Post-Abortion Support

Letting Go of Anger

Here’s a fun topic…ANGER. Who wants to talk about that? I do! Not really, but we’re gonna give it a shot anyway. We’ve all felt it…the sudden rise in our blood pressure, the feel of our face getting warmer, our muscles tightening, our breathing accelerating until we finally explode. Anger, it’s ugly. Sometimes very ugly, but we’ve all felt it. There are those moments of anger where self-control gets lost and we explode due to the circumstances. The pressure is released and we begin to pick up the pieces of what’s left in the wake of our storm of anger. But that is a whole other blog topic.

There is another type of anger that isn’t always talked about. It’s not momentary, but rather, long lasting. It’s the type that sticks with you, hardens your heart over the years and changes you. This type of anger lies to you. Makes you believe relationships and decisions don’t matter. Before you know it, you’re living a life of justifications and bitterness towards life circumstances.

Last weekend, I met a couple whose journey and pain touched my heart deeply. During our Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat (a retreat for those struggling with the emotional, mental and spiritual effects of abortion), the retreatants participate in an activity to help them explore and identify with their anger. They might be angry with themselves or someone who took part in their abortion decision. They may not even know why they are angry but through the activity, we get to drill down and work on these strong emotions. This is where my experience on the journey with this couple took a turn I will never forget. The husband…successful in his career, big and strong, loving to his wife, and ready to deal with emotions he’d stuffed for years, broke my heart and gave me hope as we walked through this activity together.

The goal was to release the anger, to give it to God and find freedom from chains that have held him hostage for so long. He was asked to pick three people in the group and express his anger to each of them. He hesitated as the awkwardness of this request set in. As trust took over, he began to move to the first person around the circle, said his piece and moved on to the next. The third person was me. I stood up, looked him straight in the eye and took it as he delivered his message of pain and anger, “Why did you help me kill my babies?”

I felt the anger, the bitterness, but I also felt the deep regret of this man’s heart, the pain of living years with sorrow for a decision made out of fear and haste. A life with questions that have gone unanswered, “What if…”. It was a punch to my gut. My eyes could not hide the pain I felt for this man. I wanted to look away in shame and guilt, but I held my gaze into his eyes for just a few more seconds until he made his way back to his seat.

But it wasn’t over…he was now asked to go back to those same three people and release them. Again, he started one by one, and as he reached me once again, I stood up and looked him in the eyes as he said, “I forgive you.” With all gentleness, pureness of heart, and love, he said, “I forgive you.”

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:31-32

We live in a world angry about a lot of things. We are fed anger by the media and through other social experiences. God has asked; required us to let go of such things, even when we feel justified. For bitterness grows in the soil of justification and it will poison our souls. It gets in the way of God’s plans for your life. Therefore, anger must be released and dealt with in a Godly way. What would happen if…

  • we focused more on forgiveness than judgement?
  • we chose to forgive rather than live in justification?
  • we allowed ourselves to experience the vulnerability of forgiveness and grew in hope, love and peace?

That is what forgiveness did for this man. After blessing each of us with forgiveness, he was asked how that practice made him feel. With tears in his eyes he looked up and said, “I feel free.”

Lord, I pray that this message speaks to the heart of anyone living with anger in their hearts. That they hear your voice calling them to freedom from their anger, bitterness and hurt. Lord make us vulnerable to one another, allowing our hearts to reveal compassion and safety for each other. We cannot live the life you created us for holding on to anger. Lord, heal us and help us. In your name, Amen.
Bridgehaven: Chelsey

Chelsey McDill

Executive Director

The Invisible Among Us

I had been a part of the Bridgehaven staff for nearly two and a half years when the Lord began to gently guide me into the hidden rooms of my heart. Rooms with doors that had been locked, sealed off, darkened over time until they were no longer even acknowledged. Not forgotten, mind you, just easier and easier to ignore.

As I began to learn more and more about the women we serve, I became aware of a class that was offered several times a year. It took place after hours, when most had gone home. There was anonymity in the air…one light in the building would softly glow for a few hours more. It was a Post-Abortive Support (PAS) Bible Study.

