The outpouring of grief following the death last week of television personality Charlotte Dawson has been immense. The media has lamented the glamorous blonde’s tragic end, naming the causes of her death as depression stemming from a marriage breakdown, financial troubles and her well-documented battle with cyber bullies. But few have named the root of Charlotte’s tragic struggle with depression.
Truth is, she pinpointed it herself.
In Charlotte’s 2012 memoir titled Air Kiss And Tell, she revealed that her depression began after she and then-husband and troubled Olympic swimmer Scott Miller chose to have an abortion.
“I felt a shift,” she wrote.
“Maybe it was hormonal, but I felt the early tinges of what I can now identify as my first experience with depression.”
The circumstances around the couple’s decision were not unlike those faced by most women who will choose to terminate a pregnancy; the timing was all wrong. Charlotte was thrilled, but Scott hesitated because baby was due at the same time as the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.
“Everything Scott had done was leading up to this moment and nothing could stand in his way, so it was decided that we would terminate the child and try again later. Who needed a developing foetus when a gold medal was on offer, eh?” Charlotte said.
She went through the procedure alone, she revealed, as Scott couldn’t handle the atmosphere of the abortion clinic. The couple divorced soon after.
Talking about the negative mental health consequences of abortion has become a social taboo. This is an epic problem considering that one in three Australian women will have an abortion.
Nearly 20 years of counseling has convinced author, psychologist and theologian Anne Lastman that Australia is “drowning in abortion grief”. She knows the trauma herself, having had two abortions, but has since gone on to assist more than 1500 women who have suffered post-abortion grief.
In an interview following the release last year of her book Redeeming Grief, Abortion and its Pain, she explained that post-abortive women needed access to good counseling specific to their situation.
“A counselor who does not try to minimise the woman’s pain by trying to rationalise for her the humanity of her child,” she clarified.
“If the woman does not see her child as a child, then she will not grieve. And a counselor who can help to re-humanise both the mother and child and help the mother to integrate into her history the loss as a death experience, openly grieve for the death, and then do something to lay the child to rest.”
A saying-goodbye ceremony, for example.
“This time she bids the child goodbye in love — with tears — and not in violence or threat as she did the first time. A really good abortion grief counselor can do much to help with this pain.”
A friend, a woman in her 50s, shared publically her story of the repercussions of an abortion she had in her teens. She was still struggling with the weight of her decision until recently when she addressed her emotions head-on. Part of her healing involved writing a letter to her child.
That gesture of humanising and communicating with the child she never knew has been balm to a raw and painful wound.
She is one woman. Charlotte was another.
Author, commentator and pro-life feminist Melinda Tankard Reist features the heartbreaking stories of dozens of others in her book, Giving Sorrow Words. Women who needed compassion, grace, understanding and love – not denial, medical explanations, self-gratifying laws and the dehumanisation of life in a culture that denies the existence of post-abortion syndrome.
How many other women need permission to grieve?
First published in The Examiner Newspaper for Keeping the Faith column on Monday March 3, 2014.
Anne Lastman will speak at the Love, Life and Liberty seminar, along with Emily’s Voice CEO Paul O’Rourke and Babymum Australia founder and director Noelene Booth, in Brisbane on March 22, Launceston on April 5 and Hobart on May 31. Launceston details follow, Hobart and Brisbane details on the Emily’s Voice website.
Venue: Legana Christian Church
Cost: $45 including morning tea, lunch & a free copy of Why Satan Hates Our Kids by Paul O’Rourke.
Register: www.registernow.com.au & search for ‘Life Seminar’
More information: www.emilysvoice.com