I was 17 when I had an abortion. I remember thinking, “This is the worst thing anyone has ever done. I can’t tell anyone about this.”
The guilt, shame, and yearly bouts of depression on the estimated birthday of my unborn child were the rhythms of my life. There was nowhere to go to get away from who I was and what I had done. My body couldn’t handle the stress my mind and soul were under. I experienced debilitating physical pain and sickness, and I couldn’t be out of bed for more than five hours a day.
After seeing multiple doctors, I began to realize the cause was not physical, but spiritual and emotional. It seemed the Lord was telling me to tell the truth about who I was and what I had done.
One Sunday morning, I went to church and saw the pastor’s wife. I didn’t know her very well, but I knew God was the only way out of the darkness and shame I lived, slept, and breathed in every day. I was afraid, but I was desperate for help. Forcing the words out of my mouth, I told her about the abortion I had five years earlier.
As she and her husband asked questions, I began to see the darkness of my heart. I wasn’t sure what to do, but I knew I needed someone else to be in control and at the center of my life. I started at the top of my head and went down to my toes giving God every part of me.
After an abortion: How to help a friend who’s grieving
That was the day I became a child of God. I started to understand why Jesus had to come to Earth. God knew our hearts were broken, bent, and sinful. Jesus was the only One who could live perfectly, so He came and lived perfectly for us. On the cross, Jesus paid the price of all my sin—but I didn’t feel forgiven for the abortion. I couldn’t get to the reality of freedom by myself. I needed trusted friends to help me.
You may know someone who is stuck. You also know God is a God of second chances and new beginnings. If a friend pulls back the curtain of their life enough to reveal the shame of their past, that may be God’s invitation to you to help in their healing process.
Here are five ways to help your friend after an abortion:
1. Thank her for sharing her story after an abortion.
Recognize the courage it took for your friend to be honest and open about the worst and most painful parts of her life. Sit in the pain of living in a fallen, broken world where we all live with regret and sorrow. Don’t try to fix. Give her the gift of listening. Many times the power of sin is in the secret. Now that the secret is in the light, it may have already lost some of the power and pain.
2. Respond with gentleness.
Too often, shame keeps people hiding. It’s the atmosphere of grace that creates a safe environment for real conversation. Validate her pain with empathy.
I’ve experienced many different responses as I’ve shared my story. One of the sweetest responses was from a lady at church I didn’t know very well. I was hurting so badly; I needed to take the chance and let someone in on what I was dealing with.
After listening to me share about my abortion, she got up, came across the room, and embraced me. I expected rejection, but instead, she drew me to herself and revealed the heart of God to me. We then joined a small group that met weekly. She didn’t leave me to myself. Instead, she entered my world and helped me join a community of people who were seeking God.
3. Ask good questions.
Help your friend see any lies she is believing and where she is struggling through the questions you ask. Here are a few I ask myself regularly:
- What lies are you believing about God, yourself, or your situation?
- What broken ways of looking at life are you bringing to this experience?
- Where are you looking for rescue?
- Where is God inviting you to repent, believe, and move forward in love?
4. Speak the truth in love.
Always be gathering statements from God’s Word. People don’t need our opinion, but we all need what God says. Your friend may express a way she is feeling that doesn’t line up with the truth. That’s okay! She is telling you where she is, which direction she is headed. After acknowledging the feeling, use a statement of truth to point her in the right direction.
If your friend feels like God wants her to stay in guilt and shame from her abortion, you could point her to John 11 where Jesus calls Lazarus out of the grave. The first command Jesus gives after calling Lazarus is, “Unbind him and let him go” (verse 44).
Jesus is telling us God isn’t waiting for us to pay penance, He wants us to move forward in freedom. That is the amazing beauty of God’s desire for us! He doesn’t want us stuck in the pain of our failure. He wants us walking in the freedom of His forgiveness.
The gospel truths we can remind ourselves and our friends of are endless. Here are a few of my favorites:
- We have everything we need today for a life of godliness (1 Peter 2:1-3).
- There is absolutely nothing outside of God’s control (Hebrews 2:8).
- I am never alone. Jesus is with me in this (Hebrews 13:5).
- God took away the charges against us by nailing them to the cross (Colossians 2:14).
5. Be a safe place.
Let your friend know you are willing to walk with her as she heals. You are not going to have all of the answers. None of us do. You may need to point her to a counselor, a support group, or someone who has experienced what your friend is going through. The emotional and spiritual pain after an abortion is overwhelming. Your friend needs some normalcy as she processes the pain.
You play a vital role in your friend’s healing by being a safe place and a friend. Make space to laugh together. Take a walk or go to a park or beach to just enjoy life.
There is hope for the hurting
Some of the sweetest years of my life were between the ages of 22 and 24. I was physically sick and processing the mess I had made of my life. But in the middle of the hard, God gave me three friends to do life with. I was honest about my past and present and they were honest about theirs.
We saw each other every Sunday at church and once a week for Bible study. We took walks after work and memorized Scripture together. I remember lots of laughter, some crying, but mostly women who were just real—not judging the past and pain but struggling through the journey of life together.
When I repeatedly shared my doubt that God could or would forgive me after an abortion, their gracious responses showed me a different perspective. I thought God was angry with me and beyond done with my pain. But when I brought my pain to these women, they responded with patience, kindness, and graciousness. That allowed me to see God’s response to me, too. I found the acceptance He had been showing me all along. I just couldn’t see it until trusted friends loved and accepted me practically the way God was loving and accepting them.
Look around you. Who has God put in your path? There is likely a woman who needs someone who would respond graciously to her. God can use you! Is the consistency of your life one of safety, graciousness, and authenticity? That’s the kind of person someone can confide in.
Copyright © 2022 FamilyLife. All rights reserved.
Andrea Grifftih is a speaker with FamilyLife whose mission is to effectively develop godly families who change the world one home at a time. Andrea has ministered alongside her husband, Trent, as a church-planting pastor’s wife and also ministered to women in hundreds of local churches and spoken at national conferences where she shares her unique story of God’s amazing grace at work in her life. Andrea has a B.A. in Vocal Performance from Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. Andrea is the mother of four children who have all attended Cedarville University. Andrea and Trent make their home near Orlando, Florida.