Choosing to terminate a pregnancy is never an easy decision to make. Even when it’s the right decision, you may experience unexpected emotions that you’re not entirely sure how to deal with.
If you’re considering, planning, or have recently had an elective abortion, you need to be prepared for how the procedure could affect you not just physically, but mentally and emotionally as well. Grief, while not always experienced, is an emotion that commonly surfaces after voluntary pregnancy termination. The better you understand abortion grief, the easier it will be to overcome.
Having an abortion can result in a wide range of emotional responses.
The emotional effects of an abortion can be, positive, negative, or even a combination of the two. Conflicting feelings are normal in this situation, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t confusing. Most women feel relief after an abortion, maintaining that they made the right decision even years after the procedure. It is not uncommon, however, for that relief to be coupled with guilt, sadness, and other negative emotion immediately following your experience.
Abortion grief, specifically, is characterized by elements of sadness and depression that result from a terminated pregnancy or unresolved emotions related to the pregnancy itself.
Abortion grief is considered a type of disenfranchised grief.
Disenfranchised grief, a relatively newer term, is grief due to a loss that is not or cannot be acknowledged openly, publicly, or that is not sanctioned by society. Loss in these situations is often ignored, minimized, or even considered unjustified by others.
When your normal resources for support are limited, it can be more challenging to deal with negative emotions you may be experiencing after your abortion. Social stigma, religious beliefs, relationship problems, and interruptions to your hormone cycle due to pregnancy can all contribute to abortion grief.
Abortion grief can manifest in many different ways.
There is no one right way to react or feel after terminating a pregnancy. Feelings of loss and sadness after an abortion may be expressed (consciously or unconsciously) in a number of different self-destructive behaviors and mental health problems.
A woman dealing with abortion grief may experience, for example, some of the following:
- Suicidal thoughts/behaviors
- Eating disorder
- Drug and/or alcohol abuse
- Difficulties communicating and bonding in relationships
- Mood swings
- Low self-esteem
- Feelings of hopelessness & isolation
It’s important to understand that, although these are some of the more common symptoms of abortion grief, it does not always look the same. Your emotional response to elective abortion will depend on your situation, pre-existing mental health conditions, and a number of other factors.
Give yourself the mental and emotional space you need to deal with your feelings after an abortion.
The only way to accept, process, and let go of negative emotions after an abortion is to let yourself feel them. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed, relieved, guilt, anger, etc. This does not mean that you made the wrong decision.
Forgive yourself and allow yourself to feel the pain of your loss.
If your feelings of grief after abortion persist, it’s important to seek treatment.
The negative emotions that you experience after terminating a pregnancy will more than likely dissipate in time. Try to focus on doing things that are good for you—exercising, eating healthy, seeing friends, engaging in your favorite hobbies—and returning to a sense of normalcy. Finding support in your friends, family, partner, or even a community or online group will also help you through the healing process.
If, however, your symptoms do not start to improve or become worse, it’s time to seek medical attention. Persistent grief can, unfortunately, turn into ongoing depression if left untreated. In this case, the best course of action usually includes a combination of counseling, therapy, and possibly medication.
Take steps to reduce your risk for abortion grief by meeting with a medical professional to discuss all of your options, questions, and concerns about pregnancy termination. Reach out to the team at South Avenue Women’s Services and we will assure you that you’re never alone. Our experts will go over everything you need and want to know before, during, and after your abortion, so you’re prepared to cope with whatever comes next.
Contact us today to let us know how we can help you obtain the confidential and compassionate care you need!