I carried the pain of an abortion for many years. I was born into a large family of 17 children, so my mother was very pro-life. When I was 19 years old I went to work in the U.K. Away from the constraints of family, I got carried away in the heady social life in London. Pregnant and alone and full of shame and fear, I listened to the lies of abortion, that there was nothing there and that my life would get back to normal.
Abortion changed my life forever. I suffered for many years from depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and no self-esteem. Some years later I met the man who would become my future husband and I shared my secret with him. God blessed me with four beautiful children. The only way I could cope with the guilt was to go into denial. Denial for me was convincing myself that nothing bad really happened. This can provide some short-term relief.
We moved back to live in Cork and my children grew up and got married. I became very involved in my parish. I just felt that if I did some good work that God would go easy on me. I worked with a beautiful religious sister who was always praising me for my work in the parish. I had never shared my secret with anyone apart from my husband. One day I decided to tell the Sister my secret, and I truly felt that she would be horrified and would tell the parish priest and that he would run me out of the parish. I remember I closed my eyes and poured out my heart to her. When I opened my eyes she was crying and she hugged me and said “Don’t waste your suffering, let God use it for good”.
Sharing my secret with her changed my life. The isolation was over and I had begun to dismantle the secret. I had been stuck in a guilt trap. I now know that the guilt was the only way that I had of keeping the memory of my baby alive. Abortion encourages isolation and secrecy. Abortion is a death experience. I had to face my life with honesty. I had to acknowledge that the abortion had ended the life of my innocent unborn child.
The Sister encouraged me to go to confession. I had been many times over the years but still could not believe that God could forgive me, or that my child could forgive me. In the diary of Saint Faustina (628) we read that an elderly sister in the convent revealed the condition of her soul to Faustina and she begged her to ask God had he forgiven her. She said that she had been suffering interiorly for several years, and that it seemed to her that all her confessions had been bad, and that she had doubts as to whether God had forgiven her. Sr. Faustina heard these words in her soul: Tell her that her disbelief wounds my Heart more than the sins she committed.
Many women and men often consider abortion as the unforgivable sin. Feeling alienated from God and with no hope of reconciliation has left many too terrified to confess. God has healed me and freed me from the human shame of abortion, not because I have forgotten and don’t regret it, but because I have acknowledged my sin, knowing that I do not deserve Mercy.
C.S. Lewis once said – You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.
I began to speak out about abortion. I heard about a weekend retreat for women hurt after abortion. It was founded in the U.S. by Dr. Theresa Burke PhD.
The first Rachel’s Vineyard retreat was held in Cork in October 2003, and to date I have facilitated over 180 retreats in Ireland and in many countries around the world. The church is a hospital for sinners, not a hotel for saints. For anyone who has suffered the loss of a child to abortion. There is hope and there is healing. Please get in touch!
Bernadette Goulding: 087 859 2877
Written by Bernadette Goulding