On today’s episode of The Healing Network Live, Teresa Shepard of Healing Our Hearts reminds us that abortion healing is a lifelong journey.
Teresa was invited to attend Support After Abortion’s Healing Network Virtual Conference in July of 2020. Truly impacted by the wealth of knowledge shared at the conference (see the subheading: Teresa Shares More on Abortion Healing for more details), Teresa decided to sign up for a Support After Abortion Virtual Support Group on codependency.
Teresa shares, “You might be codependent if you have trouble saying no to people, if you find yourself being everyone’s everything, if you control others or you allow others to control you, and if you find yourself in relationships with someone suffering from addiction.” When asked if she believes there might be a connection between codependency and abortion, Teresa responds with a resounding “Yes,” and shares her abortion experience as evidence.
Teresa’s abortion experience dates back to when she was 19 years old and found herself pregnant. She didn’t realize it at the time, but her circumstances screamed codependency—she was in a relationship where she lacked the inner strength to make her own decisions and instead allowed others to make them for her. She cared so much about what others thought that she often did everything in her power not to disappoint or to do anything that might warrant abandonment.
As she reflects on the details of her abortion experience, Teresa remembers being scared. She didn’t want to disappoint her parents or even her boyfriend’s parents. When her boyfriend suggested an abortion, Teresa complied. While Teresa doesn’t remember most of the details surrounding her experience, she does remember the cold feeling that permeated the entire experience. The first thing she was instructed to do when she walked into the center was to pay for her abortion. No one talked to her. She felt invisible and all alone. She was transferred from room to room before finally settling in the procedure room. She remembers the doctor entering with a mask and saying nothing. It was an extremely difficult and scary experience, and everyone seemed so far removed. Compassion was lacking. It was strictly a business transaction and one in which customer satisfaction was not a priority.
Teresa remembers finding herself in a hallway after the procedure. In her hands were a cookie and a juice. Other women lined the hallway, sitting in the cold, hard chairs crying. Teresa was numb. She felt nothing. After 20 minutes, she was escorted out the door and sent on her way. Teresa shares that she and her boyfriend never spoke of the abortion. Instead, she remembers staring out the window on the car ride home. She vividly remembers the rolling cornfields outside her window. She remembers how they blurred together and faded into the background—an interesting visual for how she would learn to cope with her abortion experience.
Years later, Teresa married her boyfriend. She recounts her obsession with having a child and the pressure it put on her marriage. Like many women who experience an abortion, this desire for an atonement baby or replacement baby is very common. Teresa shares,[tm_blockquote design_style=”blockquote-style1″ text_font_style=”italic” text_font_weight=”” footer_cite_font_weight=”” border_left_theme_colored=”no” quote_icon_theme_colored=”no” footer_cite_theme_colored=”no” text=”Because I had killed my baby, I thought a way of righting the situation or making up for what I did was by having another child. I felt that if I could do it again, I wouldn’t make the same mistake.”]However, this obsession left her husband feeling like all she wanted from him was a baby. Once she got what she wanted, he felt she no longer needed him. Her husband’s feelings, paired with Teresa’s struggles to connect with her baby, put an added strain on their relationship. Teresa remembers struggling to connect with the baby for which she had so desperately longed. She remembers the overwhelming guilt of her previous abortion and how she felt that at any moment she might breakdown. Her beautiful atonement baby was a powerful trigger due to her unhealed abortion experience. As many relationships impacted by abortion often do, her marriage ended in divorce. Teresa shares that since the abortion, there had been a wall between them. Because they had never discussed it and never sought healing, there was constant pain and a continuous struggle to deny that pain since the abortion was something upon which they had both agreed. For years they went through the motions, never once addressing the elephant in the room.
Healing came for Teresa when she was seeing a counselor for an eating disorder. For the first time, she vulnerably spoke of her abortion. Years of stuffed emotions finally broke through the surface. Although she was connected with an organization that didn’t specialize in abortion recovery, she was introduced to a woman who was divinely placed in her life—setting her up with the appropriate steps for her healing. Teresa recounts the freedom and release in finally being able to name her baby and lay her at the precious feet of Jesus.
Teresa Shares More on Abortion Healing
What did you find most valuable about July’s Support After Abortion Virtual Conference? Why might you encourage someone to attend the October conference?
The experience was invaluable. It is impossible to choose one thing I found most valuable because the entire experience was a blessing. I blocked off a full week for the conference so that I could be fully engaged. I was amazed at how everything I could ever need was all in one place. I had access to some of the “big names” in the industry, and thanks to the live-booth feature, I was able to ask questions and get responses. The content shared was incredible. The research, statistics, and personal testimonies were so impactful. I found myself furiously taking notes and jotting down recommended books and resources. (I should add that my Amazon window was open on my screen, and with each click, my professional library grew!) I encourage anyone in the ministry, any clergy members, and anyone who has been impacted by abortion to attend the October conference. As a premium pass holder member, I have gone back numerous times to review content more thoroughly and strongly advise anyone attending in October to upgrade to this option.
Why are you such an advocate for virtual groups for healing?
During this season of Covid-19, virtual healing groups have been such a blessing. I’ve been amazed at how women from all over the United States and potentially even the world, can connect within a platform. It’s a beautiful thing to see people coming together and vulnerably sharing without judgment and complete authenticity. I’m amazed at the friendships and relationships that have been built.
How do you anticipate transitioning back to face-to-face healing groups?
I don’t anticipate that the relationships made in the virtual groups will dissolve. Because so much was shared in such a safe environment, authentic connections were made. In such an age of technology, Facebook groups, texts, and emails can facilitate and maintain communication.
As the founder of Our Healing Hearts, Teresa wanted to offer Rachel’s Vineyard Retreats as part of the healing program for her clients. Although she considered herself healed, much like the codependency group mentioned previously, she decided to experience a retreat for herself. By placing herself in the shoes of her clients, she felt she would be equipped to serve her clients and meet them where they are. Teresa describes her Rachel’s Vineyard experience as monumental, taking her to a whole new level of healed.
Teresa is truly an advocate for lifelong healing. She believes that healed people heal people. She is continuously enrolling in healing programs because she feels that for her to be able meet people where they are, she needs to walk through their door first. Through this process, God continues to bless her and magnify her level of healing. Each time parts of her once-hidden secret are brought into the light, stuffed feelings are released in non-judgmental environments and productive discussions result. Each step of her personal journey of healing is used for a greater purpose—whether it be in her own life or in the lives of those she serves.
If you or someone you know is struggling after abortion, you are not alone.