At my two year mark, I began to feel a growing uneasiness that comes from keeping your abortion a secret while working at a pro-life pregnancy support center. And just as quickly as God began to awaken this call for me to come forward, the enemy began to undermine, whispering familiar messages about my shamefulness, my hypocrisy, my inadequacy. Contrary to what I knew of the hearts of those I worked with, I was taunted with messages like, “If they knew, they would not have hired you. If you tell them, how could they possibly allow you to keep working here, especially with teens!”
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Suffering into Hope

A little over a month ago, I was one of the five facilitation team members on our Rachel’s Vineyard retreat who was blessed to be able to witness how God can transform our deep suffering and pain into hope. Throughout three short days, we had four men and women who entered into the retreat opportunity full of heartache, shame, pain, and suffering they had been carrying around for many years from their past abortion experiences. During the weekend, they invested themselves fully in relying on Christ to guide them through each step of the intentional and purposeful healing process based on scripture. God has promised, “I will never leave you or forsake you…” (Heb. 3:15) — He will never allow us to go through our pain alone.

On the third day of the retreat, there is a very special time and moment that happens for the retreat participants through the honoring of the children they lost through abortion. It is a time and space in which the light comes back into their lives, the darkness is banished away, and the hope they never thought possible to get back, is instilled into their hearts again.
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Let the Healing Begin

“The environment was completely free of condemnation and judgment…I have never felt such acceptance, understanding and grace. It was incredibly powerful to just be accepted and, for once, be unashamed of who I am.”

“I was nervous and thought of many excuses not to face my fear. I followed God’s prompting to be open to this experience and he showed me unmeasurable faith and love.”

There is so much happening in the world around us right now. There are a lot of opinions, perspectives, and actions being taken. Regardless of what thoughts and opinions you have, I think we can all agree no one should have to suffer, or feel alone on their various healing journeys. However, there are still many, many, many people who do feel this way, especially when there are numerous triggers around them. They may not know what to think or feel, and may even become re-traumatized by hurtful things they see or hear. Both of the quotes you read above are from some very brave and courageous previous Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat participants. They both decided it was time for them to not suffer alone any longer and wanted to be in a space that allowed them to heal from their past abortion experiences.
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Transformation and Hope

Never. Lose. Hope.
Transformation and hope. These two words encompass the immense and positive impact the Rachel’s Vineyard retreat had on all of those who took part in this healing opportunity Bridgehaven offered this past weekend. The participants came with different backgrounds, different ages, and different stories, but they all came with an open heart and mind which allowed the Holy Spirit to work in each of them in such an incredible way.

At the beginning of their journeys, they were filled with fear, anxiety, guilt, shame, anger, denial, and the inability to forgive themselves in regards to their past pregnancy decisions. Each of them came to a point in their lives where they were able to courageously reach out and accept an opportunity which could bring about the start of their journey to healing.

This journey to healing is never a completely smooth and easy one, no matter what you may need healing for. The same goes for this retreat experience. There are parts of the retreat weekend that may feel too much to bear; that maybe it would just be easier to give up and run from everything that is painful. But then something miraculous occurs…
There is unmistakable breakthrough.
There are glimpses of understanding.
There is profound joy.
There is abundant relief.
There is hope, when it seemed as though all hope was lost, for immeasurable amounts of time.
There are overwhelming feelings, which cannot be fully expressed in words, but there is knowledge that whatever these feelings may be, they are good and true.

These things are just mere glimpses of the goodness I was blessed to witness in each of the participants this weekend. The brokenness, which they felt upon entering the weekend, was so evidently transformed. You could see the broken pieces of themselves being sculpted back together again to rebuild a strong foundation in who God has created them to be. They left the weekend starting to regain their genuine smiles, knowing they are forgiven by God, and with the hope that they could begin to forgive themselves. They experienced freedom from those emotions which keep them stuck in thinking they are unworthy, or undeserving, and regained the beautiful gift of hope.

I wanted to leave you with the lyrics to the song titled Mended by Matthew West because I feel it speaks so clearly about how God works through the Rachel’s Vineyard retreat. Please continue lifting up in prayer those who experienced this past weekend in such a powerful way, and for those who may be struggling with a past abortion decision, that they can courageously reach out to find the help they need.

