January 22 marks the 41st anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. Many women feel triggering emotions, like deep sadness or intense, unexplainable pain on this day.
Why is this? There's a lot at play here. First, the first work week of January might possibly be the most depressing week of the year. While we hope for new beginnings, often the new year is just another reminder of how much things actually remain the same. Statistics show that by the time we get back to work after the holidays, we've broken at least half of our new year's resolutions; that's discouraging! And as that new work week rolls around, right behind it is another week for many women that also can bring a high level of depression.
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The third week of January brings with it the anniversary of the legalization of abortion or voluntary pregnancy terminatino (VPT) by a famous Supreme Court decision. On January 22nd this year, we realize 41 years of legalized abortion in our nation. 41 years is a long time: There is an entire middle-aged generation that assumes abortion is a normal constitutional right.
A few quiet news outlets may mention the anniversary of Roe vs Wade to their audiences. However, in the hearts of many women, regardless of which side of the fence their beliefs lie, this day is an ever-present reminder of a painful time from their past — one that is rarely discussed in public or without stigma. But here's the thing: Pain is a universal language that needs no interpreter. Regardless of race, religion, economic status or geographic location, pain and unprocessed grief regarding an abortion or VPT decision are common denominators for women of choice.
Women are left alone, abandoned in their pain as they process through their voluntary pregnancy termination. There is a misconception that the abortion itself is the closure; however it is my experience that closure cannot come until the deep grief is thoroughly processed. Women often feel they need permission to grieve their loss. To many, abortion falls under the category of volatile subjects to never discuss — at parties or elsewhere. For many women, however, their abortion secret is a soul-shaming event that clouds their identity and brings them intense unprocessed sadness; sadness they just wish they could speak about with someone who understands..
As a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in the State of Colorado, I experienced first-hand the natural grief that can follow an abortion choice. I didn't know I needed permission to grieve my loss. I was too ashamed to go to another person who would understand. I began digging out of my depression when I gave myself permission to go through the grieving process. My VPT healing journey was a solitary trek. It was not politically charged, nor was it about being responsible or irresponsible. No, it was about the sadness I needed to acknowledge. It was about the sorrow that hung around my neck like a smoky cloud, a nagging pain that would crop up at the most unusual times. It was a fruitless longing over something I just couldn't put my finger on. I would fight the feelings and put a smile on my face, but the depression crept in and I could no longer fight it. But it doesn't have to be like that for you.
What can you do if January 22nd triggers you because of your secret abortion pain?
- Listen to your gut. Women have the remarkable gift of intuition. Triggering on this day may mean you have not processed through your abortion experience.
- Instead of avoiding and stuffing feelings inside, you must explore the sorrow. There is real power in speaking about your pain. Face it and feel it if you want to be free of it.
- Help and resources are available. Find a safe person to talk with and share your grief.
- Make this the year you will reach a place of closure and peace.
For more help — and to connect with someone who understands, visit www.missingpieces.org. Here, I provide resources to help women process grief after abortion. There is a self help plan available in both English and Spanish, endorsed by Dr. Christiane Northrup, M.D.,F.A.C.O.G., that can help you work through the pain in the quiet of your own environment. I have also developed resources for professional therapists, so they may better help their clients in the journey to reaching closure over their VPT. I am dedicated to bringing abortion after-care into the 21st century.
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