One Grandparent’s Story

Depression After Abortion

One Grandparent’s Story

By Karen Fifer

For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience?  But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.  For you have been called for this purpose since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps. I Peter 2:20-21

My name is Karen Fifer. I am a member of the Board of Directors of Ramah International. I share my story with you because I want you to know the perspective of grandparents, especially those who are actively involved in the pro-life movement. A secondary goal in sharing is to help post-abortive children understand their parent’s pain.

My story begins at the washer. I was doing laundry when this voice came into my head, “Connie is having an abortion.”

I heard it as clear as a bell in my own voice. “No, that is not true, that is a lie,” I told myself. “My daughter would not do that.”

Yet the thought, or “voice,” continued to haunt me. In thinking that it might be a discernment message from the Holy Spirit, I decided to investigate further.

That weekend my daughter had been planning to go to the lake with her boyfriend’s grandparents. At the last minute they asked if they could head out early in the morning because my daughter’s boyfriend wanted to fish before the afternoon heat arrived. I questioned her about the early departure and was very reluctant to give my approval. With her persistence, I finally agreed they could leave early.

As the message in my heart continued to haunt me, I decided to call the cabin only to discover they had yet to arrive!  Within a short time, Connie called me back. Her “story” was they had been to the fishing near his uncle’s cabin across the lake. Her excuse seemed logical. I chose to believe her.

When Connie came home later that night, she was cordial and friendly. While I recognized coldness on her part, I tried to ignore this internal message, but my heart was still concerned.

The next weekend her boyfriend went to Colorado and Connie spent the time in her room, curled up in a fetal position, crying.  She would not come out and talk to me. When I tried to approach her, she gave me an angry reply. She said, “You wouldn’t understand. Leave me alone.” I asked if she and her boyfriend had broken up. She responded with silence. Rejected, I left her alone.

I chose to believe that the reason for her tears were because they had a fight. When her boyfriend came back, he brought her a nice gift. Everything seemed to return to normal between them. But there was a wall between us. I hit my face on it often when I tried to talk to her. I did not understand why it was there. I struggled with the “voice” that kept raising the abortion prospect. Because I was too afraid to bring it up or ask her directly, the silent wall between us grew.

Four months later I found something I was not looking for in my daughter’s bedroom. It was a prescription bottle from a well-known abortionist in our town.

I was immediately angry realizing the “voice” had been true. How I responded still surprises me as I look back on those dark days of pain. I called the abortionist and had him paged at the hospital saying that it was an emergency.

When this abortionist came on the phone, I relayed my discovery and threatened him. I told him I would see him rot in hell for what he had done to my minor daughter. I said these things knowing that the law protected him and there was really nothing I could do.

He knew his rights and basically laughed in my face. I then hung up on him. Years later, I told my story to our state legislature to gain support for a parental notification bill. At that time of Connie’s abortion, I could not have prevented her abortion even if I had known about it.

Then I called my daughter’s boyfriend at work. He played me off by saying he, “Didn’t have a clue what I was talking about.”

I immediately drove to the high school and insisted they page my daughter. When she did not come right away, I learned from the receptionist she had just taken another emergency call. I knew her boyfriend had told her of my discovery.

When she finally came to the office, fear was written all over her face. As soon as we were in the car, I asked her if she had an abortion.

“You know the answer to that!” she responded.

To this day I am ashamed of my next response. I hit her arm with my fist saying, “How could you kill your own child!  How could you do this?”

We went home and cried together. Then we yelled at each other and wept again. She asked for my forgiveness and told me how sorry she was. I was unwilling to forgive her. All I could say was I was sorry too — sorry that my grandchild was gone.

I felt hurt and betrayed. My grandchild was gone, and my fears were confirmed. My head was spinning with “what ifs?” Two verses came into my heart:

For nothing is hidden, except to be revealed; nor has anything been secret, but that it should come to the lightMark 4:22

And do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things that are done by them in secret.  But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light for everything that becomes visible is light. Ephesians 5:11-13

Connie later confided that she had been determined that I would never know about her abortion because she suspected my reaction based on my pro-life mentality. I had often prayed that the light of Christ would expose any darkness lurking in my life. When you make this prayer, you must be prepared for what will be exposed. I never thought I would have to deal with the pain of an aborted grandchild.

