicide idealization can shut off grief temporarily. Tears still come, often suddenly, in indirect moments like watching a heartbreaking movie or hearing about another tragic death.
Other wounded hearts may find that they are crying for no reason at all. They rarely connect their tears to their choice because they are working to “forget” their abortion experience.
For post-abortive wounded hearts, understand that tears are an important part of healing. Science has proven that emotional tears are the body’s way of releasing stress and reduce pain. So there truly is such a thing as good grief!
Biochemist and “tear expert”, Dr. William H. Frey II, at the St. Paul-Ramsey Medical Center in Minnesota, discovered that reflex tears are 98 percent water, whereas emotional tears also contain stress hormones which get excreted from the body through crying.
In studying the configuration of tears, Dr. Frey found that emotional tears contained more of the protein-based hormones that act as a natural painkiller. Our body makes these proteins when under stress. Dr. Frey’s research confirmed that the body rids itself of these chemicals through tears, explaining why we often feels “better” after a good cry.
Additional studies also suggest that crying stimulates the production of endorphins, our body’s natural pain killer and “feel-good” hormones.”
Grief over an aborted child often is triggered by a subsequent death experience. When my friend and neighbor, Dianne, was murdered in 1990, I had to cry. Because she died through murder, I would jump back and forth from deep-seated anger against her killer to massive mourning spells. With each tear, I was reminded of my aborted child. God triggered my mourning for my aborted child, Jesse, with Dianne’s death. When my father and mother passed away, I cried for not only them, but for every person or pet missing from my life. Each death experience started renewed mourning for these past losses.
Human beings don’t get over grief, we get through it. I won’t ever “get over” my parent’s deaths and I don’t want to! Their birthdays, holidays, anniversaries will keep these loved ones close to my heart forever. I will work to keep their memory alive in my heart. The same is true for my Jesse.
Even at funerals, society is rarely comfortable around hearts that are in deep sorrow. Some mourners can become overwhelmed with emotion that they cannot speak. Mourning leads some to make some strange sounds like wailing. While this sound is welcomed in other nations, American society doesn’t respond well to these grief noises.
It can also be difficult to weep around others. Deep grieving often is best accomplished in private so that these emotions don’t impact the peace of a household. Adult tears can be difficult for small children to understand. Children may internalize the adult’s grief to the point where they believe they’ve done something wrong. Significant others who cannot fix the pain can add anger to their comments hoping to stop the obvious sorrow from making them uncomfortable.
At some point, grief can overcome an individual like a wave on a beach. It rolls in, knocks you off your feet, and rolls out leaving you breathless. There is rarely a schedule of when the next wave will hit. Many triggers can spawn tears and it is important to express these emotions when they arrive.
Grieving is recognized as a much-needed step towards peace when someone close dies. Crying reduces our defenses and initiates a deeper emotional strength afterwards. Mourning is an important part of healing. We often just need permission to grieve. Good grief often needs to be encouraged! As Isaiah 61:1-3 outlines, God wants to, Comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness…
If you have experienced an abortion, or have a loved one struggling after this choice, an abortion recovery programs can help. Contact your local pregnancy resource center to learn more about their post-abortion support!
Sydna Massé is President and Founder of Ramah International and the author of the classic book, Her Choice to Heal: Finding Spiritual and Emotional Peace After Abortion.
For more information on Dr. William Frey’s study of tears, visit – https://www.scienceiq.com/facts/scienceoftears.cfm.