You bravely navigated the process of deciding what to do about your unplanned pregnancy. You researched and sought advice. But if you ultimately chose abortion, you might be confused about how you’re feeling because you didn’t expect to feel sad.
In our last post, we discussed ways that you can take care of yourself physically after an abortion. In this article, we’ll talk about how to cope with grief after an abortion.
Emotions Are Normal After Abortion
There is no right or wrong way to feel after you’ve had an abortion. You’re permitted to feel how you feel, and you’re not alone if you experience complicated emotions that may include:
It’s possible for a wide range of emotions to occur together – or come and go in waves. Your abortion experience is unique to you, and there is no “right” way to respond after you’ve had one.
Having to cope with grief is common after abortion, and it can set in soon afterward or many years or decades later. Grieving post-abortion isn’t unique to women – men also experience post-abortion grief.
While it’s not possible to definitively predict if you’ll struggle emotionally after an abortion, research has exposed factors that are more likely to cause a negative impact on your emotional and mental health afterward. Those factors include having:
- Been coerced or forced to have an abortion.
- Insufficient support.
- A history of multiple abortions.
- A late-term abortion.
- Pre-existing psychological or emotional conditions.
- Ethical, moral, or religious beliefs that conflict with abortion.
Next, we’ll discuss how to recognize signs that you’re grieving after an abortion.
Symptoms of Grief After Abortion
Grief after abortion is a unique kind of grief known as disenfranchised grief. Disenfranchised grief refers to “a loss that’s not openly acknowledged, socially mourned or publicly supported,” according to grief expert Kenneth Doka.
Grief is your soul’s way of saying “that mattered.” Unfortunately, women often believe they don’t have the right to openly grieve after abortion because they chose it. This inability to mourn publicly after an abortion can cause anxiety, depression, and shame.
You not only deserve to grieve but you need to grieve so your body can release the pain you’re feeling.
Abortion Grief Australia has outlined various symptoms of post-abortion grief and depression, which can include:
- Suicidal thoughts/behaviors
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Eating disorders
- Abusive relationships
- Risk-taking behaviors
- With marriage/partner/family/friends/colleagues
- Difficulty bonding with children
- Child neglect/abuse/overprotective
- Sexual dysfunction
- Domestic violence
- Repeat abortions
- Atonement child to replace the one that was aborted
Mental health problems:
- Post-abortion depression
- Anxiety attacks
- Obsessive-compulsive disorders
- Mood swings
- Personality disorders
- Emotional breakdown
- Hallucinations – hearing voices or babies crying, seeing the child at would-be age
- Chronic anger or rage
- Frequent crying
- Lowered self-esteem
- Chronic fatigue
- Inability to concentrate
- Headaches, chest or abdominal pains, gastrointestinal symptoms
- Feelings of impending doom
- Sense of hopelessness
- Inability to be around pregnant women, babies, or small children
- Inability to hold down a job / make decisions
If you recognize any of these symptoms in yourself, know that you aren’t alone and compassionate help is available.
If you feel hopeless or have thoughts of self-harm or suicide, seek professional help right away. You can receive compassionate support immediately by texting HOME to 741741 or calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988.
How To Cope With Grief and Depression After Abortion
The following tips can help you cope with grief and depression after an abortion.
1. Practice self-compassion.
More than ever, this is the time to be kind to yourself. Remind yourself that you made a difficult decision that you felt was best for you at the time.
Allow yourself space to be sad. Some women find it helpful to write down their thoughts and feelings in a journal. Writing a letter to your child can also be very healing.
2. Prioritize self-care.
One aspect of showing kindness and compassion toward yourself is prioritizing self-care.
The following list suggests ways you can care for yourself well after an abortion:
- Eating nutritious foods
- Practicing relaxation techniques
- Exercising – even light exercise can boost your mental health
- Reducing stress in other areas of your life as much as you can
3. Maintain connection with supportive people.
Isolation is a slippery slope to depression, but so is surrounding yourself with people who are not supportive. You deserve professional and caring support after abortion from those who will hold space for you and not judge you for having an abortion.
Corbella Clinic Offers Grief Support Resources
Have you been surprised by unexpected grief after an abortion? As we’ve already mentioned, you are not alone! If you would like to talk with someone who is trustworthy, you can make an appointment with one of our caring, professional nurses at Corbella Clinic.
At Corbella Clinic, we listen well and can also offer referrals to programs that help you process post-abortion grief and other feelings through retreats, small groups, and one-on-one post-abortion professional counseling.
If you’re pregnant, we also provide pregnancy services and accurate information that empower you to make an informed decision about your next steps.
Contact us today for a no-cost and confidential appointment.