My name is Susan Swander; I’m a 73-year old who lives in Waldport, Oregon. This is the story of my 3 abortions and my healing from Post-Abortion Trauma. I have two goals in sharing my story. First, I want to tell all post-abortive parents that there is hope and healing. Second, I want to make sure that anyone considering an abortion is aware of the horror that awaits them. The abortion providers will not give out the relevant information; they will not mention Post Abortion Trauma.
After 3 abortions and 1 miscarriage (which I believe resulted from the abortions), I spent years drinking, drugging, over-eating and living a promiscuous, sinful life. I had no idea that the pain in my life had anything to do with the abortions.
My healing began in small ways – in 1981 with the birth of my son, in 1985 with God’s gift of sobriety, and in 1997 with my return to my Catholicism. In the fall of 2003, I saw a box ad in the St. Anthony’s Catholic Church bulletin for Rachel’s Vineyard Retreats for post-abortion healing. I went to the Rachel’s Vineyard web site (www.rachelsvineyard.org) and wept buckets of tears as I read it. It was the first time in 36 years that I really looked at my abortions for what they were – the loss of my 4 children.
It took me awhile to get up the courage to call, but thank God I did. I attended a Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat in April 2004. What a remarkable, healing experience this weekend was. Words do not do justice to the love, compassion, and understanding I found during the retreat. Perhaps most importantly, I met and named my four children – Luke, Grace, Teresa (miscarried) & Benjamin. I found forgiveness – from them and from God. I am learning to forgive myself. Each time that I share my story, I heal a little more. At my retreat, I promised my children that I would no longer hide them and that I would share our story whenever I could.
If you are reading this and are contemplating an abortion, please reconsider. It will cause you untold pain and heartache. If you have had an abortion, please know that healing is available. None of us has to live alone with the shame, guilt and pain that come after an abortion.
I am a woman, 62 years old, who is beginning to experience a deep sense of freedom from a lifelong acceptance of depression. I say ‘acceptance of depression’ because after many years of trying to overcome it, I eventually came to accept that depression was my lot in life. A ‘lot’ which I have lived with for many decades.
About 4 years ago I began to experience a spiritual awakening – a return to God and to my Catholic faith. This renewal of my faith has led to many moments of freedom from the deep depression I have known for so long and has given me a sense of hope that has grown over these past few years.
Some months ago, I was reminded of the abortion that I had 45 years ago. That reminder became a persistent recurring thought in my mind that led me to attend a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat.
On my retreat, I found a group of wise and caring people who just genuinely wanted to help me heal from a self-inflicted wound I had made when I was 18 years old. A wound that affected me more deeply than I could ever have known at the time. We cannot kill our own child and not suffer the consequences.
For me, I consciously blocked out all the negative emotions associated with my abortion and carried on with life. I knew that I had shut down the part of me that was ashamed of what I had done, but I never realized just how much my abortion cost me -- the toll that it had taken in my soul. For 45 years, I carried a carefully buried self-hatred and an unacknowledged grief for my child, never realizing the full extent of how it changed me. How much it cost me in my ability to give and to receive love. How it manifested most profoundly in depression.
During my retreat, I opened that box of repressed emotions. I honestly looked at what I had done and allowed God to begin to heal the deep wounds in my soul. I acknowledged the love that I have for the child I never knew. And I came face to face with the reality that I had ended the innocent life that God had given to me. Through repentance and through sharing my grief, I am finding the beginnings of true freedom.
Since my retreat a few months ago, I have continued to heal. Continued to grieve. Continued to accept the reality and scope of my choice so many years ago. And I have continued to find freedom. Freedom from self-hatred. Freedom from depression. Freedom from self-imposed isolation. I find that I am entering into a fuller life. A life with snatches of hope for the future. A life more inclined to see myself as worthy of life. Worthy of love. Worthy of some kind of goodness here on this earth.
It is only since tasting this freedom that I have come to realize just how much my abortion cost me. I am now beginning to know spaces of time that are totally free from depression. And I find that I now crave the love that I shut down so long ago.
