Unhealed trauma, such as that which occurs from an abortion, has lasting effects on the woman, the man, future siblings, and future generations, as well as other people who were involved in the procedure. Post-abortion trauma not only falls into different categories of grief, like complicated grief and disenfranchised grief, but it also leaves behind generational cellular markers on future siblings as well as future generations.


In the book, “It Didn’t Start With You,” author Mark Wolynn brings incredible advances in epigenetic science to light that we can relate to abortion trauma. Here are some key excerpts,

“Emerging trends in psychotherapy are now beginning to point beyond the traumas of the individual to include traumatic events in the family and social history as a part of the whole picture.” (pages 16-17)

“The history you share with your family begins before you are even conceived. In your earliest biological form, as an unfertilized egg, you already share a cellular environment with your mother and grandmother. When your grandmother was five months pregnant with your mother, the precursor cell of the egg you developed from was already present in your mother’s ovaries. This means that before your mother was even born, your mother, your grandmother, and the earliest traces of you were all in the same body – three generations sharing the same biological environment.” (page 25) (I find this just mind-blowing!)

“‘The mother’s emotions, such as fear, anger, love, hope, among others, can biochemically alter the genetic expression of her offspring.’ . . . There are now numerous studies documenting how a pregnant mother’s stress, even as early as the first trimester, can affect her child.” (page 27)

“Without our consciously changing the pattern, bonding injuries can echo for generations.” (page 44)

“[Bert] Hellinger teaches that everyone has the same right to belong in a family system, and that no one can be excluded for any reason whatsoever. This includes the alcoholic grandfather who left our grandmother impoverished, the stillborn brother whose death broke our mother’s heart, and even the neighbor child our father accidentally killed as he backed out of the driveway. The criminal uncle, our mother’s older half-sister, the baby we aborted – they all belong in our family.” (page 45)

Here’s some good news from this same book by Mark Wolynn:

“Our minds have a vast capacity for healing through images. Whether we’re imagining a scene of forgiveness, comfort, or letting go, or simply visualizing a loved one, images can profoundly settle into our bodies and sink into our minds. In my work, I’ve found that helping people to unearth the image that most resonates with them is the cornerstone of healing.”


Amazingly, this is all healing work that we do at every Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat. Since the retreat was written by Dr. Theresa Burke, who understood what science is now proving over 30 years ago when she first wrote the retreat, these beautiful steps toward healing are all covered throughout the three-day retreat, and then some. We offer this retreat locally in Southeastern Wisconsin, but this retreat is available all over the country, as well as all over the world and in five different languages. Visit www.rachelsvineyard.org to find a retreat near you.



This scientific information is also in line with what Vicki Thorn has been teaching for decades. Vicki is the founder of Project Rachel, a post-abortion healing program that started right here in Milwaukee 36 years ago, which has also grown to a world-wide ministry. She was also our speaker from our We Remember event in 2020.

Vicki has been speaking for years on epigenetics. She teaches specifically about the biological effects of pregnancy, bringing in the science of bonding between mother and fetus, as well as physical changes to men’s bodies during a woman’s pregnancy. These biological changes that start immediately at conception are not undone during an abortion, which is why the pain of losing any baby during pregnancy is so hard, whether the loss is a spontaneous, surgical or medical abortion.

Thankfully, since we had to shift our event to an online venue in 2020, you can still watch this interview on our YouTube channel. Vicki’s interview starts around minute 32.


As already mentioned, post-abortion trauma is considered both a complicated grief and a disenfranchised grief.

Grief following an abortion is listed randomly as #31 in the blog post, “64 Examples of Disenfranchised Grief,” from the blog “What’s Your Grief.”

What is disenfranchised grief? Kenneth J. Doka, PhD coined this term 20 years ago, and he defines it as, “Grief that persons experience when they incur a loss that is not or cannot be openly acknowledged, socially sanctioned or publicly mourned.” Dr. Doka is not alone in recognizing this trauma. According to Trudy Johnson, LMFT, it’s “grief that is culturally unacceptable.” It’s grief that has “no public venue or permission to express such a grief.” That’s certainly how abortion is viewed in our culture at large today, something to be celebrated, but not grieved.


