AFTER ABORTION GUIDE
5 Next Steps for Supportive Friends
By reading this resource, ITWY hopes to guide you with a basic understanding of walking alongside a female or male friend who has been impacted by abortion as they search for healing. This could benefit you now if you know someone struggling with a past abortion, or it could prepare you for a time when a friend will open up to you in the future.
Below are a few Next Steps to guide you in encouraging your friend…
ITWY does not work with individuals one on one. So if you need immediate 24/7 help, you can reach out to our friends at OptionLine, call 1-800-712-4357, text “HELPLINE” to 313131, or click here for a live online chat.
With that said, ITWY and this resource are by no means the authority on emotionally and/or spiritually working through issues triggered by an abortion. Rather, our humble perspective is offered with hopes that it will benefit those who are suffering, even if they do not share our perspective. ITWY’s resources are works in progress, so if you have any feedback on this resource, please share your thoughts here.
STEP 1 – Understand the Pressures Your Friend is Potentially Facing
The experience of life after an abortion can be difficult for many women and men to deal with. Though they might say they don’t struggle with their past abortion, many say they do. This struggle could even be years old. Your friend may be struggling with a number of the issues below:
Challenging Emotions – Many people report an increase of challenging emotions after their abortion, whether it be depression, anxiety, grief, regret, numbness, and many others which can vary in intensity. Read this “Me Too” resource to learn more about how people may experience life after an abortion.
Shame, Stigma, and Secrecy – Even among those who claim no faith, many with an abortion story can be overwhelmed by shame because of the stigma that can be associated with abortion. This shame and fear of being labeled with this stigma can influence many to be very secretive about their abortion experience. This secrecy motivated by shame can lead to emotional and social isolation. You need to be aware that your friend might have an innate fear that you will judge and label them or perhaps even distance yourself because of their abortion history.
Conviction and God – If your friend is a person of faith, they may have strong spiritual convictions about God’s view on abortion and their responsibility to make amends with God after an abortion. While conviction is not bad, conviction can be a heavy process for an individual to walk with and work through with God, which will be important for you to be aware of.
Political Wars and Wounding – With the political discussion and effort surrounding abortion often being so argumentative and warlike, many people with abortion stories become the unknown collateral damage of the political war. As hurtful words or shame tactics are used by both sides to wage war against the other, it is often the people with the abortion experience who get caught up in the middle and are damaged the most. Be sensitive that your friend could be negatively impacted by much of the political dialogue in today’s news and culture.
STEP 2 – Understand Your Role as a Simple Friend
If a friend or loved one has confided in you about their past abortion, they are sharing from a very deep and vulnerable place of their heart. Honor your friend for their bravery. You might be the person they trust most in the world.
As a friend, it is important to know that you are NOT their counselor, therapist, doctor, or savior, but you do have an important role. You are a friend with a responsibility to listen, encourage, be present and love your friend who is working through a tough heart issue. You are not responsible for healing, convicting, or changing your friend. Rather, you are responsible for simply loving them and encouraging them in their journey. Step 5 demonstrates more of the specifics of what this can practically look like.
STEP 3 – Point Your Friend to Specialized Organizations
While you are not responsible for healing your friend, you may have the opportunity to encourage them to take healthy steps toward healing. If they are open to suggestions, you can help point your friend to the resources and organizations listed below:
In This With You – ITWY has some good resources that would be helpful for your friend to visit our site and read through.
SaveOne – SaveOne helps men and women suffering from a past abortion through the establishment of local “chapters” that walk through a Bible-based healing small group process. These are safe and nonjudgmental groups of other people who have also experienced abortion. Look on their site to see if they have a chapter in your area.
Rachel’s Vineyard – This organization offers weekend retreats for post-abortive people with a focus on spiritual healing and restoration. Look on their site for more info and for a local retreat.
Find a Counselor – Regularly seeing a professional counselor is a great way to take steps toward restoration. Below are two specific pathways to consider when selecting a counselor. As you contact a perspective counselor, be sure to find out if they have experience in working with clients through this subject.
- Focus on the Family’s Christian Counselors Network – FOTF has a great network of certified Christian counselors.
- Through a Local Church – Many churches have counselors on staff. You can do a quick Google search to find the websites of local churches in your area and then scan their websites to find a phone number to call to inquire of their potential assistance.
OptionLine – If you are looking for an immediate anonymous person to person conversation, OptionLine offers several hotline options. To start a helpful conversation with a real person, you can chat online, text HELPLINE to 313131, or call 1-800-712-4357.
CARE Directory – This site gives an online listing by zip code of possible additional local resources for abortion recovery.