My daughter’s fear in our discovering her pregnancy/abortion was that we could possibly make her break up with the young man she loved. We also had some other very tragic circumstances going on within our family at the time of her abortion. Connie was concerned about adding any more stress to my life.

Connie later told me she had felt like she had messed up and the pregnancy would be one more screw-up that I would know about. She did not know the depth of our love. As her parents we never viewed her as a “screw-up.” 

My daughter’s boyfriend did not want his grandparents to know since they were caring for his terminally ill mother in their home. He did not want to them to have any more stress in their lives either. He assured my daughter that everything would be okay. No one would ever find out.

This poor young man did not understand how hard it would be for my daughter to keep those kinds of emotions suppressed. They were immature and young, trying to make life decisions all alone on matters that they had no knowledge about. They could not begin to understand all the life-long impacts this one decision would have on them and the lives of others.

Shame was a very real emotion for me. My daughter had an abortion. I was an active pro-life leader in our community. I was on staff at the local pregnancy center. I was also full of pride. I had taken my kids to abortion clinics to protest and pray. I had done a lot of sexual risk avoidance education with my kids and in schools and churches. Everyone around me knew my stand on abortion.

I felt like my daughter’s abortion was a reflection on me. Hidden in my story was shame. I placed it on myself even though it did not really belong to me. Shame is an emotion that we make our own from the inside out. When our children do something wrong, we think it is a direct reflection on us! We call it shame but it is wrapped in pride! It should be disappointment or hurt or maybe rejection, but we title it shame.

There were so many lies. I was really hurt over the lies my daughter told me surrounding the day of her abortion. A few weeks before her abortion, I had even suspected she was pregnant and had confronted her. Connie chose to lie to me then and told me she was still a virgin.

Once again, I had doubts but had nothing to prove otherwise except my own gut feelings. I blamed the other difficult situation in our family for the abortion. If that situation had not been going on, maybe my daughter would have confided in me.

Her deception cut deep into my heart. My daughter had visited Planned Parenthood for her pregnancy test. That fact made her an instant traitor in my eyes. She had told the abortion clinic staff where I worked so they helped her get into the clinic without being seen. Then they encouraged her plan to abort. She felt like they were her friends.

Their help in my grandchild’s demise really ate at my soul. It felt deeply evil – like Satan was saying, “Got ya!” It took a long time to get that image out of my mind.

The anger consumed me. Sometimes it was hard to look at Connie or talk to her. Silence replaced the anger so I could keep myself from exploding at her. Every time I looked at her, she reminded me of my pain, and I was sad or angry all over again. Some days I would go into my bedroom and cry in private. Connie knew I was crying, and that she was the cause. That did not stop my tears. I cried off and on for a whole year.

Triggers would make me cry at very inopportune times. Maybe it was a song or just being at work and hearing the abortion word so often. Sometimes it was my own frustrations of not knowing how to fix my daughter or myself. Other times my tears were because I realized the depth of the loss…. my grandchild.

My relationship with Connie was very fractured. The anger and silence poured out into my marriage and my relationship with our four other children. I became over-possessive and untrusting with my other children. I did not want them out of my sight and literally smothered them. These behaviors lasted for a long time and wreaked havoc in our family for years afterward.

I blamed my daughter’s boyfriend. After all, I had raised her right so he must have corrupted her. We took our children to church, had family devotions and prayer. It must be him. It had to be him. I knew she would have never done such a thing without his influence. I did not hate him, but I did not like him either. Connie was a Christian. I believed he could not have been a Christian if he had encouraged her to abort.

It was a long time before I could allow myself to admit that my daughter went into the abortion clinic on her own free will. Her boyfriend did not drag her there. She went willingly and she chose to lie to cover this abortion truth.

I could not repent for my daughter’s sin. I tried to be her Holy Spirit. It did not work. All I could do was pray that God, through His Holy Spirit, would bring her to the place where she recognized the depth of her sin and be willing to repent. I cannot tell you how many times I tried to fix her on my own. During that time God kept saying to let Him do the work and wait for His time. Oh, how hard that was.

My “what ifs” led me to feelings of guilt, even though I did not have any part in or knowledge of the abortion. My guilt was misplaced but still very real. I had thoughts like:

  • What if she had this baby? How would she finish school?
  • How would we have paid for her pregnancy?
  • What if I ended up parenting this child? I would have been in the babysitting role all the time. My other children were older. I did not have to do everything for them. I was ready to have some freedom for myself.
  • What if they wanted to get married?
  • What if I had never said this or did that?

