The impact on children of being told about an aborted sibling should make mothers think twice.
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– trying to find peace and understanding and their very worth.
Would I even be here if that sibling had not been aborted? This is just one of the haunting questions that confront them. Would my name be the same? Was I wanted? Why am I alive and not my sibling? It could have been me. What would life be like if my brother or sister had been allowed to live?
And, then, they also have to face conflicting feelings regarding their parents, the very ones they trusted to protect them. They may feel a mixture of anger, hatred and love toward their parents, along with a desire to protect them from those who would judge them, label them as murderers. They find it impossible to reconcile all their conflicted emotions.
Most siblings feel very alone in this situation, although we know – with over 55 million abortions in the United States –the number of surviving siblings is likewise in the tens of millions. Many either become firmly pro-life or, if they are worried about their parents and unable to examine what happened dispassionately, they become adamantly pro-choice.
Actor Mark Ruffalo is a good example of the latter reaction. Last year, speaking about his mom’s abortion, he explained:
Sadly, the opportunity was lost with Mr. Ruffalo. Instead of ministering to him and his mom by understanding his feelings and her experience (without agreeing that abortion is okay), some attacked him for defending his mom and accused him of not caring about his sibling’s life.
In truth, I suspect that Mark Ruffalo was not motivated to defend legal abortion by any fondness for the procedure as much as he desired to protect his mom and validate her decision under the very difficult situation she faced when she chose to abort. He fails to recognize that what she’s suffered came not from abortion having been illegal, but from her desperate circumstances and the abortion loss itself. He also seems to be in denial as to what the loss of his sibling means for his own life.
The healing of women who have lost children through abortion has taken precedence over trying to understand the impact of a sibling’s death on her other children. Many women who come to regret their abortion burn with a desire to outlaw abortion and keep other women from making that tragic mistake. This can often drive women to confessing their abortion to their children so that they can then be "free" to speak publicly about their pain and loss, and in some way "make up for" their abortions. They are led to believe that speaking publicly would serve the greater good.
Among those who have experienced abortion, the desire for understanding, acceptance and forgiveness from their children can be overwhelming, especially if they are still struggling with forgiveness and healing. Children who are not yet adults, however, may find it impossible to understand, accept and forgive.
For the past five years, I – along with the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal – have been offering “Entering Canaan” retreat days for siblings of aborted babies. Our groundbreaking ministry to siblings has taught us so much about their complex, varied and heart-wrenching reactions to the loss of a sibling they never knew. Their pain is often overwhelming and confusing. Faced with the reality that their sibling’s life was ended – a life of someone who, in reality, was no different than them – countless questions and emotions surface.
But often, the siblings of aborted children do not share their fears and experiences with their parents. They don’t ask them for details or explanations for fear of causing more pain to their parents. Instead, they suffer in silence. It’s noteworthy, too, that they often report having felt the absence of a family member before even learning about having had a sibling. Once it is confirmed though, they carry the burden of the lost sibling(s) and the life they imagine they would have had with them for the rest of their lives.
In recent years, women are increasingly sharing publicly that they have told their children about a prior abortion, some telling children as young as 6 or 7 years of age, and reporting that their children were "ok" with it. When I read these accounts, I know it is no more true than claiming that abortion does not hurt women. It is unrealistic to think that such knowledge will not have an effect – and likely a devastating one – on a surviving sibling.
Does that mean children should not be told? When and how could a mother reveal an abortion to her children, if at all?
I don’t profess to have all the answers, and I think that is the key here. Only God can tell you with any certainty what His will is. I don’t think there is any one answer, but I do believe that there are some guidelines and some questions every woman needs to ask herself before she divulges an abortion to her children.
What are your reasons for telling your children about your abortion? Is your desire “self” centered?
Are you telling them to relieve your own guilt and get it off of your chest?
Are you telling them to “make up” for your abortion?
Are you telling them so you can fulfill a personal desire to speak publicly?
If the answer to any of these questions is "yes,” the answer to whether you should tell them is probably "no."
The mother also must consider the ages of the surviving children. Do you really want a child – who should feel safe and carefree and be able to play happily with toys – to have the burden of knowing about an aborted sibling?
Are you healed enough to be able to take whatever is dished out to you – anger and even hatred, without becoming defensive, without breaking down?
Do you see yourself as a forgiven child of God, so that you are able to work through the issues with them and for them?
Are you ok with them not being ok? Do you realize that they likely will not share with you all the pain they are experiencing because they want to protect you from further harm?
And this is key: have you prayerfully discerned, and sought counsel or spiritual direction before making your decision?
In the end, God can and does bring good out of all things if we let Him. He is merciful to us all. That, however, does not mean that we should forge ahead with our plans without considering if they are in line with His will. Confessing an abortion to one’s children may, under many circumstances, not be in line with His will, and is sure to cause much confusion and suffering to one’s children.
Abortion hurts moms, dads, grandparents, friends, siblings, and countless others. Its impact can endure for the remainder of one’s life. Before making a decision to tell one’s children, it is crucial to have resources in place that will be needed to aid in helping children heal. But, God’s love and mercy are there for each one of us and healing is possible.
My main reason for attending this special day was to have one whole day where I thought about my brother and
prayed to him and didn’t have to push the thoughts away and get back to everyday life. Words could never express my gratitude to Lumina for hosting this “Entering Canaan” Day of Prayer and Healing for Siblings. The wisdom and courage of this post-abortion healing ministry gave me a glimpse of God’s love. — JAMS
Theresa Bonopartis is the director of the post-abortion healing program Lumina and co-developer of the “Entering Canaan” post abortion ministry model.
Note: An “Entering Canaan” sibling weekend will be taking place March 13-15, 2015 at St. Gabriel’s Retreat House in Catonsville, MD. For further information contact Theresa at email@example.com or call 877-586-4621.