Our society tells us that abortion is a ‘procedure’ that will make our lives better. My experience has taught me otherwise. Rachel’s Vineyard helped me to discover a path that leads to profound healing, true freedom and a realization that I am finally coming home. Home, because home is where I am free to be my truest self and I am only now encountering who I was created to be.
I pray that every woman who every had an abortion may find the same healing and hope that I have found here. I am truly home.
Linda in Kansas
I have to face the awful reality that as a young girl and woman, I started to have abortions. Unfortunately this seemed to be a form of birth control. I didn't have much support or guidance in my life in fact it was truly an abusive situation. I have lived with this my whole life and will continue to beg God for forgiveness. I have been to the Church for Absolution and it has given me a sense of peace. The priest passed no judgement only peace. I praise God for this in the name of Jesus our Savior. I wasn't able to sleep much the night before my confession. I saw a quick vision in my head of Jesus standing beside me with his hand held out to me in a beautiful white robe. I felt his presence as he comforted my thought and fears. I knew that I could bravely confess my horrible mortal sins to God our creator. Also my mother passed away a week earlier and I was the one to take care of her as I am a nurse and semi retired. She died in my care. I promised her that I would go to confession. While at the Funeral, right before communion in the Church, I felt a warm sensation with a strong hold on my right shoulder as if I was being pushed in that spot. I immediately sensed my mother and knew in my heart that she was nudging me to go to confession. I now have a sense of forgiveness and I am grateful for my Catholic faith which has given me this right. I had the opportunity to give this to God and to be forgiven through the power of the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen
Anonymous Jane, Maine
Going on a Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat was the best gift ever. Prior to the retreat, I had suffered for 18 years in silence since I aborted my baby in 1996. At the retreat, I was able to discuss my story for the first time in a supportive environment with empathetic people without being judged. The healing that occurs over the weekend is nothing short of miraculous! I now know that my baby is in the best of hands-God’s-and I will meet up with my baby in heaven. I highly recommend a Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat to anyone who has suffered from the aftermath of an abortion. God has the best gift ever in store for you.
I came to the retreat at the end of a very gentle awakening,at what had taken place in my life. I could write a book on the kindnesses of Jesus, but another day.
The retreat was the completion of a journey that i had been on, for a number of years.
It took me awhile to wake up to my reality because if i had had the understanding earlier of what had taken place towards my life, i do not think i would be celebrating writing today, really i am amazed that i am still here.
I have a spring in my step and a smile on my heart, not always on the outside, but on the inside, i am grinning.
I feel like i have crossed a finish line this beautiful ministry laid down for me, sometimes i walked it and sometimes i just listened, sometimes i cried and sometimes i laughed through it, but each session i grew.
NA Na Na Na Na that is for the grave i was in.
I have noticed i have a little attitude adjustment now, it says different things like Hmm no thanks, hold the condemnation and i'll pass on the guilt, and No i don't feel to do that right now and yes, i'd love to love my family more first.... some of the changes.
In many ways i feel alive for the first time, i am at peace,content with myself and other humans, we know who they are :) no more of that either, now i own my own stuff and as a bonus not theirs.
That may sound little on paper but if you could see the inside of my heart, you would see Yikes once, once, once, deep caverns filled with dead bones,(mine) that is how i feel to express it or this way works as well... "how about lost"
so lost that you wanted to fade into thin air,and disappear forever,n' ever, that was my true inner life, the one no-one really saw mostly me, and that boring, boring, grave.
Of course i did not really know that till after the retreat, thank goodness,and mercy.
But, but, but i used to use the word "but"often because it always represented my excuse to stay dead.
But:) now i love the word "But"
because its "BUT" with God's help i can do anything i want now, anything wonder-fully cos i am out of the shame.
Somehow now i know those places are filled with shiny hope, I can live now and all was put there by and through through Grace,
the healing i received, no mere man could have ever done,not ever, not a chance.
With God all things are possible.
It was an experience a living journey this retreat that brought an abundance of life.