Then I had deep guilt about not wanting a crying baby in the house. I would feel guilty because there was a baby I was not thinking about. Sometimes I was relieved that I did not have to deal with the baby. Then I would feel awful for my thoughts and my selfishness. These thoughts severely conflicted with my personal beliefs as well as my position at the pregnancy center.

I learned I had to repent of my guilt and explore the source of my own emotions and thoughts. I could not take on Connie’s guilt too. Connie and her boyfriend were responsible for their own sin and guilt.

God, in His infinite wisdom, would not allow others to pay for someone else’s guilt and sin. Only Jesus could do that. We are only responsible for our own sins. It is a parent’s nature to fix things for our children and make it better.

I had sin in this abortion. My sin was how I handled my pain and anger. I did everything I coached other parents with pregnant children not to do. I had to deal with my sin of unforgiveness. The passage from I Peter 3:18 hit my heart – For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that he might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the Spirit.

I am so thankful for my husband and my friends who let me cry and say the ugly things that were deep inside of me without judging me or quoting scriptures. My husband was left to deal with his own pain. I was too caught up in my stuff to help him with his. He did confide in a Christian man who prayed for us. Men are often alone in their pain. Who do they talk to? Who understands them? I know he struggled with forgiving Connie’s boyfriend for a long time. He had to be strong for both of us. He would often hold me when I would cry. He suffered mainly in silence.

We would have brief conversations but when his pain would begin to surface, the communication would close off again. He confronted me during my angry time. If I said inappropriate things to my daughter, he called me on it. My husband was more sensitive to our daughter than I was. He could be more detached with his feelings. As I healed, I would share with him what I was learning. I know he grieved. When I started ministering to post-abortive women, it opened conversations about how abortion affected our relationship.

One day after listening to me pour out my same feelings repeatedly, a friend gently pointed out that I was prideful. She then listed what that pride was focused on. Ouch! It was the truth. Now I had a decision to make — deal with that pride or live in it.

God does not promise happiness, but He does promise joy. Joy does not depend on circumstances but on God. Joy can be felt in the worst of situations. Happiness can be fleeting but joy is steadfast. We often need help to see Who the sustainer of our joy is and to understand that joy feels lost when there is unforgiveness.

One day I was in a ministry session with a young woman at the pregnancy center, telling her about God’s forgiveness for abortion. Then came the “voice” again!

God said, “You’re telling her to forgive others and telling her of MY forgiveness and yet you can’t forgive your own daughter?”

Ugh! Somehow God got me through that appointment. Later, God and I did business.

I drove out into the country alone and I yelled at God. It is still amazing to me that He can handle our anger if it does not lead us to sin. I confessed to Him my pain and screamed at the unfairness of abortion. I also yelled about the other circumstances that were going on in our lives at the time. I yelled about the second family situation had cost me my grandchild. I admitted to Him my anger toward my daughter. I promised Him I would forgive her.

I gave Him my own sin. First, I had to admit I had sin issues. Then I had to quit blaming Connie and her boyfriend for my sin and begin forgiving them.

I would like to say that immediate results happened and that all of that yelling and crying made everything better. The truth is it took a while.

Remember how I talked about my own guilt? I did not realize how much my feelings of guilt had become a part of my pain until I went through an abortion recovery Bible study. All those years ago, there was nothing available for post-abortive grandparents. The Bible study helped me greatly. I became determined to help others heal in the same way God had helped me.

I cannot say “when” I decided to forgive my daughter and her boyfriend, because forgiveness happened over time. As I applied all that I had learned from the Bible study, forgiveness became a natural outcome. Forgiveness always starts in our heart first and then God filters it to others.

My daughter had to feel like I forgave her. When we discussed abortion, my words were no longer harsh and guilt laden. I began to like her boyfriend again and slowly it showed. Over time I began to tell him that I loved him. He became my son-in-law when he married my daughter. There had been harsh words in the past and actions I wish had never occurred. Yet today I love him so much, I cannot think about what life would be without him in it.

Forgiving the people who assisted with my daughter’s abortion was much more difficult. The abortion doctor was easier to forgive than the staff at Planned Parenthood. It was easy to throw my hate on them. Motherly love kept me from feeling hate toward my daughter or her boyfriend. I was mad and hurt by them, but I hated the “others” who had assisted with their abortion.

