Husband & Wife Articles


 

Through Pain and Poison

Healing for a family after abortion

By Christian Meert

For eight years, we didn’t say a word about the abortion. Both of us had buried it deep within. It would have been too painful to face. But such secrets are like poison that eats away at you.

Christine had confessed her abortion right away. But initially, we couldn’t even speak about it. She despised it. The grace of the sacrament of Matrimony in 1977 must have opened the breach that allowed her conversion in 1982, the first tangible step towards healing. Still, we didn’t talk about the abortion. The poison kept working.

When our third daughter was born in 1983, Christine started experiencing panic attacks. Thinking she was going crazy, she visited a psychiatrist. After five sessions, while vacuuming the girls’ bedroom, she found a tiny naked baby doll on the carpet. Suddenly the connection was made: her panic attacks came from the abortion she had tried so hard to forget.

In 1984, right after my conversion, we joined a ministry in France called Mother of Mercy. This organization is dedicated to helping pregnant mothers who consider abortion, and to praying and fasting for them. They also help women who have experienced abortion. They suggested that we name our baby and pray to him, believing him to be in heaven. We both received the same name for our baby at the same time: Emmanuel, God with us. This proved a big step for us. The following year, I finally confessed my two abortions in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Grace was working its way within us, little by little.

We needed to face the fact that abortion had not only affected us, but also our children, especially our first-born. Mathilde was 8 years old, and experiencing a tremendous fear of separation every time we had to leave. It made her physically sick: vomiting, chills and panic attacks. Christine finally took her to a counselor. After consulting with our daughter alone, the counselor concluded that Mathilde knew something terrible had happened before she was born, and it terrified her. The counselor said, “You must tell her about the abortion, right now, in front of me.” Christine was shaken, but she did. In front of the psychologist, she painfully explained to our daughter what had happened before her birth. They were both very emotional and confused coming out of the counselor’s office so they decided to stop at a park to be able to talk more about the abortion, about Emmanuel. They ended up praying together.

After that, we told each of our daughters as soon as they were old enough to understand. This was another step on the path through the poison: we had given reality to our child. Still, we couldn’t express our pain fully. I was especially closed to talking about it. It remained too shameful for me.

A major step happened for me at a Rachel Vineyard’s retreat in 2001. During a time of intense prayer, I saw clearly in my mind two little boys, about 4 or 5 years old, sitting and playing together under a huge cedar tree. It was a very soothing sight that brought me deep peace. Christine thought she was healed because she didn’t feel anything during this retreat. Actually, she had locked away her pain so well and so deep that it couldn’t be freed just yet. It took the Child Jesus in the manger, during Christmas Mass 2010, to allow her to cry for the first time for Emmanuel. Even then, I couldn’t stand talking about the abortion or listening to what she had to say about it.

Last year, 2014, we decided to write our story. Christine started writing in the present tense, which made her relive the whole experience so intensely that she had to stop and ask for the help of a counselor. He is helping her now untie all the knots and freeing the pain. I also visit with the counselor, sharing my wife’s pain, visiting her pain with her, and together letting all the tears and suffering come out.

For our family, healing doesn’t mean forgetting. It means being able to feel pain, share suffering, and support each other on our path through the poison.

Christian Meert is the co-founder of CatholicMarriagePrep.com. He lives in Colorado with his wife, Christine.