The secret heartbreak of children who've lost a sibling through abortion.
“My mom does not know I found out about her abortion. She is suffering and I want to help her but I don’t know how.”
Anne spoke these words to me when she came seeking advice and help. She had recently overheard a conversation where her mom was speaking about a past abortion.
Anne didn’t know what to do or what to say to her mom, and her own emotions were all over the place. She went from feeling sorry for her mom, to feeling anger, confusion and even guilt for being alive.
She was reluctant to approach her mom, who was already suffering, but she knew she needed to express her own pain. She felt alone and isolated, and was looking for a place where someone would understand what she was going through, while at the same time not judge her mother whom she loved and felt a need to protect.
Anne is not alone. With over 55 million abortions in our country, there are millions of “Annes” who have lost a sibling to abortion. Some have found out about the abortion without their parents’ knowledge. Some have been told and others just have a sense that someone is missing.
Andrew, who had always longed for an older brother, explained his reaction to his mom telling him about an abortion in her past: “Suddenly my whole life was beginning to make sense—every desire and sadness. I had actually felt his loss in my heart throughout my life.”
Many siblings of aborted babies have expressed similar experiences of “always knowing” that someone was missing and then a similar experience of fitting together the pieces of their lives once this crucial information was known. Still, if and when to tell a child about the abortion of his or her sibling needs to be carefully discerned.
It‘s short-sighted to think that relieving oneself of the burden of carrying the secret of a past abortion by telling one’s child will be the end of the matter. And hearing your child say, “you are forgiven,” does not lessen the impact of the abortion on their life. The fact that they may not share their feelings with you doesn’t mean that your child is not struggling over the loss of a sibling. In fact, it’s to be expected that they will wrestle with various issues surrounding the abortion. Often, children don’t share these negative feelings with their parents because they don’t want to cause more grief for someone they love, someone who is already suffering greatly.
The reality of being alive when your sibling is not, is often very hard to grasp. Although most of the time, the abortion had nothing to do with the living sibling born before or after, there is still a sense of “Why I am here and my sibling is not?” “Would I even be here if that baby had been born?“ “Would my name be the same?”
Countless questions surface, but there’s often with no place or person to help children sort them out. As one sibling shared, “I wasn’t supposed to know about the abortion, but I overheard family conversations that piqued my suspicions.”
When I was 11-years-old, I asked my mom if she had ever thought about having an abortion. She very gently and honestly said, “Yes.” We were in the kitchen. I remember I had to leave the room. When I was away from my mom, my feet fell out from under me. I began sobbing silently and uncontrollably. I loved my three living siblings with my whole life; in many ways, my identity centered around them. I could not understand why my mom would assume that I might not love my aborted sibling just as much.