Once I chose to forgive everyone involved, the hate went away. It did not happen overnight, but it eventually disappeared. I often prayed that God would change their hearts. I realized that it is His job to change hearts and not mine. Just like Jesus said on the cross, ‘Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing,’ I pray they will someday surrender to Christ and quit doing abortions.

My daughter had been raised in a pro-life Christian home. She had accepted Christ as her Savior.  Abortion began to raise doubts in her mind if God would forgive her. I had wonderful opportunities to speak God’s truth to her during this time.

Her faith began to flourish. She grew stronger and more committed to living for Christ. I do not think this would have happened if God had not first done a work in my heart. Now we could share and talk openly without condemnation.

The sorrow of thinking about the lost grandchild can be overwhelming. You begin to think that if you grieve it will cause new or more intense pain.

I never considered grieving my grandchild, even though I had in small ways. Every time I began, I would quickly push it away. I did not want to think about my lost grandchild too much. And yet the child was the focus of everything and consumed my thought life.

Abortion is all about the child. I would heap guilt on myself and my perceived failures to protect my own child, let alone my grandchild. Then through my position at the pregnancy center I had an opportunity to take training to help women recover from abortion. I could clearly understand that need!

At the end of the training weekend they had a memorial service. I dreaded the service as soon as I heard about it. I completely lost it during that service when it came my time to share. Words would not come out and I wailed loudly. I had never considered naming my grandchild or allowing myself to think of it as a boy or girl.

Someone came and led me to my seat where I continued to cry. When I was all cried out, the strangest thing happened. Peace came. I still have the rose they gave us. I dried it and it is on a little shelf in my bedroom. It is the only tangible thing I have that this child ever existed. It will stay there always. When I look at it, there is no sadness – just an expectancy that heaven will erase all the years between us.

My daughter married her boyfriend, her baby’s father, two weeks after she graduated from high school. Immediately the effects of abortion began to show on their marriage. By this time, I had taken training to help other women heal from abortion. Over time, I had an opportunity to speak to Connie about the toll her abortion was having on their young marriage. I told her she needed healing for herself.

Connie did attend an abortion recovery group at our pregnancy center. Since her name had changed when she got married, the leaders did not know she was my daughter. Connie needed her own personal time to heal. I did not ask the leader how she was doing either. I just prayed and God answered all my prayers on her behalf.

We have had sweet conversations and time to talk about this child together since those days. It became something we could discuss with ease, without guilt or condemnation. It prepared us for what would come next – infertility.

When Sydna Masse was asked to be the banquet speaker for our pregnancy center’s annual fundraising dinner, I had no idea what she was going to share that night. I had a table full of guests, including my daughter Connie.

As Sydna shared her story about her horrific abortion procedure, completed without benefit of anesthesia, she opened my eyes to a different side of my daughter’s abortion. I did not like hearing that my daughter may have experienced pain, or the aspect of her agonizing over the decision. It was so hard to listen to because a new area of pain opened in my heart.

I was also hurting for my daughter as she sat beside me. It was all my daughter and I could do to sit through the entire evening next to our friends. I watched her fight back tears as mine flowed down my cheeks.

After the event concluded I was relieved that I had tasks to perform since I was on staff at this center. I was able to avoid Sydna completely. She left that night and I never spoke to her. She had opened a new wound and challenged me once again to explore deeper into my own heart and soul.

God used her to send me somewhere I was not prepared to go. I was mad at her. Mad that she challenged me. Mad that my daughter was upset too. Mad that my daughter may have experienced something similar and it would never had happened if only I had known she was pregnant.

God in His infinite wisdom would not leave me struggling for long. The next day Connie and I had a long talk about her abortion experience and things that Sydna had shared at the banquet. Connie was encouraged at Sydna’s point when she talked about the fact that 90% of couples break up after an abortion. Sydna then concluded, “If you are part of that 10% then God is all over your relationship because it is rare!”

What I took to be bad and hurtful had blessed Connie! She knew that God’s hand was on her marriage. Sydna stood in her place and told me the story that my daughter could not relay.  To help you understand how abortion may have impacted your loved one, watch Sydna’s abortion testimony. 

