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.
What women can do to recover from an abortion
Women do not need to stay in this self-imposed prison of silence. I can personally “shout from the mountain tops” that there is good news of peace, well-being and closure after a choice decision. The following are some steps a woman can take to help herself recover from an abortion:
- Find a safe place to talk, share your story and even to cry. There are people to talk to who understand that your desire to process the grief surrounding your abortion is a separate issue from legal battles or political debates. Understand that you simply must share your secret with a caring person. Keep in mind that you should stick with the referrals we list. Sometimes going to a good friend or unqualified source only brings you more invalidation. I went to three professionals who did not understand my situation. Two validated my choice but not my grief. One condemned my choice and completely invalidated my grief. So make sure you move toward safety and caring and compassionate people who understand abortion grief.
- 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 re-visit the “abortion-box” no matter how long you’ve had it stashed away. Consider the truth that keeping the secret is requiring much more energy than you have available to give to it any more.
- Give yourself a break. Many times if we can’t find others to condemn and punish us, we will take over the job ourselves! Understand that abortion can involve many losses even separate from the pregnancy. Give yourself permission to label the losses and feel the emotions of those losses.
- Don’t confuse the legal, political and religious debates with your own personal journey. If you listen to all the rhetoric from both sides you will become paralyzed with fear and confusion. Know that walking out of the darkness and into the light of healing will free up space in your mind and heart to put towards positive outcomes in your life.
- Be encouraged! Break free from your secret and LIVE.
Professional help available for recovery from abortion
A good way to begin the healing process if you’re just dipping your toe into the water would be to start with the self-help plan detailed in my book. C.P.R. ~ Choice Processing and Resolution is the first self-help book that talks ONLY about the grief component of an abortion choice. It incorporates a professional therapeutic model in a non-condemning, non-judgmental way. This workbook reaches out to all faiths and cultures with caring and compassion. C.P.R. is like a “first aid kit” for the natural grief that follows a choice decision. It is available from Amazon.com. Just choose “books” on the navigation bar and type in “help after abortion” and you will see it in the book listings. You can go to the Web site www.sadafterabortion to read more about C.P.R.~ Choice Processing and Resolution.
If you are seeking a group counseling setting, there is a non-profit organization called Abortion Recovery InterNational, Inc. (ARIN) that has done a good job compiling listings of abortion recovery groups and counselors. All affiliates hold client information in strict and absolute confidence and sign an agreement they will not engage in any communication that might cause shock or emotional distress. You can visit their online care directory at www.abortionrecovery.org to find confidential support groups in your area.
Additionally, you can just type in “help after abortion” on Internet search engines to find all the organizations involved in abortion healing.
Photo by Greg Hayter, available under a Creative Commons attribution license.
Trudy M. Johnson, M.A., LMFT is the author of Choice Processing and Resolution. Her website is www.sadafterabortion.com.