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The Hidden Abortion Pain of Grandparents: A Journey from the Calvary of Traumatic Loss to the Miracle of Resurrection
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At age 19 Leann's daughter Lisa faced an unplanned pregnancy. The father of the child and his parents pressured Lisa to have an abortion. She scheduled the procedure at a nearby hospital.
"I contacted our parish priest, Fr. Dominic, on the day of my daughter's procedure. I explained the situation and Fr. Dominick immediately rushed to the hospital to try and persuade Lisa to change her mind."
Fr. Dominick gave Lisa a rosary blessed by Saint Pope John Paul. He spoke of what a gift this baby is to the family, and how loved this child and grandchild would be.
Lisa walked away from the priest in tears and went into the procedure room to allow the doctors and nurses to assist in the destruction of her unborn baby.
Leann shares her emotional devastation:
"I cannot explain the level of grief and anger that flooded my heart and soul. I was filled with rage at the hospital and all involved with the procedure. But I was especially so deeply hurt and angry at my daughter for participating in the death of her child -- of my precious grandchild."
Reaching Out from the Pain
Shortly after the abortion Leann met with Fr. Dominick. He suggested she consider a Rachel's Vineyard Weekend healing program to grieve and heal of her loss as a grandparent.
Leann agreed and reports of her experience:
"The Rachel's Vineyard Retreat was a powerful weekend of healing for me and really went to the heart of my emotional trauma and grief, and helped me to find peace and closure. I formed a number of close friendships from that experience and we remained in touch at support group meetings and social events, loving and supporting, and praying for one another."
A Miracle Unfolds
During this time Leann would pray in Eucharistic Adoration and beg Jesus to call Lisa to healing. She could see how her daughter was suffering in the aftermath of the abortion.
Six months after the abortion, Lisa's brother asked if she would be the godmother of his baby boy. This event triggered a release of her pent-up abortion pain and Lisa suffered a nervous breakdown requiring hospitalization. She recovered from the breakdown, but remained deeply wounded. Two years after the abortion she met a man with an abortion in his history. He encouraged her to consider the Rachel's Vineyard weekend, and she agreed to attend.
Leann was blessed to be able to attend the memorial service on Sunday of her daughter's retreat, when participants honor the child with a special memorial service and Mass, and entrust the children to the Lord.
When Leann opened the memorial service program and looked over the list of names of the babies being entrusted to the Lord, she knew right away the name Lisa had given her child - Dominick Leonard.
Lisa named her baby after the priest, Fr. Dominick, who reached out to her in the hospital, and after the abortion continued to reflect the love and mercy of Christ to the family.
Leann reflecting on the retreat experience:
"We know now that Dominic is alive with the Lord. We grieved and honored the child together as mother and daughter -- as mother and grandmother. This was a time of grace and healing in our relationship which had been so deeply damaged by abortion."
Validating a Hidden Grief
Catholic therapist Donna Gardner has extensive experience as a counselor and Rachel's Vineyard facilitator in the Palm Beach area of Florida. She was invited by a parish pastor to share a message of abortion healing at all the Masses offered that weekend. This particular parish has a large population of retired women and men. Donna decided to focus on a population that is often overlooked when considering the aftermath of an abortion - grandparents.
As Donna began to share her message with the parishioners, she became aware that many in the congregation where deeply moved by the acknowledgement of their grief as grandparents; she could see their eyes filling with tears and hear some openly express their pain.
I asked Donna if she was surprised that the parishioners felt comfortable publicly sharing their grief. Donna responded:
"The pastor here has worked very hard for years to establish an engaging and positive pro-life culture in his parish that includes the healing message of the Church for those wounded by abortion. This is a safe place for the parishioners to acknowledge this loss openly."
Donna went on to offer a program for abortion loss for grandparents in that parish and later was invited to share a healing message at five other parishes in the area.
You can learn more about Rachel's Vineyard weekend retreats at www.RachelsVineyard.org and grandparents and abortion loss at Silent No More Awareness
[Therapist Donna Gardner and her husband Eric are the founders of Magdalene's Joy, a non-profit Christian organization dedicated to the support, healing and restoration of men and women impacted by the harmful effects of abortion, abuses, or other hurtful life choices.]
Kevin Burke, LSW, is a pastoral associate of Priests for Life and co-founder of Rachelâ€ s Vineyard.
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