Counseling Today’s article from 2016 entitled, “Grief: Going Beyond Death and Stages,” stated “A variety of factors can contribute to the presence of complicated grief . . . These include the death of a child, the perception that the death was avoidable, an unhealthy or dependent attachment to the deceased, death following a prolonged illness, a client’s prior history of loss and a lack of social support.”

Abortion incorporates several, if not all of these factors, including:

the death of a child,

the unending question, what if I’d made a different choice?,

the attachment to the baby caused by the pregnancy itself, and the inherent bonding process that begins at conception,

abortion choice made because of an adverse medical diagnosis of mother or baby, and

most often lack of social support, as most women and men choosing abortion do not seek help or social support outside of themselves for fear of shame and judgment.

This article goes on to say that, “‘Complicated grief can be likened to a wound that will not heal,’ she continues, ‘In addition to emotional problems, a person who is experiencing complicated grief becomes at risk for health related issues such as lack of adequate sleep, severe depression, suicidal ideation or behavior, substance abuse, suppressed immune system and stress that can lead to heart attacks or strokes.”

There is hope in this article as well, “I have found that group counseling is one of the most healing methods for people suffering from complicated grief . . . By sharing a similar loss, people come to realize that there is hope for them even though they might be experiencing deep despair.”


Women’s Bible Study – Forgiven & Set Free:  an inspired Bible study that effectively ministers God’s healing grace to women who are suffering remorse and guilt after an abortion. This 12-week study guides suffering and hurting women to bring their emotional scars from abortion “out of the dark past and into His holy light,” where true and lasting healing can take place. Appropriate Scriptures help women deal with issues such as: relief and denial, anger, forgiveness, depression, letting Go, and Acceptance.*

Men’s Bible Study – Healing a Father’s Heart: an insightful Bible study that helps men acknowledge and face their inner turmoil. According to the authors of this study, abortion inflicts pain on men as well as on women. These fathers are “silent, wounded warriors” who are suffering from fear, anxiety, anger, guilt, grief, and depression. Men who have lost a child to abortion often have an unexplainable need to defend their masculinity, causing confusion and strife in their relationships. Men will learn about God’s unchanging, loving character and His desire to forgive them and heal their father-hearts.**

*From the back cover of Forgiven & Set Free, written by Linda Cochrane, R.N.


**From the back cover of Healing a Father’s Heart, written by Linda Cochrane, R.N. and Kathy Jones


This is why we exist as an organization, to provide a community of people who share similar loss and physical places for this healing from post-abortion trauma, complicated grief, disenfranchised grief, and epigenetic intergenerationally inherited trauma to occur.

We offer several weekend retreats each year as well as Bible studies available throughout the year for the specific focus of healing from post-abortion trauma, both for women and for men. You can visit our Abortion Healing page to find current dates and information on these options.

The community that is created within these groups is long-lasting. Many of our clients choose to participate in both the retreat and the Bible study, in either order, because the community experience is so powerful, and every experience in healing provides deeper healing, connection and health.

If you’ve experienced the trauma of abortion, whether directly or indirectly, take the first step toward healing. If you’re near Southeastern Wisconsin, search our healing retreat and Bible study dates and options. If you’re anywhere else, search the other options previously mentioned in this post.

Participants from our most recent retreat of November 2020 stated in our exit journal,

“Thank you for offering this beautiful journey of healing from abortion. I have carried the pain, shame, regret, guilt, heartache and despair for so long. I thought I’d carry this hole in my heart to the grave but in God’s mercy and my obedience he led me here. He has begun a good work in me and I am eternally grateful. . . Come, you’ll be so glad you did. God is faithful” – Kerri

“It was amazing and beautiful how the Lord will meet you when your heart is open to receive all He has. It was a beautiful and peaceful time. It was welcoming and everyone was nice and loving. Be open to all God has.” – Anonymous

“This experience was extremely freeing, gave me a new found strength, and opened my eyes that I am not alone in this experience. God brought me here & showed me a light out of the darkness.” – Katie

Facing unhealed trauma is a difficult and scary step, but we’ve been there. We were once facing this first step of healing ourselves, and we understand it. Our retreats and Bible studies are lead by women and men on our team who have themselves healed from abortion. We honor your confidentiality and the trust you will be placing in us by reaching out for help. Take courage, you are not alone.

by Donna Brendel