Books – The following are books and/or Bible studies that are available read to spiritually process their past abortion: Her Choice to Heal: Finding Spiritual and Emotional Peace After Abortion, SaveOne: A Guide to Emotional Healing After Abortion (Also a Men’s Edition), Surrendering the Secret, Forgiven and Set Free, Healing a Father’s Heart: A Post-Abortion Bible Study for Men
STEP 4 – Read the Stories of People with This Experience
Reading the stories of people who have experienced spiritual healing after an abortion can help you better understand, gain perspective, and love your friend. So please take some time to read the linked stories to see how God has worked in the lives of other people going through this experience like your friend.
STEP 5 – Quick Points to Being A Loving Friend
You might be wondering what walking with your friend actually looks like. Listed below are some suggestions of small adjustments to make to be a safe person for your friend. When in doubt, listen and love.
Be a Listener More than a Talker – Your main role as a friend of someone who is struggling after their past abortion is to listen. You are not there to fix your friend. You are simply there to listen and love. Listening is crucial to the healing process, and as a supportive friend that is your role. You might be wondering how to listen well on such a sensitive subject. With that in mind, take a look at this “how to” article on active listening to prepare you for the conversations that you will have with your friend.
Do Not Voice Your Judgments – Abortion is a controversial subject in society with lots of opinions. You might have some strong convictions yourself and even anger for those who think or have acted in a way different from your feelings. While your feelings are valid, your friend needs grace and compassion, not a moral debate. Have the self-control and caution in speaking from a place that is motivated by conflicting emotions within you. Reflect a nonjudgmental attitude and gracious communication to provide a safe place for your friend to be honest.
Be Very Cautious about Offering Advice – There might be times for you to speak a word of advice to your friend, but be cautious especially if your friend hasn’t given you permission to give them advice. But if you do feel strongly about the need to offer a word of advice, be sure to ask your friend for permission first by saying, “I know this is a sensitive subject that I don’t have experience in, but do I have permission to give you my humble opinion?” If you ever are in doubt of speaking up, default back to just listening and loving them.
Own Your Mistakes – Inevitably, you will makes mistakes in things you say or do when walking with your friend. So saying a simple “I’m sorry for not doing _______ well. I want to get better for you in the future.” can go a long way in creating a helpful emotional atmosphere for a friend. Apologizing and owning your places of failure doesn’t make you weak. Rather, it makes you a stronger and safer person to be around.
Take Care of Yourself – Walking with your friend will likely have difficult moments and bring up hard questions to process. Because of this, it is important for you to be aware of your own needs as well. There might be moments when it will be better to graciously inform your friend that you need time to reflect, pray, and process before you respond to them in the moment. For a resource on spiritually processing hard emotions resulting from a loved one’s abortion, you can order the book The Ripple Effect from SaveOne.
Do Not Gossip – If your friend opens up to you, it means they trust you. That means you must be careful to keep what they tell you private unless they give you permission to share. Abortion often carries a lot of social shame with it, so it would be quite destructive if they found out you had shared their story with another person.
Love By Doing the Small Things – Because people who have had an abortion in their past often struggle with depression, self-hatred, and many other hard emotions, they need to be regularly reminded that they are loved and valued. A simple way to love your friend in this critical time is to understand their love languages. This could be inviting them over for dinner, going on a camping trip, sending a random encouraging text message, baking them their favorite cookies, giving them long hugs when you see them, or watching their favorite movie with them. If you don’t know your friend’s love language, ask them what they need and then be that for them. These small gestures of love will go a long way!
Pray – You may believe that your friend’s journey is not just emotional but deeply spiritual as well.Therefore, a great way to love your friends can be spending time in prayer for them. In addition, praying with your friend in person can be beneficial if they are open to it. This is an amazing way to help your friend in their journey as God greatly desires to show His grace, love, and healing to those who have had a abortion in their past. As we pray, their heart is opened for God’s healing presence! You can even set a weekly reminder on your phone to pray for your friend!
Be There for the Long Journey – The wound after an abortion can be deep and won’t likely heal quickly. Being a friend might require many emotional conversations, long hugs, and small loving acts over the course of months. As someone who is supporting your friend in the healing journey, your ability to remain consistent, patient, and compassionate are vital. Again, you are not responsible to heal you friend, but you do have the ability to love them well and walk with them on this journey.
Can You Help ITWY?
- FAQ Resource Help – ITWY desires to put together a Frequently Asked Questions resource in the future for those walking through the struggle after an abortion. Go here to submit as many questions as you can think of that women, men, and their friends would have when journeying after a past abortion.
- Feedback – Do you have any feedback for ITWY on how this resource can improve? Click here to submit encouragement, constructive criticism, and/or suggestions.