“I killed my child,” the woman whispered in abject anguish as she was blessed with oil. She was not alone in her heartache, as the entire room was overflowing with raw, palpable grief from those brave enough to share their regret from being involved in one or more abortions. The room was a cacophony, fluctuating between soundless cries to gut-wrenching sobs. Tissue boxes were decimated within minutes; and trashcans were overflowing with discarded tissues that were somber reminders of the heartache and loss.
As a volunteer therapist for Rachel’s Vineyard Retreats, I am privileged to walk with women and men on their journey of healing from the destruction of abortion. They are not monsters, but children of God who seek redemption through their suffering; and suffer, they do. “Post-Abortion Syndrome” or PAS is a word coined by the pro-life advocate, Vincent Rue, Ph.D. Dr. Rue believes those that endure abortion submit to an immeasurably traumatic experience.
The majority of mental health professionals do not address PAS with their clients, due to their personal ideology, discomfort with the topic, and that it is not formally recognized in the DSM-5. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual – 5 is the ‘bible’ of those doctors and therapists. Catholic therapists acknowledge the trauma of post-abortive clients. Dr. Susanne Babbel, Ph.D., M.F.T. states, “No matter your philosophical, religious, or political views on abortion, the fact of the matter is, the actual experience can affect women not only on a personal level but can potentially have psychological repercussions.” Babbel coined the term “Post Abortion Stress Syndrome” (PASS) based upon the clinical diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), to describe the psychological impacts of abortion. The doctor affirms “any event that causes trauma can indeed result in PTSD, and abortion is no exception.” Guilt, anxiety, numbness, depression and suicidal thoughts are signs of PASS. These symptoms do not necessarily apply to each person who is post-abortive, however they are highly probable. These burdensome feelings do not have to be carried alone.
Rachel’s Vineyard is an outreach offered in both Catholic and interdenominational settings that presents a “safe place to renew, rebuild and redeem hearts broken by abortion”. Weekend retreats offer a supportive, confidential, and non-judgmental environment where women and men can express, release and reconcile painful post-abortive emotions to begin the process of restoration, renewal and healing. The retreats help post-abortive individuals experience God’s love and compassion on a profound level. It creates a place where men and women can share, often for the first time, their deepest feelings about abortion. It is a compassionate environment where it is safe to dismantle troubling secrets in an environment of emotional and spiritual safety. Rachel’s Vineyard is therapy for the soul. Participants, who have been trapped in anger toward themselves or others, experience forgiveness. Peace is found. Lives are restored. A sense of hope and meaning for the future is finally re-discovered.
Father Frank Pavone is the National Director of Priests for Life, a private association of the faithful to preach, teach, and mobilize people more effectively in the effort to end abortion and euthanasia, and he serves as the Chairman and Pastoral Director of Rachel’s Vineyard. He advocates to connect women with the concrete help they may need not only to find alternatives to abortion, but also for healing after abortion. Father Frank Pavone teaches that God extends justice and mercy for His people, thus His people must offer justice and mercy to each other. Scripture says, “Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful.”
Married couples, mothers, fathers, grandparents and siblings of aborted children (as well as persons who have been involved in the abortion industry) have all come to Rachel’s Vineyard to bring an end to the feelings of isolation, despair and hopelessness and have found inner healing, peace, and freedom.
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