How many times can one heart break?
It was never supposed to be this way
Look in the mirror, but you find someone you never thought you’d be…
Oh, but I can still recognize
The one I love in your tear stained eyes
I know you might not see him now, so lift your eyes to me…

When you see broken beyond repair
I see healing beyond belief
When you see too far gone
I see one step away from home…
When you see nothing but damaged goods
I see something good in the making
I’m not finished yet
When you see wounded, I see mended…

You see your worst mistake
But I see the price I paid
There’s nothing you could ever do, to lose what grace has won…
So hold on, it’s not the end
No, this is where love’s work begins
I’m making all things new
And I will make a miracle of you…

When you see broken beyond repair
I see healing beyond belief
When you see too far gone
I see one step away from home…
When you see nothing but damaged goods
I see something good in the making
I’m not finished yet
When you see wounded, I see mended…

I see my child, my beloved
The new creation you’re becoming
You see the scars from when you fell
But I see the stories they will tell…
You see worthless, I see priceless
You see pain, but I see a purpose
You see unworthy, undeserving
But I see you through eyes of mercy…

When you see broken beyond repair
I see healing beyond belief
You’re not too far gone
You’re one step away from home…
When you see nothing but damaged goods
I see something good in the making
I’m not finished yet, no
When you see wounded, I see mended…

Haley BrimmerHaley Brimmer, Director of Client Advocacy

Director of Client Advocacy

If We’re Honest…

honestyThe song, If We’re Honest, by Francesca Battistelli has recently popped up in various conversations I have been having with others. The lyrics have such a powerful message in them, yet it can be difficult to fully grasp and embrace. The message of vulnerability comes with honesty. Honesty can be such a beautiful and wonderful thing when coming from a pure heart, but fear of vulnerability can paralyze healing and growth in very significant ways.

What are some of the reasons we aren’t honest with ourselves? Does fear become so crippling that it keeps us from moving forward? Does life pass us by in a rush causing us not to discern what may be really going on? Does the possibility of change threaten the dynamics of a relationship, or does it have the potential to run the risk of offending others?

With Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat, a post-abortion healing weekend hosted by Bridgehaven, occurring in less than a month, this song causes me to reflect on the strength and courage it takes for someone to be vulnerable and honest when there is an abortion in their past. Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat is designed to help men and women make the connection between present emotional stress to the past abortion; to rectify wounds and stress through a guided healing. Perhaps you have buried that decision and those feelings so deep that it’s been too painful to become aware of, or you have sought healing in some ways, but are still experiencing some symptoms.

While your experience after abortion is unique to you, there are common signs that abortion has caused emotional and mental stress. You may not experience all of these symptoms, and they may not appear all together. Sometimes people experience post-abortion stress immediately after abortion. However, other times symptoms do not surface for days, weeks, months, or even years following the procedure. Some symptoms1 of post abortion stress can include:

  • Guilt
  • Self-destructive behaviors such as eating disorders, alcohol and/or substance abuse, abusive relationships, promiscuity
  • Re-experiencing events related to the abortion such as memories or nightmares
  • Anxiety that leads to headaches, dizziness, pounding heart, abdominal cramps, muscle tightness, difficulty sleeping (It is important to pay attention to what your body and emotions may be trying to tell you)
  • Psychological numbing – your unconscious vows never to let anything hurt this badly again hampers your ability to enjoy an emotional, intimate relationship
  • Depression, which reveals itself through deep sadness, sudden and uncontrollable crying, poor self-concept, sleep and appetite disturbances, loss of normal sources of pleasure, even thoughts of suicide
  • Preoccupation with becoming pregnant again, an unconscious hope of replacing the child you lost
  • Anxiety over fertility and childbearing issues, fearing that God will punish you by not letting you bear children
  • Trouble in bonding with your other children, either by being overprotective or feeling detached from them
  • Anniversary reactions such as an increase in symptoms around the time of the anniversary of the abortion, the due date of the child, or both
  • If we’re honest, some of these symptoms, you may never experience. If we’re honest, some of these symptoms, you may experience on a weekly, or daily basis. If we’re honest, there may be symptoms listed that you are experiencing and this could be the first time making a connection with what has been going on that has never made much sense to you.

    As some of the lyrics state in the song, If We’re Honest, “…mercy’s waiting on the other side, If we’re honest,…It would change our lives, It would set us free, It’s what we need to be…”
    I understand how difficult this connection can be, but please know how worthy you are and deserving of receiving healing you may be in need of. You are so valuable, cherished, and loved. There is so much hope waiting for you, beyond your imagination. Trust and have faith in such a beautiful truth.

    1Healing the Hurt, Teri K. Reisser, M.S., M.F.T and Paul C. Reisser, M.D., Focus on the Family publication.

