Be Ceremonial

Creating an Abortion Ceremony

This is Lisa’s story about creating an abortion ceremony almost 30 years after her abortion to finally acknowledge her experience. She wanted to help shift the narrative surrounding abortion, and also to inspire people who have been through this to create their own rituals for healing at any point in time.

You can create an abortion ceremony to acknowledge your experience in a way that feels personal and meaningful to you.

My Abortion Story

“I had an abortion” are not words you often hear people say out loud. There’s a lot of stigma in our culture surrounding the subject of abortion. There can be feelings of shame, embarrassment, and guilt when it comes to having, or even thinking about having, an abortion, and very few people openly challenge that stigma.

Many years ago, I had an abortion. I can’t recall exactly how many years ago it was; I was young, maybe 27, and I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted to do with my life. I had just ended an unhealthy, short-term relationship. I worked in a day care center and rented a room in a house with 5 other people. I was barely keeping my head above water financially.

I’m 54 now, and I’ve spent so many years of my life burying this part of my story. I was like an ostrich, burying my head in the sand, ignoring what happened and hoping it would just disappear.

Of course, stuffing down all of my sadness and grief surrounding my abortion was only hurting me. I lived with a weight on my shoulders, a black cloud over my head. I would put on a smile and pretend everything was okay, but deep down I was a mess. Whenever I would see a tender moment between a mother and her kids I would ache with sadness. I yearned for that connection.

abortion ceremony

I love kids. I connect easily with them and can make them smile without any effort. The sadness comes in waves because I never had children of my own.

I’m divorced, and my first husband told me years later that he was waiting for me to announce that I was ready to have kids. All his friends told him that I would let him know when I was ready.

My attitude was: if it happens, great, and if it doesn’t, that’s ok too. We didn’t talk openly with each other about it, so I never knew how he really felt about having kids. The story I told myself after we separated was that I knew in my gut we would get divorced and that’s why we never had kids.

I realized years later that perhaps this wasn’t the whole story. The truth was much, much more complicated. You see, my mother died from breast cancer when she was 45 and I was 14, and I had this idea that I was a ticking time bomb and would die young like she did. I was afraid that if I had kids I would leave them without a mother.

Creating an abortion ceremony

I recently started to question whether this was the reason I decided to have an abortion.

Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time working on myself and discovering who I am and what is important to me. In my quest to better know myself, I realized I had some healing to do around my abortion

I met with my Rabbi, who is also my mentor and close friend. We talked about what an abortion ritual might look like, and she gave me lots to consider. It took almost two years before I was ready to perform the rituals we came up with; that’s how deep the pain and hurt was.

Rituals for healing

Mikvah ritual

The rituals that we came up with drew from my faith and included songs and prayers that were meaningful to me.

We decided to hold it at the mikvah, a Jewish ritual bath. In addition to my Rabbi, I only invited one close friend. Before I entered the Mikvah, I read a meditation, or healing prayer, that I connected with.

We had divided the ritual into three parts: past, present, and future. The past focused on mourning and forgiveness, the present helped me transition to a place of gratitude, and the future helped me state my dreams and hopes for my life.

For the future part of the ritual, I had a small glass heart shaped jar and a bag of blue stones.

I filled the jar with water from the Mikvah and then both the Rabbi and my friend took turns sharing dreams they held for my future, adding a stone to the jar each time. I then added my own stones to the jar, declaring my wishes and dreams for my future.

Abortion ritual

After we finished, I got dressed and we walked outside to signify the end of the healing ritual and re-immersion into everyday life. We went out for a coffee together and we each talked about our hopes and dreams. It was such a beautiful conversation to be a part of.

The power of ritual

After the ritual, I felt so much lighter. It was very healing and I found myself wanting to share what I did with others who were carrying that same shame, sadness, guilt and pain as me. I think about my abortion ritual often, recognizing the power that day held for me.

I discovered that by finding a way to release some of the pain I was feeling it opened up the space for me to begin to heal. As a result, today I am much happier and healthier.

This story was originally featured in Seeking Ceremony

You can create your own Abortion Ceremony in the Be Ceremonial app, or gift one to someone you know who has gone through this experience and is looking for support.

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