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One night my best friend in high school called me totally in tears. I hadn’t seen her since we left for college. She told me she got pregnant her first semester at State and let her boyfriend talk her into an abortion. It was the baby’s due date the night she called. Her boyfriend broke up with her months ago because she “wasn’t fun to be around anymore.” What could I say? I had no clue how to deal with this.
Growing up we were both pro-life. I thought I could calm her down by saying stuff like “Don’t worry. You did the right thing. What else could you do? It was the best choice.” I told her to try to get over it and think about her future.
And I thought she was just being dramatic when she said she didn’t have a future anymore. But I found out a few days later, she tried to kill herself. I keep wishing I had said something that could have helped her instead of making her feel more alone.
Almost everyone knows someone who’s had an abortion.
Many people know someone personally who is suffering because of an abortion. If a friend confided in you tomorrow that she had an abortion, would you be able to respond in a way that brings her closer to healing?
There are ways to avoid the mistake Andie made. Ways that may help your friend be hopeful again about her future.
If this is the first time your friend has told you about her abortion, she may be afraid that you will be critical or that you will repeat to others what she tells you. She must know that you are a real friend who cares about her and that you are not sitting in judgment of her.
Before you talk to her, keep in mind:
- What does she need today?
- someone to listen?
- a shoulder to cry on?
- a referral to a professional counselor?
- a priest or minister?
- or even crisis intervention?
Listen with your heart
Begin by listening to your friend. Let her pour out the whole store without interrupting her. You do not have to understand every detail. It’s important that she lets go of some of the burdens she spent carrying and that she no longer feels alone.
She may talk about:
- what happened at the clinic
- rage in anger – at her boyfriend, her parents, the clinic personnel, God, herself
- guilt regret depression nightmares
- using alcohol or drugs to try to forget or even suicidal thoughts
- unbearable grief
- being alienated from her boyfriend, family, and friends
- feeling that she does not deserve to be loved or forgiven
Assure her of your love and support
Much as you like to make all of her suffering go away with the right words, her grief and loss won’t disappear after one conversation. Assure her of your friendship. Tell her you will be there for her and help her find healing.
Where help can be found
Ask your friend if she has ever heard about help for people struggling after abortion. There are safe places where trained people can help her overcome her grief and loss, and give her hope. There are counselors, priests, and ministers prepared to help as well as support groups and retreats. Offer her the name and phone number of the local Project Rachel Ministry. Give her this website address www.hopeafterabortion.com.
Even a woman who doesn’t go to church or think of herself as religious can be afraid that God will never forgive her for having an abortion. She should know that God loves and forgives those who are sorrowful. He wants to comfort them and give them his peace. You might want to invite your friend to go to church with you or ask her to consider talking it over with a priest or minister trained in post abortion counseling. Some bible passages and prayers relating to God’s love and mercy could be found in the prayer section of this website.
Begin the journey
Encourage her to contact Project Rachel for help. Remind her that God’s love and mercy is bigger than any sin. Assure her again of your friendship. Promise to be there not only today but in the future. Thank her having the trust to talk with you; it took coverage. Her healing journey has begun.
Helping a friend suffering in silence
If you see a friend struggling with sadness and emotional turmoil and you suspect that abortion might be the cause, would you know how to offer help without being obvious about your suspicion?
A suggestion: At an appropriate time and place, you might say something like this:
“I found an interesting website that gave me a new outlook on abortion. I never realized the awful pressure women face in making such difficult decisions or how afterward they suffer, grieve, and feel alone. There are programs, like Project Rachel, all over the country that help women struggling with emotional problems after abortion.”
Have information on local programs (address and phone number) on hand in case she asks for it. Or leave information where she can find it.
Reproduction: SECRETARIAT OF PRO-LIFE ACTIVITIESUnited States Conference of Catholic Bishops
3211 Fourth Street, N.E. • Washington, DC 20017-1194 Tel: (202) 541-3070 • Fax: (202) 541-3054 • Website: www.usccb.org/prolife
Copyright © 2013, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, D.C.