Author’s Note: The Grief Recovery Institute does not wish that anyone take this article to be a pro or con stance on the issue of abortion. The purpose of The Institute is to help people deal with the emotional pain of grief, whatever its cause.
The grief of abortion is a topic that is severely under addressed. It falls in the category of disenfranchised grief, in that it’s something that is often ignored and discounted. Unfortunately, for these grievers, they will often find that others approach it as a moral issue, rather than one that is deeply emotional.
We have previously dealt with the topic of spontaneous abortion in “The Grief of a Miscarriage.” Medically induced abortions are uniquely different when it comes to the grief that may result. Those that elect this procedure often miss out on any emotional support from friends and family, since they frequently do not share with others that they have taken this action. (On many occasions, a woman may not have even informed the father that she has taken this action.) Whatever they may be feeling is often something that they face alone, which is even more isolating. The emotional issues that surface related to an abortion have been identified by some as a form of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The conflicting feelings an abortion can generate
Therapists have found that immediately after an abortion, a woman may experience an immediate sense of relief in having taken action to deal an unwanted pregnancy or one in which their fetus had abnormalities that would have resulted in lifelong medical issues. That level of relief will vary from person to person, based on their unique situation.
Coupled with that feeling of relief, however, many women will also experience elements of sadness, either immediately or with the passage of time. The reasons for this sadness (and grief) can vary greatly, depending on the individual. It may be related to feeling of morality or how others might judge them. For some it’s based on the relationship that brought on the pregnancy. It might be as a consequence of feelings of what “might have been,” had the pregnancy gone to full term and the birth of a child. The list of possible causes of these feelings of sadness is endless.
The net result of this combination of feelings can be very confusing. If these feelings are being dealt with alone and without any outside support, they can become overwhelming. While the act of the abortion may have been deemed as a logical and correct choice at that time, the emotional response people experience is in no way related to logic.
How is the grief of abortion manifested?
As with any issue of grief, how it impacts the griever can be varied. When you suppress feelings of emotional pain, you can experience symptoms that often seem unrelated to the emotional event that is causing that grief. Grievers often miss the connection, since they have become so adept at burying their emotional pain so deep inside.
- suicidal behaviors
- alcohol and drug abuse
- eating disorders
- abusive relationships
- risk taking behaviors
- setting self up to fail
- marriage and family breakdown
- difficulty bonding with children
- child neglect / abuse / over protective [actions with other children]
- sexual dysfunction
- domestic violence
- [relationships] with friends/work colleagues
Mental health problems
- postnatal depression
- anxiety attacks
- obsessive compulsive disorders
- depression, mood swings
- personality disorders
- emotional breakdown
- hallucinations - hearing voices or babies crying, seeing child at would be age.
- chronic anger or rage
- frequent crying
- lowered self esteem
- chronic fatigue
- inability to concentrate
- headaches, chest or abdominal pains, gastro-intestinal symptoms
- feelings of impending doom
- sense of hopelessness
- self isolation
- inability to be around pregnant women, babies or small children
- unable to hold down a job / make decisions
As was stated above, these are just some of the issues that might be faced by someone dealing with the emotional pain that can surface from an abortion. Since each individual responds differently, based on their particular situation and personal make-up, there are no ways to determine in advance just how they will be impacted. That is the nature of any grief response to any causative event: grief can take a person down unexpected and unplanned paths. How we can move beyond its power comes in recognizing that these changes in dealing with new situations are a result of a grief causing experience and that action is needed to deal with that sense of loss.
The grief of abortion is not restricted just to women
The emotional pain of loss that can come with an abortion is not just a woman’s issue. While many people discount the level of loss felt by the male partner in an abortion, the man can experience feelings of loss as well. The symptoms a man may feel can include many of those outlined above for women.
Using The Grief Recovery Method in dealing with the grief of abortion
As with any grief issue, the key to moving beyond the emotional pain of loss is in taking action.
The Grief Recovery Method is designed to effectively deal with the emotional pain of any significant loss. If a woman (or a man) is experiencing elements of grief related to an abortion, this approach can be very therapeutic. I have personally found it highly effective in working with both women and men in dealing with grief associated with an abortion.
“The Grief Recovery Handbook” is designed to allow each griever to adapt its tools to their particular loss and the feelings of emotional pain that loss has generated in them. It’s a step by step approach to understanding, not only the specific impact of their pain, but also how to take positive action to release it and move beyond its control over their lives. This action can be taken using the book alone, or with the assistance of a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist in either a group or one-on-one situation. Since the pain of loss related to an abortion is something that the majority of these grievers have tried to handle alone, there is a tremendous advantage to seeking the support of a Certified Specialist in this journey. They have been trained to approach this support without the criticism, analysis and judgment that so many of people who have elected to have an abortion may have experienced from others in the past. This is one step in this journey that you do not have to take alone!
The grief of abortion is something that many people experience, even though they never expected it as a consequence. No matter whether the abortion was recent, or many years in the past, that grief will continue to persist, no matter how you might try to bury it deep in your heart. Like most grief, just when you think you are in control of it, it can be triggered by any random stimulus. Taking effective grief recovery action can eliminate those random triggers and free you from that emotional pain.
Photo Credit: 123RF Stock Photo