    Haley BrimmerHaley Brimmer, Director of Client Advocacy

    Director of Client Advocacy

A Place to Heal

RV blog
Women facing a pregnancy decision choose abortion for many reasons; a child might complicate their lives and relationships, it is just not part of their plan for the future, or they are feeling strong emotions such as fear and shame (just to name a few). If she chooses to abort her child, often times there can be an initial sense of relief. She might feel as though she has solved her problem and life can go on. However, as time goes by, women, men and others involved with the decision can experience feelings of guilt, anxiety, emotional numbness and more. In many cases, years and years after the abortion, a person can still feel the effects and see the path of pain that has followed them throughout their lives. So many people experiencing this pain are silent. You would not know about the abortion from their past by looking at them or even getting to know them. There may not be anyone that knows and they are alone in their pain. Because there is often a reluctance to talk to anyone about what has happened, it makes it challenging to reach and help those who need healing.

Bridgehaven has offered Post-Abortion Support for many years with an eight-week class and one-on-one mentoring. We are now pleased to be offering our first Rachel’s Vineyard Weekend Retreat. “Once a post-abortive woman gets past the hurdle of allowing herself to seek healing, it can still be difficult for some to continue through a multi-week class,” explains Haley Brimmer, Bridgehaven Director of Client Advocacy. The weekend retreat provides an alternative that allows the person seeking healing to get away from the daily pressures of work and family to focus on a painful time in life and to begin healing.

Rachel’s Vineyard Retreats started in 1995 and today there are over 1000 retreats held worldwide. Bridgehaven will host a retreat at Prairiewoods in Hiawatha over the weekend of July 22-24. A Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat is a beautiful opportunity for any person who has struggled with the emotional or spiritual pain of abortion. Participants are led through a very intentional and spiritual process designed to help them experience the mercy and compassion of God. It is also an opportunity to surface and release repressed feelings of anger, shame, guilt and grief. If you or someone you love is hurting from an abortion, please call 319-364-8967 and ask for Haley or download our brochure to register.

Time to Heal

A Time to Heal
You know those times in life when you can sense God calling you to something for which you don’t feel ready? You have an internal dialogue with God where you tell Him there’s just no way you can do this and He smiles back and says, “Oh yes you can My child, because I Am, and will continue to be, all of the strength you will ever need and I will guide your footsteps.”

This has been a conversation I’ve had with God many times throughout my life. I’m willing to bet it’s probably not too far off from some of the conversations you have had with God at some point as well. It is a scary place to be when you know you are being called outside of your comfort zone, or to experience something you never wanted to come face to face with.

These circumstances all have their own sets of challenges, but also their own sets of positive rewards. I know in my life, had I not listened to God’s call in some of those unexpected, or intimidating circumstances, I would not be who I am, or even writing this blog right now.

I want to share about an upcoming opportunity, in which, I know for some of you, it will at first be one of those moments where you start to have that internal dialogue in your head with God, saying you can’t even fathom doing this. As a part of the important work that Bridgehaven is doing as a ministry in the area of post-abortion support, we are hosting our first Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat. This weekend retreat is focused on healing from the pain of a past abortion experience. This is meant for women, men, couples, or support people who have the desire and willingness to be open to experiencing God’s forgiveness, mercy, and grace. It is a retreat that will come with its own sets of challenges, but have positive rewards beyond your comprehension.

If you are reading this and it is bringing up any sort of unresolved emotions, then this could possibly be God’s way of continuing the dialogue with you. He could be saying, “listen to this call my child and seek out the healing I have set before you.” If you have an abortion experience in your past and are struggling in any way, please trust me when I say you deserve, and are worth, this important healing. If you have had this secret inside of you for a week, a month, 10 years, or 30 years, please don’t let it be something that continues to take over and affect every positive thing about who you are as a child of God. Don’t let this be something you suffer through silently or alone, because He doesn’t want that for you.

If this is something you have never been able to forgive yourself for, you can’t imagine God ever forgiving you for, or you can’t even fathom how your child could forgive you, please know you don’t have to walk around with the burden of that shame and guilt forever. Know that those emotions can be released from you through important healing work, such as this upcoming retreat. Take the risk, step outside of everything that is familiar, and reach out to someone. If this retreat, or support, is something you are interested in learning more about, please contact me and I can get you connected with the healing and support that would be the right fit for you to process through and start to release this painful time in your life. You ARE valuable. You ARE loved. You ARE worthy.

Haley BrimmerHaley Brimmer, Director of Client Advocacy

Director of Client Advocacy