I knew i was safe because i felt His unconditional love working through the team and i know He is love... and wanted me whole, way more than i could understand.
I inquired of Him one time, i asked Him what was wrong with me cos if you experienced abortion you get why i would ask, anyway...
He showed me in a dream once, what was wrong...cos i asked Him to.
In my dream i was in a hospital hallway, i was laying on my mutilated children,it was very real, almost ten years ago now.
I could see two men in white coats, i knew they were Doctors, they were deciding where they were going to go to lunch, i called out to them to help us.
They looked down at us, then back at one-another and finished deciding about lunch. As they walked down the hallway i called out to them, my arm was raised out towards them...
"But we're dying i called out and heard myself say "help us
they kept walking down the hallway, out to lunch i guess, pardon the pun.
I then laid back down, it was then that i saw i had only a torso ,i was not whole.
I believe Jesus was answering my prayer,i had asked Him to show me what was wrong with me,He did. I was not whole, yet it never clicked for years still.
Having abortions really hurt me and my life, my life with others as well.I believe i was being shown the results of what i was left with.
Jesus is my Hero, He makes all things new and He did.
I am walking on sunshine, it is healing and its time, about time, long overdue time. I was so tired.
it is starting to feel good, oh ya walking on sunshine.... i have wanted to sing and feel real joy for a very long time.
Forever in my heart these friends and they are now to me its this wondering kinda bond, that is not fluff,they are just so very kind,everyone i just know!!! brought more true wholeness to your heart, through their selfless love and the sacrifice of their hearts.
It is a team effort, mine included i worked hard to be honest and the way it is set up is productive, but i decided before i left i wanted my freedom and right from the first moment i was so safe, that it made me open like a butterfly in spring, a long winter over....
It is not scary or power tripping or uncomfortable, well maybe at times although we help one another through cos it is real and that comes with an effort on every ones part, but who wants lip service, boring.... it is just the kindest, most dedicated group coming together with one thing in mind our healing recovery, and it is something so heavenly, i am walking changed now.
Keeping it real is delightful, ha i have a voice and guess what, i like the sound it makes,and that is Extra, Extra she's alive.
From dead to life in two days, only Gods work, works.
Good news to me and all those around me i,m thinking.
But its not sit up straight in the pew kinda moments either, its just, love really.
I knew what the other story was and i was so tired of the grave, dead girl walking, has been and forever would have been had i not experienced real help.
I love what it has done in my life, i feel like Hmm brand new,hurt now healed.
Two times i heard Him say I forgive you, i needed that, even though in my head i knew i was, cos we are for everything, still stepping into it is another thing.
Only He knows... but i promise you that this is what i do know i am free ,so glad i went.
PS.... ignore the desire to jump ship, it is better to stay on board and enjoy the journey, the one you have always deserved, the one we all deserve, were in the safest hands, His.
Jesus loves us this we know for the Bible tells us so, little ones to Him belong for they are weak but He is strong. Sing this it helps , got me there.
God Bless everyone, Heidi
Heidi in Jerusalem
On my 15th birthday, I was almost three months pregnant. It mattered little to me that my father wanted me to have an abortion and vowed not to let me live under his roof once I started to show. After all, my boyfriend and I were in love and he said he wanted to marry me; that was all that mattered to me at the time. But this changed in weeks to come as my boyfriend had a change of heart and told me that he thought it was best that we didn’t marry. But what was not clear to me, was what he thought was best. In fact, no one in my life at that time, except my father, seemed to have an opinion of what was best.
I had a vague idea that there were alternatives to abortion but by then I felt that I didn’t have the strength, courage or heart to explore them. Nor was anyone else in my life encouraging me to do so. And my boyfriend for the most part was no longer in the picture. So with a broken heart, I listened to my father.
On the day of my abortion, it was my mother, not my father who took me. Looking back, I wonder what my mother thought. Did she think it was wrong? Did she ever regret not seeing her grandbaby? I will never know. But she was there with me silently carrying out my father’s wishes. At 15, I was oblivious to the moral and political controversy over abortion. And since we didn’t go to church, I didn’t hear what the church had to say either. And yet, intuitively I knew it was wrong. The last thing I remember that day was being on the abortion table before it took place crying out loud for my baby. Thinking about this now, I don’t know how that abortionist could have proceeded knowing that I obviously didn’t want to go through with it.
