“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.” These were the words shared with me by Anne who came seeking help because she overheard a conversation of her mom’s speaking about a past abortion.
Anne did not know what to do to help, and her personal emotions were all over the place. She went from feeling sorry for her mom who she knew was suffering greatly, to feelings of anger, confusion, and guilt for being alive.
She did not want to approach her mom who was already suffering, but she knew she needed to express her own pain. She felt alone and isolated in her feelings and was looking for a place where someone would understand what she was going through, while at the same time, not judge her mother who she loved and felt she needed to protect.
Anne is not alone. With over 57 million abortions in our country, there are millions of Anne’s who have lost a sibling to abortion. Some have found out without their parent's knowledge. Some have been told and others just have a sense that someone is missing.
Andrew, who had always longed for an older brother had these words to say when his mom told 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 the course of my life.”
Many siblings of aborted babies have expressed similar experiences, an “always knowing” that someone was missing and a fitting together of the pieces of their lives once this crucial information was brought to light. Still, when and if to tell a sibling needs to be carefully discerned.
Telling a child to relieve oneself of the secret, or believing once you have told them it is the end of it, is very shortsighted. To have a child tell you, “you are forgiven," does not mean it is not impacting their life any less than it has impacted yours. Just because they may not share their feelings does not mean a sibling is not struggling. In fact, it would not be normal if they were not going through some issues surrounding the abortion. Often, children do not share with the parents because they do not want to add more grief to someone they love who is already suffering greatly.
“It was right after my mother’s abortion that I began to feel unwanted by my parents, even though I knew they loved me and had always cared for me. I couldn’t help but feel that I needed to be worthy of their love, that I needed to somehow justify having been allowed to be born.” ~Magaly
The reality of being alive when your sibling is not is difficult to grasp. Although the abortion most times has nothing to do with the living sibling born before or after the procedure, there is still a sense of, “Why am I here and my sibling is not? Would I even be here if that baby was born? Would my name be the same?”
Countless questions surface with no place to go to 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 on them. I could not understand why my mom would assume that I might not love my aborted sibling just as much.”
In the midst of all the suffering however, is the mercy of God. Finding a place to go to release the pain and learn the dynamics surrounding the abortion and its application to their life, as well as the dignity of their own life, who God knew “before they were born” will aide their healing. God will never be outdone, but can transform this intense suffering into peace and joy for a family fragmented by abortion, drawing them closer, not only to one another but to Him.
“Facing my grief’s power meant facing the fact that I, like my aborted sibling, was vulnerable to my parents and family—not vulnerable to the point of physical death, but vulnerable to the point of rejection on the grounds of my obstinate obsession.
The Entering Canaan Sibling Retreat was a turning point in my life. The day’s gentle, intent pace; Eucharistic focus, and intimate setting allowed time to stop and expand, encompassing both the pain of the past and hope for the future. It was so strange and deeply comforting to be in a place where the central spiritual wound of my life was acknowledged and soothed, not idolized, but transformed through a call to acceptance, forgiveness, healing, and celebration of my youngest sibling’s brief life on earth and eternal life in Heaven, where she or he now intercedes before the face of God for the healing of my whole family.
Now I know that this wound I bear is becoming like Christ’s wounds: welling up with God’s love so that everyone – my mother, father, all my siblings, and the generations before and after us – may be drawn to Him.” ~A