How could a decision that was supposed to make everything better leave a woman with so much pain?
Many post-abortive women experience feelings which take them by surprise because they had no preparation for possible feelings of grief related to their abortion.
Even research aiming to support the moral right of abortion concede that regret is commonly associated with the act. But much of narrative focuses on minimizing or de-legitimizing such which results in a stigmatization of post abortion pain for women who experience it.
This approach can, inadvertently, drive women into deeper secrecy and shame. Instead, compassionate, skilled care involves a nuanced and open approach to the topic of abortion.
If they are to truly care for women, clinicians must acknowledge the unique issues which compel women to consider abortion, among which include, but are not limited to cultural pressures, abuse/control in the relationship, family pressures, employer pressures.
When cultures limit or exclude certain types of grief from being respected, honored and expressed, it results in “disenfranchised” grief. Such disenfranchised grief, in our culture, might include, along with the loss of a child due to abortion, the death of a loved one who is not a blood relative, miscarriage, or the loss of cognitive functioning due to illness.
Sadly, clinicians may inadvertently compound the complications of post-abortion grief by collaborating with the secrecy of abortion.
Few clinicians include questions about a prior abortion during their initial intake and thereby communicate their unspoken agreement that the topic is “off limits.”
Clinicians limit their own understanding of the unique emotional state of their clients by neglecting to collect information related to a woman’s abortion history.
As one grief specialist stated, “Therapists have to acknowledge the ways that cultural constraints and social issues such as perceived injustice can complicate grief.”
Research has demonstrated a positive association between induced abortion and some types of mental illness, including a significant association with depression. Untreated depression related to abortion-related pain may compound to effect women with suicidal ideation.
Because women who seek abortion do not anticipate experiencing intense regret associated with the procedure, they may find themselves unprepared and unsupported when intense feelings of sadness occur.
Cultural taboo associated with these losses forbids their free expression of these emotions. Surprising these emotions inhibits a natural movement through the grieving process and can result increased isolation, anger, depression and even suicidality. Women may report relational distress which they are unaware is linked to a prior abortion. Data
Regardless of one’s political views on abortion, it cannot be denied that for many women it is a traumatic event in their lives. It is recognized that being prevented from expressing one’s experience of a traumatic event compounds the residual effects of the trauma in the individual. Women who experience lasting feelings of regret and shame are ignored and silenced amidst the contentious rhetoric of the abortion conversation. Claims denying the real distress reported by many post-abortive women and documented by significant research are both misleading and harmful to a population in need of compassionate care.
We seek to provide comfort and healing from this trauma for the women who are left to shoulder such a burden alone and in silence.
At Clearway, women find a safe place to express suppressed emotions related to prior abortion(s). We meet with women individually and in groups to help identify and facilitate healing and freedom from guilt and shame. As a Christian organization, we utilize a Biblically based model. However, we have participants from non-religious backgrounds as well.
Our program walks women on a journey through the suppressed emotions towards a healthy expression of their feelings. The 11-week groups go through touchpoints of: anger/forgiveness, guilt/honesty, shame/freedom; and depression/hope. In our groups we also offer women the opportunity to express their grief through ritual as mothers who are entitled to mourn their children. The comfort which has been denied to them may finally be expressed and received.