In my father’s view, my life should have gone on as if nothing ever happened. I tried to go back to school but wound up dropping out. Some other students, whom I didn’t even know, made it a point to tell me what a horrible thing I had done. At first I tried to defend my “choice” but I knew it was wrong. In fact, I felt overwhelmed with guilt and shame. Still life had to go on. And thank God it didn’t occur to me that my life didn’t have to go on because if it had occurred to me, I probably would have ended it then.
For the better part of 37 years, I did an excellent job of avoiding the subject of abortion; including my own. I believed that what I did was terribly wrong. I asked God for forgiveness and then left it at that. Any further examination was just too painful. Looking back over the years, I believe that my pain caused me to make many self-destructive decisions including decisions that prevented me from the joy of having and raising children.
About 30 years ago I started going to church regularly. And when the church teachings on abortion would come up, I would silently agree but never speak up. I felt that I had no right to say anything because of what I did. The beginning of the end for my long lived avoidance came one Sunday during mass. Abortion came up many times before from the pulpit, but this time was different. The priest actually said that if we voted for a pro-choice candidate, we would go to hell. Right or wrong; church teaching or not; was not the point for me. The point for me was that I needed to stop avoiding the subject of abortion. But how? I started with prayer. Daily I would (and still do), pray for an end to abortion, victims of abortion, and those in crisis pregnancies considering abortion. This and this alone went on for about two years.
Then, during another Sunday mass (different parish), the priest mentioned Rachel’s Vineyard. I remember thinking how nice it was that there was help for others but didn’t think it was for me since my abortion was so long ago. A couple of months later, my husband and I saw the movie Heaven is for Real. When the little boy met, in heaven, his older sister who had been lost in a miscarriage, it struck me like never before that my baby too was in heaven. And I grieved like never before for my own child. It was then that I knew I needed healing and had to find out more about Rachel’s Vineyard.
In Sept 2014, I attended a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat. The experience of the retreat caused me to feel as if I had been released from prison; a prison of isolation, guilt and shame. Through prayer, sharing, spiritual exercises and confession, I experienced God’s mercy and forgiveness move profoundly than ever before. But the healing hasn’t stopped there. Through Companions on the Journey, sharing with others continues to keep me out of isolation and encourages me to grow and help others as well. Perhaps the most precious gift I received from the retreat is that, for the first time in 40 years, I have a spiritual relationship with Noah, my aborted son. I never knew that this could be possible. And although I didn’t have this relationship for so long, it now seems impossible to imagine life without him. The amazing truth is that he has been there this whole time; in my pain, I just didn’t realize it. I am deeply grateful to God and to Project Rachel family for my healing and for the spiritual relationship I now have with my son. Thank you and God bless.
Your sister on the journey,
When I was 18 years old I graduated from high school with high honors and was admitted to a prestigious university, but a few weeks before my freshman year began I found out that I was pregnant. Giving up my lifelong goals and dreams to become a teenage mother and bringing that kind of shame to my family was not an option in my mind at that time, so I seriously struggled to choose between ending my baby's life or ending my own. My parents told me they would support me in whatever I decided to do, and ultimately I decided to terminate the pregnancy and then went away to college as planned. But no matter how hard I tried to put my past behind me, the guilt haunted me every single day after that.
