Tuesday, 27 July 2021

Why Mourning and Celebrating Are Vital to Pro-life Work

It was not a fun evening for my husband. I was a grumpy bear, getting increasingly irritated over small things. Finally, my agitation came to a head. I burst into tears and heard myself cry, “I couldn’t save her baby!”

At that moment, we both realized a deeper emotion was brewing underneath my anger.

I’d been working with a client who was vacillating between a life and death decision for her child.

That day, I found out she had an abortion.

Of course, I understood intellectually this was her decision, not mine. I can’t “save” anyone’s baby. Still, I was grief-stricken at her choice. 

I thought I was getting through to her. I thought she was taking hold of hope.

Instead, fear had its way and her baby lost its life.

It’s a sad fact that not every pregnancy options consultation turns into a choice for life. So what can we do with our feelings of disappointment, grief, and anguish after learning about the death decision a client has made?

This is not an easy question for us as Americans. We don’t hire professional wailers like the ancient Jews did (Matthew 9:23), nor do we do much loud lamenting ourselves. We’re much better at stifling our sadness and moving on with life. 

But suppressing our emotions is not healthy. Feelings will fester if not expressed.

We need to create space for mourning.

It’s certainly appropriate to find some personal space in one’s day, a time and place where tears can be shed and a life acknowledged. But it’s also helpful to grieve together with others who share the same heartache and the same values.

Those of us in pro-life ministry recognize we may be the only ones grieving the little ones lost to abortion. Their parents may be in denial. Their extended families most likely don’t know these babies exist. 

Who will weep for them? We will.

Tweet This: "Those of us in #prolife ministry recognize we may be the only ones grieving the little ones lost to abortion." - @SusanneMaynes

At the pregnancy help clinic where I worked, we held memorial services twice a year for babies lost to abortion. 

We covered a table with a black cloth and put flowers in vases. Then we placed numerous tea lights and lighters on the table. 

The pastor who served as our board chaplain shared a message about the value of these lost lives. 

After the message, with soft music playing, our staff and volunteers took turns going up to the table to light candles representing babies we knew of who had died by abortion. 

In this way, we created a corporate space for tears to be shed and prayers to be whispered. We honored those who had lost their lives, and we processed our deep feelings of grief.

These memorials served as a healing balm for our staff and volunteers and as a testimony to the sanctity of human life. 

Our expressed grief served a dual purpose in this way.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are times when an abortion-minded client has a change of heart. Your heart is filled with joy—and joy is also a feeling which should neither be suppressed nor experienced alone.

Perhaps you enjoy moments of rejoicing together during your morning prayer time. Perhaps you simply have spontaneous times during the workday when you share happy news with other staff members.

We found that a visual reminder of God’s goodness helped us to recall His many acts of faithfulness—especially during hard seasons between breakthroughs.

To that end, we purchased a large, clear vase and a supply of smooth river rocks, as well as sparkling golden stones. 

Whenever an abortion-minded client chose life, we would put a rock in the vase. Sometimes we would select a river rock and write a word or phrase, like “life saved” or “changed mind.”  Other times, we would choose a sparkling golden stone and place it in the vase.

We also put stones in the vase when an unexpected financial gift came our way, or a client accepted Christ, or some other miracle happened.

Over time, we watched as stones began to fill the vase. We were able to rejoice and be reminded that God is good and that miracles happen on a regular basis.

Americans have a strong work ethic, and certainly, in the world of pro-life ministry, there is much to be done. Sometimes we keep pushing instead of stopping to grieve or rejoice.

Yet our labor is sacred and emotionally-charged and close to the heart of God. It is not the kind of work which can be done without engaging the emotions.

Regardless of how much is on your plate, I hope you and your team make room for both sadness and joy.

In doing so, you honor both God and the preborn people you are working so hard to rescue.

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Susanne Maynes

Susanne Maynes is an author, speaker, and biblical counselor who served at a pregnancy help center for ten years. She blogs about church & culture and spiritual growth at SusanneMaynes.comHer educational devotional, Unleashing Your Courageous Compassion: 40 Reflections on Rescuing the Unborn, uplifts and strengthens the pregnancy help community. Susanne is currently pursuing a Master of Theological Studies degree at Regent University.

Website: www.susannemaynes.com

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