For some women, the decision to terminate a pregnancy is not an easy one.Even if you are a hundred percent certain you are doing the right thing based on your life circumstances, you may face a rush of confusing emotions following the procedure. After abortion, women often walk away feeling as though they have no right to grieve, no right to struggle emotionally, and no right to feel or express feelings of sadness or emptiness. You may feel that way now, whether your abortion was yesterday or yesteryear. There may seem like there is just no place to examine those feelings, accept them, share them… let alone process them.
Before we look at ways to deal with grief after abortion, let’s consider what you or a loved one who has chosen abortion might be experiencing:
Understanding Grief after Abortion
Stuck in Secret Sadness
A wide range of conflicting or competing emotions may occur after abortion. Some of which include:
This many emotions would challenge anyone.
The decision to end your pregnancy is rarely a light one, regardless of how it may seem to those on the outside looking in.
After abortion, it is crucial to be aware that the relief at having resolved your personal crisis may or may not be sustained as you deal with your emotions. It is normal to place self-imposed pressure on yourself to be “okay,” to try to make your life “worth” the choice to abort, or any number of other internal responses.
You are not alone. But, it is normal to feel that way, because society hasn’t yet made a clear decision on how to respond and support you.
Silenced by Society
Negative or unresponsive societal reaction to your choice can interrupt your personal grieving process significantly. This may lead to further isolation, emotional complications, and anguish in these, and other, forms of grief:
Disenfranchised grief: Invisibility after abortion can be devastating. Women are presented with contradictory and confusing messages. Life and grief after choosing to discontinue a pregnancy has no real space in societal conversation regarding recovery or social acceptance.
The experience is confined to each woman’s privacy, often to the point where it becomes unacknowledged, perpetually invalidated, and without true observance. Society seems to insinuate that you are not a loss survivor. You are not afforded the right to claim the grief process and should not expect to be recognized or supported as such.
Unprocessed Grief: Often, when there simply isn’t space for grief, people disconnect from it. You still feel angry, resentful, ashamed, and unworthy. But you don’t know why. In this case, abortion is filed away in your mind and life history–without the necessary review and resolution.
Unfortunately, many women are encouraged to handle their abortions this way by well-meaning partners, loved ones, or even abortion care providers. “Get on with your life,” is the message. Yet, despite their best efforts, many women find it too difficult to do so without serious consequences to their mental and emotional health.
Stigmatized Grief: Societal backlash regarding abortion is real and painful. At a time when you need most to feel supported and safe to grieve in your own way, societal friction about the topic itself often gives rise to an inappropriate and harsh response. Sadly, your grief is seen as either punishment or a deserved consequence, and not met with healing compassion or support.
Struggling to Survive the Suffering
Coping with grief that is limited or invalidated can take its toll. Grief complicated by unhealthy coping mechanisms like substance abuse, eating disorders, or risky behavior and relationships is not uncommon. It is vital that post-abortive grief be addressed completely, with recovery and total well being in mind.
Dealing with Grief after Abortion
Stay Strong with Self-sustaining Self-help Solutions
- Tell yourself the truth.You need to examine your feelings regarding your abortion. Accept and embrace your freedom to recover. You have a right to release the secrecy and live your life.
- Recognize the abortion rhetoric does not lead to recovery.The debate surrounding abortion is not helpful during your personal grief process. Seek help that is personal and positive, not based on someone else’s political, cultural, or religious views.
- Meditate, journal, pray. Allow yourself to unload your secret in a safe way. Think about it, write about it, sing about it. Allow it all to come out of hiding. Give yourself permission to name your pain, your losses, and your right to express them as you see fit.
Seek Safe, Sympathetic Support
- Find a safe place to share your story. Seek out a support group or a therapist. Keep looking until you find compassionate, nonjudgmental alliances. There are people who understand what you’re going through and are willing to talk with you, hear you, and move forward with you.
Grief after abortion need not and should not become a painful secret or societal punishment. Take care of yourself. It’s okay.
If you’re suffering and unable to move on, contact me. Together we’ll develop strategies to help you cope and deal with your grief in a safe, non-judgmental atmosphere.
You deserve to take the time you need to grieve and go on.