Emotional Health After an Abortion
“We understand that a decision can be right… and still be sad. You can be relieved that you are not pregnant now and feel sad about it at the same time. This is normal. Don’t confuse ‘sad’ with ‘bad.’ Trust your ability to know what is right.”
– Northland Family Planning Clinic
“Making a choice about your pregnancy can be a gift of learning and growth. It is an invitation for you to develop a larger vision of yourself. It’s a way to practice compassion and loving kindness toward yourself.”
– Abortion: Finding Your Own Truth, by Corrintha Rebecca Bennett,Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice
The first step to emotional health after abortion is to identify the feelings you have.
After the loss of a pregnancy, it is common to feel anger, grief, guilt and/or shame. These are all normal emotions. You might 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 normal to have conflicting emotions after an abortion procedure. Some people feel a sense of sadness and a sense of relief at the same time. For some people, 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 after an abortion, you are entitled to a grieving, which is an emotional health process.
Expressing your feelings is crucial to emotional health after an abortion. Honor your experience so that you integrate this event into your life, not push it down, or try to repress or forget it. Sometimes it’s a matter of finding someone you can talk to — someone you can trust to be nonjudgmental. Some people seek out professional counselors or spiritual advisors so they can better sort out and handle their emotions after abortion.
Note to Those in an Abusive Relationship
If you are afraid of being hurt by your partner or if someone tries to make you feel bad about yourself, please get help before it gets worse. There are services in your area that can help. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or for the National Sexual Assault Hotline (sexual assault, rape, incest) call 1-800-656-4673 and they will connect you with a trained local service provider. Counseling for you and/or your partner is available, as well as shelters, support groups, and information.
Letting go of blame — Taking steps to help you feel back in control of your emotions after abortion
For many people, 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 others have also become pregnant. This may help you to let go of the shame and self-blame you may be experiencing.
Experiencing grief is a normal emotion after abortion
Grief is different for everyone. There is no set timeframe, although most patients tell us that after a couple of weeks they feel pretty much back to normal. If you or someone you know is feeling deep sadness and a lack of interest in life, lasting more than two weeks, we urge you to contact us or a mental health professional for help.
“Whether we experience it or not, grief accompanies all the major changes in our lives. When we realize that we have grieved before and recovered, we see that we may recover this time as well. It is more natural to recover…than to halt in the tracks of grief forever…our expectation, willingness and beliefs are all essential to our recovery from grief. It is right to expect to recover, no matter how great the loss. Recovery is the normal way.”
– Judy Tatelbaum
Talk to someone you can trust — Share your experience with others
Sometimes, just being able to talk with someone who will not judge you is a great relief. Find others who are willing to truly listen and 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) that can offer immediate support. You might also find some of your own feelings or experiences in stories of other people 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 the choice of abortion and want to make you feel bad about yourself and your decision. For pro-choice supportive sites, visit our Resource page.
Honor your experience
While going through the emotions after an abortion, you may want to create your own way to acknowledge your loss or recent 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 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 people 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 write about 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 people feel conflicted about their pregnancy choice, especially the choice of abortion, and their religious teachings. If you or someone you know may be experiencing these emotions after abortion, 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?
People with strong religious feelings choose abortion in the same proportion as anyone who chooses abortion. And, many religions support the right and responsibility to make pregnancy decisions. For more information about different religious views relating to abortion, see the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Rights website.
BE AWARE: We know there are many websites out there designed by people that do not support a pregnant person’s choice, with the goal to make you feel bad about yourself for making this personal decision. Unfortunately, these sites generally offer nothing but half-truths and blatant lies about abortion. Because of all of this misinformation, it can be hard to tell the truths from the lies. Please try to visit factual websites that offer support and are not judgmental.
All Options 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 anyone from the US and Canada, no matter where you are in the decision-making process.
Faith Aloud is an organization that promotes 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.