“I accidentally came across my daughter’s medical report from her psychiatrist. The report stated that my daughter is struggling with guilt and shame from an abortion. I’m not sure if I should ask her about it as this might push her away from me. What should I do?”
It’s tough being a parent sometimes. You care, yet you’re afraid of doing or saying something that might push your child away.
Begin with an honest evaluation: How is your relationship with your daughter?
Do you usually have heart-to-heart talks with your daughter? Does she let you into her life and update you on happenings in her life? Or do your conversations mostly hover on shallow ground – such as how good the food is or what’s showing on TV?
What’s holding her back from telling you about her abortion experience?
Parents might feel hurt or even betrayed when their daughters hide the truth about their pregnancy and subsequent abortion from them.
There are several reasons why a woman would keep the abortion secret. From speaking with women with similar experiences with abortion, I’ve found several reasons we had in common:
For many years, I couldn’t even verbalise the word ‘abortion’, let alone tell anyone else about the experience. Telling the story was akin to reliving every moment of it – too painful to bear. For many of us, we’d rather bury it inside us and try to move on with life.
Women who struggle with the pain of abortion are likely to also be shrouded in shame. They think that they have done something grievous and are fearful of what people would think of them.
“I think my parents will kill me.”
“If they see who I really am and know what I’ve done, will they still love me?”
Many women feel that they are rendered unworthy of love after having an abortion. They may even find it hard to love themselves. Living on an empty love tank, the common side-effects include being fearful of what people may think of them and withdrawing from their usual social circles.
Does that give you a sense of what your daughter might be going through right now?
Here are some practical suggestions on what you can do:
What’s your daughter’s love language?
Does your daughter feel most appreciated when you assure her with your words or when you spend quality time with her? What if what she needs most is a comforting pat on the shoulder from time to time?
Gary Chapman wrote a book on the five love languages which I’ve found very helpful.
Why not begin by figuring out your daughter’s love language and be intentional in loving her in the way she feels love. In all things, begin with love.
Love has the power to soften hardened hearts. Love comforts, and it tears down the walls that keep us hurting in isolation.
Your assuring love – shown whether in words or in action – will give her the security she needs, to know deep within her that you are there and will be there for her, in spite what she has done.
As she receives your love, the walls between you and her will begin to crumble.
Her heart will slowly soften towards you. Pray and wait for an opportunity to talk to her about the abortion.
This opportunity may come a few months later, or it may take a few years. No matter how long it’d take, keep loving her in a language she understands.
Be gentle with her as she is very broken inside. Show her lots of grace. She may appear cold and withdrawn towards you. She may be quick to anger. But please do not give up loving her.
It is crucial that you deal with your hurt. A good heart-to-heart talk with your daughter will not be easy if you too are hurting.
You may feel hurt and betrayed that your daughter did not come to you for help when she needed it. You may even question if you’ve been a good parent. Don’t be too hard on yourself.
Forgiveness is the master key towards healing. Choose to forgive both your daughter and yourself.
When the opportunity to speak to her arises, what would you say?
Be very gentle with her. Assure her many times that she is loved by you, regardless of what she had done.
Tell her you saw the medical report lying on her table accidentally. Tell her you didn’t mean to pry into her life. Apologise for chancing upon that medical report.
You might want to ask for her forgiveness for not being there for her when she needed you, for not being the parent whom she could open up to. Assure her again that she is loved and that you do not judge her.
Let her know that it is possible to walk out of this pain one day.
She may not believe it at that moment because of the intense pain. She may feel like she is in a deep, dark pit with no hope of ever getting out.
Encourage her with stories of women who have walked out of this pain. Make a commitment to journey with her and let her know that she does not have to suffer alone in silence.
Lastly, you might want to start by rehearsing in your mind how you would talk to your daughter so that you would not be caught off guard when the opportunity arises.