I stopped attending church and became depressed and anxious and struggled academically for the first time in my life, and by the time I reached my late 20’s I began having frequent panic attacks for no apparent reason. Not long after I got married at the age of 30, friends started asking us when we were planning to start a family and my anxiety skyrocketed. My husband knew about my past but I didn’t know how to explain to him that having kids with him felt unfair to the child that I had given up so many years ago. We started attending a new church about a year after our wedding, and I remember sitting in the service on Mother’s Day weekend when all of the mothers in the congregation were asked to stand up for recognition while I sat in my seat trying to choke back the tears. Over the next few months I listened to message after message about God’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness, yet I still felt like my sins were the unspeakable, unforgiveable kind and it drove a wedge between me and God. That was until one spring morning when an Easter message helped me realize that I had been suffering through this life that I had purchased with my sin rather than accepting a life full of grace that His son had already paid for. When I got home from church that afternoon I searched online for post-abortion help and came across the Rachel’s Vineyard website. I immediately signed up for the next retreat within driving distance. On that sacred weekend I finally found the peace and healing that I had been longing for over the past 15 years.
The following year I joined the team of leaders from my retreat site to facilitate their next annual retreat and I have helped facilitate more retreats since then. Every retreat is a safe and special time to reflect and connect with God and with other women who have shared similar experiences, and I find deeper healing at each retreat that I attend.
Grace in Chicago
yo y mi esposo vivimos el retiro del vinedo de raquel en noviembre del 11 de ano 2011. llegamos un viernes recuerdo ese dia que llegue con mucho miedo y verguenza pero las personas que me recibieron me esieron sentir como en casa fueron muy atentas,cuando empezo la primera dinamica fue algo impactante para nosotros Dios nos estaba sanando desde el primer momento.yo tuve miedo y quise irme en la noche del viernes el enemigo me estaba desanimando pero cai en un sueno Dios me mostro un jardin hermoso con ninos y uno de esos ninos era mi hijo que habia abortado. ese sueno fue algo muy bonito pude ver a mi hijo con flores jugando y yo lo estaba cargando. nunca imagine que la dinamica del sabado era asi como en mi sueno fue algo maravillosao entendi que Dios queria que me kedara en el retiro y asi fue me quede mi esposo y yo lloramos sanamos todo ese dolor que teniamos por anos y que no habiamos podido hablar sobre el aborto todo el viernes y sabado fue maravilloso el dia domingo experimentamos algo mas maravilloso Dios me dio la oportunidad de sentir dolores de parto de mi hijo fue algo hermoso pude tener mi encuentro con mi baby abortado pude experimentar el perdon de Dios y el perdo de mi baby. mi esposo y yo nos reconciliamos con nuestro hijo abortado lloramos su perdida y lo entregamos a los brazos de Dios. nosotros salimos sanado liberados de este retiro cuando termino la verdad nome queria ir jamas en mi vida habiamos experimentado tanta sanacion Dios ase tantos milagros en estos retiro que ahora estamos sirviendo y ayudando a los demas. nos enamoramos del retiro y queremos que las demas personas que han pasado por el trauma del aborto se enteren que hay un retiro especial para los babys abortados. y que Dios quiere sanarles sus corazones para que puedan vivir en paz con su vida Dios nos ama tanto que siempre esta dispuesto a perdonarnos por que nos Ama y dio su vida por nosotros. invito a los que tienen dudas de vivir este retiro que se animen a vivirlo jamas se arrepentiran. van a salir transformados y renovados como salimos nosotros. Dios le Bendiga y Mamita Maria los cubra con su Manto.
I am so grateful that I was able to attend a Rachel's Vineyard retreat. I did not have an abortion myself but my son's wife did. The retreat saved our relationship.
My grief over the abortion was complicated because a number of family members had forbidden me to ever speak of the abortion to anyone. Truthfully I'm not sure which friend I could have trusted to tell or how I would have begun that conversation.
For many years the grief and anger festered. I felt like a fraud every time I prayed the "Our Father" - every time I said "as we forgive those who trespass against us" I felt I was lying to God.
Finally the pain of not dealing with this matter became too much and I made arrangements to attend a Rachel's Vineyard retreat. It was January when I signed up but the retreat wasn't until May.
A few weeks before the retreat I had to fill out a questionnaire so the facilitators could get to know a little bit about me and this would help them to help me. I also had a phone interview with one of the facilitators and right then the healing began. I was finally able to talk about my experience freely. It was weird but extremely liberating!
