Dear Dr. Archer,
I'm a 24 year old Iraqi mother, divorced, with a six year old son. I was in the United States but in 2004 was made to return to Iraq and forced into marriage at age 17. I was divorced a year later. I was so happy to get divorced! I had my child, which the father did not know about until two years later.
Four years later I left Iraq with my son, and after five months of my return to the states, I was again forced into marriage, this time to a man twice my age. After two years of misery, mental abuse and a forced abortion, I had the guts to leave him.
My question is, how can I accept what has happened to me and move on? I always daydream and think 'what if?' I feel like I've suffered seven years of hell. Still today, I sit and cry, sometimes I feel like I'm going crazy. Please, do you have suggestions for me?
I'm truly sorry you have experienced so many injustices, especially the forced loss of a child. There is a time to mourn, to face your hurts, regrets and losses, and then a time to pick yourself up and continue on. You may have lost a child, Hanan, but you still have one that needs you.
Whether an abortion is wanted or not, it is usually a very traumatic experience. Check out Post Abortion Stress Syndrome
, or PASS, which takes you through the grieving process, feelings that may be weighing you down, and exercises to help you overcome.
There's also Difficult Feelings
, which discusses many of the emotions that occur after an abortion, like anger, grief, guilt, shame, and others. If this does not help you, Hanan, you would do well to see a therapist to help you through your very unfortunate experience, which may entail PTSD.
Your letter tells me you are a psychological survivor; I explain that in my blog The Power of Hope
, which I'd like you to read. Keeping hope alive will empower you to not only go on, but to succeed! If you dwell on anger towards those who have hurt you, Hanan, the one you will hurt the most will be yourself.
You've had some bad experiences, BUT don't forget to be thankful for what you DO have. To keep asking 'what if' keeps the hurt alive. Your past is behind you, and now you and your son have a clean slate in front of you. He needs you now. Make the most of it, and dedicate it to your little unborn child, who will always have a special place within your heart.
Good luck, Hanan. I wish you a future filled with peace and love.