Healing Grief after an Abortion

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

This is not a discussion of the pros and cons of abortion. Both sides of the argument agree that grief after abortion is real and women must be given their voices back to process the grief. – Psychcentral

Because abortion is generally surrounded in secrecy and silence many women are struggling with their grief and how to recover.  

Abortion creates a situation of disenfranchised grief in women’s lives.  Disenfranchised grief is grief experienced by an individual that is not openly acknowledged, socially validated or publically observed.  The loss experienced is real, but survivors are not accorded the “right to grieve” by anyone around them.

A common effect of disenfranchised grief is depression, manifesting itself in small periods of sadness or more full-blown stints of depression.  These periods may be accompanied by crying spells and low times of “blue” days.

Unprocessed grief can also cause people to “stay stuck” in anger without even realizing the source of their anger.  Not connecting the depression with the unprocessed grief surrounding an abortion choice is typical.

Other ways to avoid the abortion stashed in the corner of one’s mind are medicating the pain with drugs or alcohol, becoming dependent on people and even eating disorder behaviors. 

It is this tension of emotions — relief and sadness — that disrupts a woman’s overall life and well-being.  Unless she finds a safe place to talk and cry she will probably live her life with a mask on, keeping her secret neatly tucked away out of fear, condemnation or invalidation.

We have a saying in the world of therapy. “Secrets kill.”  Thus is the path of many women after abortion.  Don’t talk.  Don’t feel.  Keep the secret.   Get on with life.

How can this barrier be conquered and grief recovery found?

  • Find a safe place to talk, share your story and even to cry. 
  •  Memorialize your loss just as you would any other loss.  Wear an angel pin or memorial piece of jewelry, plant a tree, write a poem or letter and attach it to a pink or blue balloon for release.
  • Write in a journal and express your feelings of loss and grief. 
  • Kim’s Tip:  The day before the 2 year anniversary of the abortion I found out about a website for The Church of The Holy Innocents. At the church they have a shrine in memory of children who have “died unborn”. It doesn’t matter how they died, and you don’t have to say. You can go to the website and have them enter your Child’s name in the book at the shrine called “The Book Of Life”. After you have asked for the name to be inscribed into the book they send you a certificate with the Child’s name that says that they are forever remembered in the book of life.  I found this to be very comforting to have something physical with her name on it, as proof to her existence and death. I hope this idea helps women who are suffering as I did. God bless.  Here is the website http://innocents.com/shrine.asp  “A candle is always lit in their memory. All day long people stop to pray. On the first Monday of every month, our 12:15pm Mass is celebrated in honor of these children and for the comfort of their families. We pray that you will find peace in knowing that your child(ren) will be remembered at the Shrine and honored by all who pray here.” – The Church of the Holy Innocents
  •  If you are struggling with guilt due to your faith, talk with God.  Release your feelings and find a favorite verse that you can gain comfort and memorize such as Hebrews 4:16, Matthew 11:28 , Psalm 46:1, Psalm 116:1-2, Lamentations 3:22-23 
  • Admit you can’t keep the secret anymore.  As in any path to healing from life altering situations, it is important that you be honest with yourself and give  yourself permission to grieve your abortion.  Consider the truth that keeping the secret is requiring much more energy than you have available to give to it any more.
  • If you feel “stuck” in your grief or if you find it debilitating seek a professional grief counselor.
  • There are many helpful website resources: here are a few we found helpful: 
  • http://www.silentnomoreawareness.org/search/index.aspx   – Abortion After Care Programs by Zip Code 
  • http://abortionrecovery.org/home/tabid/295/Default.aspx  – a non-profit committed to restoring lives and relationships after abortion
  • http://www.afterabortion.com/bookstore.html     – A List of Books helpful in healing from abortion
  • http://www.optionline.org/   This site lists pregnancy resource centers which many offer Post Abortion Recovery programs and support groups
  • http://www.memorialfortheunborn.org/   A national memorial for the unborn located in Chattanooga, TN  A brass plaque can be purchased and placed on the Wall of Names
  • http://www.rachelsvineyard.org/   Weekend retreats for healing after abortion
  • http://www.surrenderingthesecret.com/about-us/surrendering-the-secret-overview/  6 step biblical healing 

Finding peace begins with confronting the secrecy and the pain that you have experienced.  Through open conversation with a person of trust and unraveling the grief through expression we hope you will find healing.

Portions of this text were gathered from Trudy Johnson M.A. LMFT writings in addition to many resourceful websites.

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