If you have ever experienced an abortion, or played a role in influencing the decision, you may feel alone. You may feel stuck in the memory of your abortion, trying to cope with the emotional trauma and feelings of guilt that often accompany the decision.
It has been found that approximately 24% of American women will have had an abortion by the time they’re 45 . That is approximately 1 out of every 4 women. If you feel stuck, the reality is, you are not alone. There is hope and healing for you.
The Trauma of Abortion
Many women who choose abortion option actually go against their own sense of right and wrong resulting in deep feelings of guilt. The guilt then stops them from processing and talking through the feelings that surface post-abortion. The result is silent suffering in emotional trauma.
Post-Abortion Stress Syndrome (PASS) is a condition that occurs in men and women after an abortion experience due to unresolved psychological and spiritual issues. PASS is a form of the commonly recognized Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This often follows traumatizing events and experiences such as witnessing an act of violence.
Many professional counselors report that women are not able to process the painful thoughts and emotions–guilt, anger, and grief– that come from an abortion. If you have experienced an abortion, you may struggle to identify and grieve your loss due to these intense emotions.
Grieving the Loss
Oftentimes, women feel immediate relief as soon as the abortion is complete. However, the regret of the abortion touches people deeply–emotionally and spiritually–and as time passes, feelings of guilt and grief begin to surface. There are a few common reasons you may struggle coping with your loss.
- There is no external evidence (pictures or other memorabilia) that your baby existed.
- You place so much blame on yourself that you may feel you have no right to grieve a loss you chose to suffer.
- No memorial service of eulogy marked the loss of the child. One day the pre-born baby was in your womb and the next he/she was gone.
Because of any or all of these reasons, the grieving process does not feel justified. As a result, emotions can end up repressed and manifest as deep sadness, shame, and anger. Yet, due to the silence and repression, you may feel triggered by other significant losses or a new pregnancy because you are reminded of your emotional trauma from your previous abortion experience.
When repressed feelings begin to surface, stress can also surface. This can be exhibited in a number of ways:
- Continued guilt
- Self-destructive behaviors including eating disorders, alcohol and/or substance abuse, abusive relationships, and promiscuity
- Re-living events related to the abortion–memories or nightmares involving lost or dismembered babies
- Anxiety that creates dizziness, headaches, racing heart, abdominal cramps, muscle tightness, or sleep depravity
- Unconscious vows– “I will never let anything hurt me this badly again.” This ultimately hinders the ability to enjoy a healthy, intimate relationship
- Depression–deep sadness, sudden and uncontrollable crying, poor self-concept, loss of normal sources of pleasure, and suicidal thoughts
- Preoccupation with a new pregnancy– “If I become pregnant again, I can replace the baby I aborted.”
- Difficulty in bonding with other children
- Anniversary reactions–symptoms tend to increase around the time of the anniversary of the abortion or other date reminders of the pregnancy
Path to Healing
As soon as you realize that you have been deeply impacted by the abortion and recognize your need for healing consider these important steps.
- Choose to remember the pain. You will have to peel back the hard layers you have developed through repressing your emotions to protect yourself from feeling deep, underlying pain. Whether you address them or not, feelings are still there underneath your coping mechanisms affecting current choices and behavior. Find a safe, supportive environment, such as a post-abortion support group, where you can talk about your abortion experience. You can schedule an appointment with us today and we can provide you with the services and counseling you need in your process of healing.
- Accept Forgiveness. There will come a point on your healing journey where you will have to forgive yourself. You will have to release yourself from the guilt, shame, and pain of the decisions you made in the past. As long as you hold on to the guilt and responsibility, you will not be able to move forward in healing.
- Identify and release your anger. When we experience emotional trauma, anger is a common outcome. Maybe you feel overwhelmed by the anger you feel and fear that if you release it, you will lose a sense of control. However, the truth is, until you openly acknowledge the pain and the anger, you will not get rid of it. Consider processing with a support group, trusted individuals, or in counseling.
- Grieve the Loss. Though the process of grieving may be difficult when you feel the responsibility of the death of your child, it is important to let the grief come. Consider thinking of your baby as a real individual, naming him/her, writing out all of your feelings for your child, and having a private memorial service. This may initiate a grieving process that is absolutely necessary and healthy.
There Is Hope
Many women feel hopeless because of pain they feel from the abortion experience. However, healing is absolutely possible. Thousands of women experience the same feelings you may be feeling right now and there are many ways that you can receive the help you need to start your journey to wholeness. Real Choices Clinic in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho is ready to welcome you with Open Arms. Learn more about our no-cost support services here.