Just before the retreat I began to get scared and have second thoughts about going. I even started having 'digestive troubles.' I was able to tell the group leader about this and she reassured me all these feelings were very normal. She assured me that I was being prayed for which was very comforting.
Finally the day arrived for the retreat to begin. I was still scared and worried the leaders might have us doing things that made us look silly or made us feel stupid. I made plans to be picked up by a friend the following morning if I didn't like what was going on. However, before the first 10 minutes of the retreat were over I knew I'd stay until the end because I had finally found a safe haven.
They fed us well (grief needs food!), they supplied us with endless boxes of tissues and the love they extended to us still brings tears of thankfulness to my eyes. Nobody was made to do or say anything that made them uncomfortable and I think everyone felt secure enough to unburden themselves.
There were times for the entire group to be together, there were times we split into smaller groups to reflect our unique situations, and there were times for much needed breaks away from everyone else.
At night we had our own little bedrooms. I remember being told the team had come early to make our beds and I was so touched by this gesture. We were so loved and so cared for. There was nothing that was not looked after. One of the team leaders was even tasked with running to the store to get us anything we needed, day or night, but they were so well prepared that nobody needed anything.
On Sunday we had the memorial service and it was beautiful. I was finally able to give my little grandchild the send off he deserved. After the service we celebrated Mass for the Catholic participants and after that there was a non-denominational service for those that were not Catholic.
As we gathered to say goodbye I felt sorry the weekend was over but I knew it was time to go into the world as a new person. It was hard to believe so much healing could occur over only 3 days. As I remarked to one of the team leaders - when we arrived on Friday it was like the first Good Friday - death and uncertainty and grief. By the time we left on Sunday afternoon it was like the first Easter morning - we had a new life, a better life!
As I waited to board the plane to go home I felt I had forgotten something. I felt a hollow place where the anger had been. I felt like I had been carrying a huge stone or weight with me for so long and now it was no longer a part of me. This feeling lasted for a few days until I got back into my routine at home. I kept waiting for the weight to return as the 'high' from the retreat faded away. It never came back.
Shortly after the retreat a situation came up with my son and his wife that could have degenerated into permanent estrangement from them. I give full credit to the Holy Spirit working in me through Rachel's Vineyard that I was able to salvage the relationship and start anew.
Rachel's Vineyard lets us know we do not need to suffer alone and that we do not need to suffer forever at the level that we have been. If your life has become unmanageable from the effects of abortion please contact Rachels's Vineyard. God bless you.
Bueno nuestra esperiencia fue sorprendente pasamos esos tres dias super bien,mi esposo y yo sentimos que El Señor Jesucristo fue quien nos trajo a este lugar ya que antes de este retiro nos sentiamos con un gran peso una amargura terrible, nos sentiamos muertos en vida,Nada nos daba felicidad todo era pelea y muchos problemas pero gracias Al todo Poderoso y a todas esas personas que estuvieron con nosotros esos tres dias en el viñedo de raquel waoo fue una esperiencia super hermosa ellos nos llenaron de tanto amor para con cada una de las personas que estuvimos viviendo ese retiro y mas el saber que no solo eran ellos los que estaban con nosotros sino el saber que el Espiritu Santo estaba hay presente que supimos que el Señor nos perdono por lo que habiamos hecho y que lleno nuestros corazones de amor y quito esa enorme piedra que llevabamos cargando por mas de 10 años.Nuestro Dolor por ese hijo no nacido primero no teniamos consuelo al culparnos de lo que habiamos hecho pero El Señor es Grande y Misericordioso y el nos Perdono y tambien nos hizo ver que nuestros Hijos tambien nos habian perdonado y sabemos que un Dia estaremos ante la presencia Del Señor y el nos mostrara esos angelitos. Ahora El Señor solo quiere que le sirvamos a el y llevemos nuestro testimonio para que no hayan mas niños abortados. Gracias Al Viñedo De Raquel y a ese Equipo tan maravilloso El Señor los Bendiga Siempre.
Enid de Connecticut
Enid de connecticut