Father of Grace: My Story of Abortion, Healing, and Hope

Father’s Day is difficult for me.

Not because I had a bad father – quite the opposite. My dad is a former greaser from Chicago, turned nerdy computer analyst and loving parent. He is basically the combination of Danny Zuko from Grease, and Clark Griswold from National Lampoon’s Vacation, only cooler. To top it off he married my mother: a valley-girl – picture Cher from Clueless. PARENT WIN.

However, despite having epic parents, I didn’t desire to have children when I was younger. Partly because I was (and am still) irrationally and deathly afraid of a baby throwing up into my mouth, but mainly because it seemed like a huge responsibility – I felt I had made too many mistakes to be a good father.

Father’s day is difficult for me because several years ago, my girlfriend and I made a mistake. We were too terrified to become parents; too terrified to say yes to a child, so we terminated a pregnancy. We made the wrong decision: we aborted our daughter.

When I began growing in my faith and became aware of my sin, the guilt and regret from that abortion was something that I wrestled with constantly. I convinced myself that I was not worthy of God’s love or forgiveness, and there was nothing I could do to make amends for the life I had taken. I bought into the lie that I was unforgivable, a lie that too many of us believe.

Over 1.3 billion abortions have been performed since 1980. That’s 1.3 billion men stripped of their fatherhood. I am not blaming women for abortion; that is obviously not true. Because I was selfish and worried about my future, I cowardly pushed my girlfriend to terminate the pregnancy. It is a great tragedy that in our society, the role of the father is considered less important. We wonder why there is a crisis of fatherhood in our culture, yet we rarely talk about this side of abortion.

I know that abortion is wrong, but I also know how scary it is to accept the truth when it is happening to you. It’s difficult because the road to holiness is narrow (Matthew 7:13-14), but it is always worth it. If you have been there and made the wrong decision, you have to know that you are not alone, and there is no sin so great that God cannot forgive.

To heal, you need to be honest with yourself about what you are going through and what happened. Take comfort in knowing that our God is Lord of the living (Luke 20:38). The great mercy of God desires all men and women be saved. Jesus’ tenderness toward children which caused Him to say, “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them,” shows us there is salvation for children who have died without Baptism (CCC 1261).

We have hope in the mercy of God. We have hope that our children are in heaven. And do you know what’s crazy? They still want us to be their fathers, despite everything we have done.

That is what finally brought me healing.

If you are struggling with the scars of abortion, here are seven things to help you heal:

Name your child

Abortion is not a thing that happens – it’s a life that wasn’t allowed to live. Give that life a name. When I named my daughter Grace, I instantly saw her face. I realized she was my daughter, and I was her father.

Ask your child to pray for you

Children are prayer warriors because when they want something, they are relentless. When I ask Grace to pray for me, I imagine her running up to Jesus, jumping on His lap, and tugging on His beard over and over again, asking for whatever I need until He relents.

Go to confession

Abortion is a serious sin. We need the mercy and forgiveness that await us in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Consider making a general Confession – telling your whole story will help the priest understand the guilt you are carrying.

Talk about it

We cannot survive without community. God himself is a Trinity, a community. Who are we, then, to think we can heal on our own? Seek out a spiritual director, counselor, and other individuals you trust who can listen and pray for you.

Forgive and seek forgiveness

Abortion doesn’t just hurt individuals; it destroys a family. You have to be willing to forgive yourself and seek forgiveness from those you have hurt. Reach out to your child’s mother. Have an honest conversation about what happened and what you are both bearing.

Share your story

The best story you can tell is your own. Your story has the potential to bring hope and healing to countless souls and even save some. This will take time; you will have to be vulnerable without falling apart. There are men and women in spiritual agony due to the loss of their parenthood. You can be the instrument Jesus uses to tell them they are not alone.

Be a good father

Need help with accountability? Imagine you have a perfect, innocent son or daughter with you everywhere you go, watching everything you say and do. When I strive for holiness and sacrificially love other people, especially my wife, I am showing Grace how much I love her by being a good example.

Grace and I are praying for you.

You can do this.

You are not alone.

You are forgivable.

You are loved, and you are worthy of that love.

You are a good father.

Happy Father’s Day.


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About the Author

Matthew Zemanek

Matt Zemanek is a passionate Catholic, husband, father, minister, speaker and worship leader. Matt has a Master's Degree in Pastoral Theology from Loyola Marymount University and has been serving in ministry since 2005. He loves being Catholic, evangelizing, leading worship, riddles, spreadsheets, escape rooms, iced tea and a good book.

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