After the relief typically comes a deep feeling of sadness. This might be immediately or even years after the decision. Because abortion choices provide no venue for openness, women are forced to stuff down the sadness and "get on with life."
It is this tension of emotions-relief and sadness-that disrupts a woman's overall sense of well-being. Unless she finds a safe place to talk and acknowledge the losses surrounding her decision, she will probably live her life with an emotional low-grade fever masking itself as depression.
We have a saying in the world of therapy. "Secrets kill." Thus is the path of the woman after abortion. Don't talk. Don't feel the sadness. Keep the secret. Get on with your life.
What's the Big Deal? What is there to grieve? Here are some possible losses that can cause grief:
- Loss of the pregnancy. Births of subsequent children are reminders that sometime in the past there was another pregnancy. Grieving the lost pregnancy is a very valid grief. A natural process was interrupted. Scientific studies have proven that our bodies remember every pregnancy that occurs.
- Loss of relationship. Statistics show that many couples involved in a key decision will ultimately break up. Many women choose abortion so they "wouldn't lose him." For married partners, the grief of the abortion may affect partners differently. The Husband may minimize the pregnancy loss.
- Loss of dreams. I've worked with many ladies who were eventually not able to get pregnant when the time became right. This can be very painful for women in this place of grief.
How does a woman walk through abortion grief? Staying silent keeps us safe, but it doesn't stop the grief. I remember the times in my life when I spent dark moments wondering why I was sad, not knowing why I was sad, yet suspecting that this sadness was possibly connected to my abortion choice. I didn't know I needed permission to grieve my loss. I realize now that I needed to give myself permission to go through the grieving process.
Grief after an abortion is real and if left unprocessed can lead to depressed states for women. Women do not need to stay in this self-imposed prison of silence. There is good news of peace, well-being and closure after a choice decision. The following are what a woman can do to help herself recover from an abortion:
1. Find a safe place to talk and share your story; even cry. There are resources available that understand that your desire to process the grief surrounding your abortion is a separate issue from you wanting to get involved in legal battles or political debates. Sometimes going to a good friend or unqualified source only brings more invalidation. I went to three professionals who did not understand my situation. Two validated my choice but not my grief. One condemned my choice and completely invalidated my grief. Make sure you go towards safety and caring, compassionate people who understand abortion grief.