My boyfriend (now husband) and I were juniors in high school when I became pregnant. I thought about my circumstances. I wondered if my parents would kick me out of the house and how to pay for doctors’ bills. I wondered how it would feel being pregnant walking the school halls and what our friends would think.

When I got married, I wanted it to be because he loved me, not because he felt he had to. We both felt there was no other option, so I had an abortion.

I never once thought of things that could go wrong. I could have died during the procedure or been unable to have children in the future. I didn’t think about the guilt, shame and regret I would carry with me for the rest of my life.

After my husband and I got married and had our two sons, I constantly worried God would take them away from me as punishment for what I did. It took me becoming a Christian to realize God doesn’t work that way. I thought He had forgiven me, and I had forgiven myself.

Thirty years after my abortion, I took a nine-week post-abortive recovery class. As part of the healing process, we were to name our baby, and there would be an honoring service the last week.

The first few weeks were an emotional roller coaster. I thought about quitting several times, but made myself go. I’m so glad I did because I came out of it feeling like a weight lifted from my shoulders. I had no doubt God forgave me, and I forgave myself.

Going through the class helped my husband and I talk about the abortion, and we decided to tell our sons, ages 27 and 18. However, we didn’t expect the impact it would have on one of them who struggled with the thought of his parents doing something as horrible as abortion. That led us to having many conversations with him, as well as many tears.

We held a family honoring service for our daughter and their sister, whom we named Ashley. We each signed a Certificate of Life recognizing her as a member of our family, and every year on Christmas Day, we each light a candle for her.

Another way we honor her is having a butterfly in every room of our home, one in our car, and I even have a butterfly ornament on our Christmas tree. She will never be forgotten and will always be in our hearts.

All those years of holding on to what I felt was the worst sin a mother could ever commit—my God still forgives me. I am forever grateful He has allowed me to grieve, to heal and to give me the courage to tell my story.

I’ve never felt God’s presence as much as I have during this journey. He truly is an awesome God!

I am sharing my story because I want other women to be free from the shame, guilt and regret of their past abortions. They need to know it’s OK to grieve the loss of their children and to honor them.

Southeast Christian Church offers a post-abortive recovery class at its Blankenbaker, Indiana and Southwest campuses. I facilitate the Hope After Abortion class at the Indiana Campus. This is not a large, ongoing support group. It is a nine-week recovery class with a few women going through the healing process together.

The next class at the Indiana Campus is Tuesday, Aug. 20-Oct. 15, from 6:30 to 8 p.m.

The class explains what post-abortive syndrome is and walks women through the stages of denial, anger, forgiveness and grieving their loss, which leads to honoring their babies the final week of class. Everything is confidential. Nobody will know their names and meeting place other than the facilitators.

Although I chose to share with my family and honor my daughter openly, I understand some women may not want to. That’s OK, they can still honor their children in their own way without others knowing.

God extends His mercy and grace to each and every one of us, no matter who we are or what we have done. He loves us.

For more information on the Post-Abortive Recovery Class, call Southeast’s Care Ministry at (502) 253-8400 or email care@secc.org.

Lisa Shelfer facilitates the Hope After Abortion class at Southeast’s Indiana Campus.