Post Abortion Trauma (PAT)
By Rev. Denise Walker
Each year approximately 1.2 million abortions are performed in the United States. According to U. S. News1 42% of women under the age of 48 have had at least one abortion, experience tremendous sorrow, yet it takes an average of 10 years before they seek help. Why is that?
The decision to abort is full of complexities and the initial feeling of relief after the abortion is common. However, as that feeling subsides, it is replaced with emotional distress that has come to be known as post abortion trauma. The wound abortion inflicts is very deep. “Some [post-abortive people] manage their emotions for years before seeking help. Others find themselves completely incapacitated...”2 Unlike other stress, PAT is not a fleeting, momentary feeling of the blues. Post abortion trauma is the deeper, penetrating and lasting feeling that something is not quite right; that something is very wrong.
The symptoms of PAT vary widely as does the intensity of the trauma. It manifests via many different behaviors and thinking patterns that at first glance seem totally unrelated. PAT masquerades as "other issues". The wound is real, often buried deep, often unrecognizable, but its there. It is like a cancer, eating away the inner life and peace of the post-abortive person They may include any combination of the following:
- Depression, isolation
- Suicidal thoughts
- Shame, poor self image
- Emotional numbness
- Anxiety, fearfulness, or panic
- Anger, rage
- Nightmares, flashbacks
- Avoidance of any reminders of the abortion, or babies, or pregnant women
- Annual mood swings around anniversary of abortion or baby’s due date
- Fear of pregnancy
- Atonement baby: pregnancy to replace the aborted child
- Eating disorders
- Alcohol or other substance abuse
- Unhealthy, unstable relationships
- Sexual promiscuity, sexual disorders
- Problems bonding with opposite sex, children
- Over protectiveness of children
- Excessive shopping, workaholism, churchaholism
- Perfectionism: perfect parent, perfect spouse, etc.
- Pro-life work
- Pro-choice work
To cope, most men and women either deny that a child was lost, or, they try to dismiss the pain and just “forget” about it. However, secretly they know in their heart that what was lost was not just a “blob of tissue” but a baby, causing distress. Because of their decision, they feel that they have no right to grieve. But they do grieve. They grieve silently, often subconsciously and alone, while guarding the unspeakable secret. They grieve without the means to heal, have closure, and be made whole again.
The good news is that there is hope!
There is healing!
There is restoration!
If you or someone you know has had an abortion or been a party to an abortion and is experiencing any of these symptoms, we are here to help. You can be completely healed from the pain of a past abortion, experience closure and the freedom to live a new life. Although you cannot erase the past, you can overcome it. Give us a call 763-560-8383 for more information about our upcoming support groups. All inquiries are strictly confidential.
1 U. S. News, January 19, 1998
2 Mark Kretschmar, Post-Abortion Trauma, 2000
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