Considering how politically charged the topic of abortion is, many people have come to view it as a battle between those who are “pro-choice” and others who are “pro-life”. But in real life, that decision and the feelings involved lie on a much wider spectrum.
You might believe that you did the right thing and still find yourself grieving. Many women also wrongly feel that they have no right to grieve because the abortion was their “choice”.
Abortion is a very individual matter. For some, the decision to go through with the procedure is straightforward and simple. For others, it can be a decision that fuels anxiety or depression.
What’s the best way to deal with these difficult feelings?
Accepting that you can have contradicting feelings about this is often the first step to moving on. You are allowed to feel relief and grief at the same time! You can grieve this loss, regardless of whether you believe it was for the best. You might be glad you took the step and had an abortion on one hand, while feeling sad or torn on the other hand. If you’re feeling relieved and sad all at once, this doesn’t make you a hypocrite!
You might be experiencing any mix of these feelings:
If you feel like you regret your decision, remember that you did what you thought or felt was right in the moment. Finding out you’re pregnant can be shocking enough, especially when it’s not something you expected. In hindsight, you might have different thoughts about what you should have done, but at the time you couldn’t have known how the decision would make you feel.
It’s always easier to assume we would have preferred one outcome over the other, but that is something we can never truly know.
Taking the time to acknowledge and express any feelings you might have is important, as things we avoid tend to come back stronger. If you find yourself feeling stuck in a cycle of regret or anger, take some time to honestly express how you feel. Many people find it useful to acknowledge the loss through a more “physical” form like drawing, sculpting or writing about it. Here are examples of creative expression that can help you deal with the grief:
All of the above can help to express and release some of the emotions after your abortion. You might also find it useful to share these feelings with your friends or family if you feel like they would understand and support you. Talking about what happened can definitely help.
Unfortunately, the problem with abortion grief is that women often feel isolated in their experience. Many don’t feel like they can share this experience out of fear of judgment. This can be especially difficult if you come from a conservative family or community, where abortion is frowned upon.
Feeling like you’re the only one in the world going through this can be a haunting experience. Luckily, there are several online platforms where you can read and anonymously share abortion stories, feelings or art. Here are some examples:
Depending on your particular abortion experience, you might also feel very anxious, or even traumatized. It would be best to see a professional in order to cope with any potential trauma or severe anxiety, but there are a few things you can do to help yourself.
When these feelings of anxiety or overwhelming flashbacks flood your mind, try some mindfulness exercises. There are many applications you can use for simple exercises to ground you in the moment (such as Calm), but you can also simply take a moment to focus on your breath. Try to breathe in through your nose on the count of four, hold your breath for a count of seven and exhale through your mouth on the count of eight. This way of breathing calms the nervous system, making it effective as “crisis” support for anxiety. Some people also find it helpful to use mindfulness-based movement such as yoga.
First and foremost, abortion grief counselling or psychotherapy provides you with a safe, non-judgmental space. Getting these thoughts and emotions out of your head, when you know the listener won’t judge you, can be a very freeing experience. Whether it’s for cultural, religious or other reasons, many women dealing with abortion grief don’t feel comfortable talking to their friends or families about what happened. A therapy room, however, is a safe space where you can express yourself freely.
Aside from just listening, a therapist may use a range of techniques to soothe your trauma and help you move past overwhelming anxiety. Many people also find it useful to examine their unhelpful behavioural patterns or coping mechanisms. A therapist will help you explore these and guide you when you feel hopeless.
No matter how heart-breaking you feel your story is, there is always hope and help out there. You are not alone.
You can book a session with Anna by clicking on her bio below.