Several days later I wrote Sydna a letter explaining to her how I felt, asking for her forgiveness for the way that I treated her. Even though she was unaware of my rejection, God prompted my heart to communicate with her which brought about an even deeper level of healing.

Sydna made a personal phone call back to me and graciously acknowledged my pain and our friendship was established which would eventually lead to my writing this module for your heart. I saw that God can use even the most painful things in our lives to open conversation and promote healing if we will yield ourselves to His refining fire.

My husband has become much more vocal at work on the topic of abortion since this experience. He is a quiet man, and when he speaks, it is from his heart with compassion, truth, and conviction. Sometimes he says, “Connie’s child would have been the age of our Godchild.” That was his way of remembering.

Our Godchild was almost aborted by her mother. We believe that God put her in our lives as a balm for our hurting hearts. She needed grandparents because she did not have any and we were blessed to fill that void in her life. We needed each other. She calls us “Gram and Papa” today.

As I received healing, God began to extend my outreach to others. I have talked to more grandmothers, aunts, and uncles of aborted children than I could have ever imagined. God has used this child – my grandchild – in my life to reach others that have suffered from abortion.

God stripped away my preconceived ideas about women who abort. I have worked with young women who tell me their mothers would freak out to find out they were pregnant. They justify abortion as the only answer. Through my grandchild’s death, God used me to challenge that thinking. God has allowed me to hold in my arms children rescued from death. He has given me wonderful friendships with post-abortive women, who are now some of my closest friends.

One Sunday morning at church my pastor asked me to meet with a man in his study who had taken his daughter for an abortion and was having a hard time dealing with it because the staff told him his daughter had aborted twins. His guilt was different from mine. He needed to admit his part in the abortion. He needed to be honest with himself and ask his daughter for forgiveness. The pain of his guilt needed to be addressed head on.

I was straightforward with him about his role as a father. At that time, there was nothing available for extended family members as far as support groups or a Bible studies. In writing this module with Sydna, I am hoping to change that situation.

Although I told some people about Connie’s abortion that I should not have, I did allow my daughter to tell her siblings when she was ready. I told her I would wait until she felt it was time but that I would not lie if asked directly.

One of my daughters pieced it all together and asked me. I affirmed her suspicions without details and asked her to wait until her sister could speak to her about it. We cried together and prayed. I shared my hurt with her and tried my best to not make her sister out to be a bad person. I stated that she was a confused, scared, and immature 16-year-old at the time.

During Connie’s infertility period in her marriage, when the abortion haunted her, my two daughters had a good relationship and shared together often. They had openly talked about her past abortion.

After many years of infertility, tests and surgery, my daughter did conceive and had a son. During that time, we had many conversations about God’s character. Connie struggled with thoughts and feelings that God was punishing her for her abortion. She wondered if the abortion caused her infertility or if she would ever have another child. We prayed and talked and prayed some more. God answered our prayers. God is Good!  It was her sister, who is a nurse, who was the first to know when she finally got pregnant!

Even though Connie has given me permission to share our story in areas where it could help others, there are other extended family members who do not know about the abortion. If Connie tells them then it will be fine, but I will not break her confidences again.

There are places where I will not share our story for my daughter’s well-being. There have been times that she has asked me if so and so knows. I have always been honest with her – especially when I was the one that initially told them.

Remember how I talked about my own guilt? I did not realize how deep my feelings of guilt were and how much they had become a part of my pain until I went through an abortion recovery program myself. Please summon the courage to do these lessons with confidence that God can heal your heart. My prayer is that my story will help you find this same peace with God as well.

Does God make good come out of bad? Oh yes, He does. For HIS namesake! Now I can understand the unique workings of an Almighty God as revealed in Romans 8:28 – And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

As my memorial for this grandchild, I wrote a poem:

A Memory Should Be

In memory of my Grandbaby

By Karen Fifer

Sometimes…… in the still of the night.

There is a place

Where there should be

A Memory.

A Newborn hand

First steps and things to see.

But always in that memory

Your precious face is hid from me.

Sometimes…… in the still of the night.

In that place where a memory should be.

A precious peace comes over me

For I know

That Jesus holds

My memory.

Sydna Masse Event Speaker Pregnancy Center

Hello, I am Sydna Massé Founder and CEO of Ramah International. I'd love to keep in touch and include you in our prayer chain as we continue to serve abortion's wounded and those considering abortion. Sydna Masse

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