Emotional Health After an Abortion
One of the first steps to better emotional health is to identify the feelings you may be having.
Pay attention to your emotional health after an abortion
After the loss of a pregnancy, it is common to feel anger, grief, guilt and/or shame. You may also question your spiritual beliefs or feel a sense of relief or empowerment. It is possible, and normal, to feel all or none of these. It is also quite normal to have feelings that seem to contradict each other. For example, some women feel a sense of sadness and a sense of relief at the same time. For some women, the feelings may be felt weeks, months, even years after the loss of a pregnancy through abortion, miscarriage, stillbirth or adoption. Whatever you are feeling, you are entitled to a grieving which is an emotional health process after an abortion.
Expressing your feelings is crucial to emotional health after an abortion, as is honoring your experience so that you integrate this event into your life, not push it down or try to forget it. Sometimes it’s a matter of finding someone you can talk to- someone you can trust to be non-judgmental. Some women seek out professional counselors or spiritual advisors.
You may want to create your own way to acknowledge your loss or changes. It may be as simple as releasing a symbolic object into the water, planting a tree or writing a letter or poem.
There are many resources available to support women who’ve lost a pregnancy. Some are pro-choice, some are anti-abortion and some are very neutral. Our staff is constantly compiling non-judgmental resources to help you with your healing, including web sites and phone talk lines. Please ask our staff about these resources if you are interested.
Letting go of blame – Taking steps to help you feel back in control
For many women, becoming pregnant when they didn’t want to is the most difficult part about having an abortion. Maybe your birth control measures failed or maybe other circumstances found you unprotected from pregnancy. It is helpful to recognize you are not alone – you became pregnant under the same circumstances in which many other women have also become pregnant. This may help you to let go of the shame and self-blame you may be experiencing.
Allow time to grieve
Grief is different for everyone. Many women are surprised at how difficult the grieving process can be. There is no set timeframe, although most patients tell us that after two weeks they are feeling pretty much back to normal. If you or someone you know is feeling a deep sadness and a lack of interest in life that has lasted more than two weeks, we urge you to contact us or a mental health professional for help.
Please remember, there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Allow yourself time to heal.
Talk to someone you can trust, share your experience with others
Sometimes, just being able to talk with someone who you know will not judge you is a great relief. Find others who are willing to truly listen and who will try to understand your feelings with compassion and without judgment. If you feel you don’t have anyone to talk to, consider calling a trusted crisis hotline (see resources below) who can offer immediate support. You might also find some of your own feelings or experiences in stories of other women who have dealt with painful post-abortion feelings. There are some websites you may find helpful in sharing stories and finding similar experiences, especially if you do not have support around you.
BE AWARE: There are many internet sites designed by people who do not support a woman’s choice of abortion and want to make you feel bad about yourself and your decision. For pro-choice supportive sites, visit the Abortion Care Network.
Ways to Honor Your Experience
You may want to create your own way to acknowledge your loss or changes. It may be as simple as releasing a symbolic object into the water, planting a tree or writing a poem. This might be a healing way for you to memorialize the day and move forward.
Write a letter to yourself
If there are people who oppose your decision or if you are worried about regretting your decision later, take some time now to write about why made the choice of abortion right now, and how you felt about ending this pregnancy. Save this to read at a later date if you need to. It can be helpful to remind yourself of your feelings during this time in your life.
Write a letter to the spirit of the child
Many women find they are talking to the spirit of the child inside of them. It may be useful and helpful to write your thoughts on paper. Some women write how they came to their decision, some ask for forgiveness, some thank the spirit for the wisdom or thoughts they have had about life, some write about the love they feel. Sometimes, having a way to say goodbye is an important part of healing.
Embrace your spirituality
What is spirituality? People use many different names for their spirituality. People use many different names for their spirituality. One name is God. Others include Creator, Holy Spirit, Goddess, Greater Truth, Higher Power, Voice Within, Inner Light, Loving Spirit, Divine Feminine or Infinite Wisdom. Our spirituality is wise and loving, and we usually know when we are honoring it. It’s important to discover your own truth and honor it.
Some women feel conflicted about their pregnancy choice, especially the choice of abortion, and their religious teachings. If you or someone you know is experiencing this, we encourage you to look a little deeper into your religion. You may be surprised to find more tolerance than you expect.
Did you know?
Women with strong religious feelings choose abortion in the same proportion as all women. And, many religions support a woman’s right and responsibility to make pregnancy decisions. For more information about different religious views relating to abortion, see theReligious Coalition for Reproductive Rights website.
BE AWARE: We know there are many websites out there designed by people that do not support a woman’s choice of abortion and want to make you feel bad about yourself and your decision. Unfortunately, these sites generally offer nothing but untruths and lies about abortion and sometimes it’s hard to tell the truths from the lies. Please try to visit factual websites that offer support and are not judgmental.
Backline is an organization dedicated to promoting unconditional support for decisions, feelings and experiences surrounding pregnancy, parenting, abortion and adoption. Their Talkline (1-888-493-0092) is a peer-counseling service for women and their loved ones from the US and Canada, no matter where you are in the decision-making process.
Faith Aloud is an organization that promote reproductive justice through the moral power of religious and ethical communities. They work hard to overcome the religious stigma of abortion and sexuality. Faith Aloud offers free phone counseling by specially-trained clergy and religious counselors of many different faiths. Please call 1-314-531-5010 for more information about this service.
The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice is leading the religious movement to advance the health and well-being of women and families. They understand that for people of faith, reproductive justice is a moral imperative, grounded in centuries of sacred texts.
Catholics for Choice is an organization that strives to be an expression of Catholicism as it is lived by everyday people. They are part of the great majority who believes that Catholic teachings on conscience mean that every individual must follow his or her own conscience- and respect others’ right to do the same.
Imagine Counseling offers telephone counseling for pre and post abortion, pregnancy, grief, coming out, relationship issues, and gay and lesbian issues. Their website also links you to useful worksheets dealing with pre and post abortion decision-making. Please contact them at 1-505-757-2991 for more information. It’s a $25 introductory fee for the first hour session.