If you were going through an abortion and you feel confused, sad, upset even desperate it is quite normal especially if you began to bond with the unborn baby.
Then you’ve lost it. It is in itself enough for a big grief, – HUGE GRIEF – but the situation is more complicated than losing a family member. Grief is social action and every culture has its own rituals. People surround the mourning person with sympathy and support.
Abortion is different. Here you were part of the decision making process, and people think this is enough to blame you and not even considering that you need the same extra help like in case of miscarriage or losing someone else.
Not to mention your own guilt; I bet you are full of thoughts now: what if I did this; or that…? One of the hardest points is forgiving to yourself. Although I think you deserve it and heal better if you are able to do it.
More than that, it’s not enough what intense emotional upheaval is going on in your mind; you might fight about the reasons and the consequences with your partner or with your own parents, who you expected to be with you for better or worse! And they weren’t – at least not the way how you would have liked to. Now you might harbor intense anger, frustration and disappointment and – if you cannot speak it out, work it out – bitter resentment.
If partners weren’t on the same page about keeping the pregnancy, almost as a rule; abortion ravages relationships because of the intense and the same time ambivalent emotions, because of the clashing of the different values. It takes lots of work to restore and revitalize the original connection. But it is possible! Depending on your situation: with the act of abortion you decided that the connection is worth to save. – Do you want to change it just because of the loss?
Let me share with you what I keep important for the healing after abortion!
First and foremost:
Be gentle with yourself! (Be considerate with your partner too!) Don’t be harsh, don’t be judgmental, and don’t punish yourself! You probably agree with me, you suffered enough already!
Find your own grief process. You’ve lost something – you need to grieve! It is painful, terribly. But if you try to spare the pain, jump over or avoid the process it can come back to you in some unexpected way: some illness, uncontrolled aversion or attraction, inability to look at babies, getting pregnant… and so on. If you deny the problem, you have no chance to solve it.
Grief is different for everyone, but there are some general characteristics. It is divided into different “phases” but there are more categorizations.
Most people go through these stages:
- Shock – complete biological and psychological stress reaction.
- Intense pain with the feeling of guilt.
- Depression (not as an illness but as a natural reaction to loss).
- Testing and reconstruction – experiencing with new solutions: daily activity, coping strategies, “replacement” activities.
I know. At the moment you cannot imagine that there will be a time when you can accept what torment you now. But this is the grief process is for! You cannot forget, but there will be time when you can think about it without the feeling of intense emotional pain. You might even work out some reason or meaning from it.
It sounds odd, isn’t it? What do I think meaning? – I come back to this later! It makes more sense if I first explain why I think understanding is key for recovery.
UNDERSTANDING YOUR MOTIVES
I know what I suggest is painful. But in my experience that leads to relief: think about your reasons. Why did you choose to do that? Everybody has his or her own reason, and the more you understand your background motives, the better you can accept your decision.
For example: after months of rumination someone came up with the recognition that she abort the pregnancy because she wanted to give not just life but happy life, love and acceptance from the father part either which she was not able too. She didn’t want to give the misery of rejection for the unborn child.
In another case someone understood that the balanced unit of the family was more important to her than her own “selfish longing” for another baby.
If you find the deeper motivation behind your decision, you might encounter values and beliefs which you were not aware of, and in the light of those you can understand and accept more your own act.
This might give you more meaning of the tragedy. You might be a person who prefers family balance against individual wish. You might be a person who don’t fight or win by any mean for something. You might be a person who rather doesn’t give life than give miserable one. And you behave in accordance to it, you can accept it. This is what I meant finding the meaning in the tragedy.
UNDERSTANDING YOUR PARTNER MOTIVES
The idea is the same; the execution might be different, as you don’t see the other one’s mind. Try to speak with your partner about his/her feelings, reasons.
Important: Do not interrupt, do not criticize, do not judge, just listen! If you offend, you would never hear the real difficulties behind the other’s defensive lines. When someone is talking about feelings and questionable decisions, it makes them vulnerable, so they will not open up in combative atmosphere! In order to know the truth, you need to be acceptant and empathetic – even if you don’t feel the same way!
You might learn that what you supposed was selfishness in reality was anxiety. You might get to know that what seemed cold heartedness was worry from responsibility, or change. What seemed like cruelty was intended as a protection for you or the future. You might get to know that your partner regretted this choice but thinks: “Why speaking about unchangeable events!” And you might accept the other one’s point of without changing yours.
Think about what you can begin with your anger. Usual stress management advices are valid: physical activity breaks down stress hormones, don’t act out your anger, verbalize and so on!
I would suggest one more: write down all of your anger in papers from the smallest to the biggest. All. Long letter? Doesn’t matter! Write even more. When you wrote everything what came to your mind, you repeated and ruminated enough and you feel you are ready to get rid of them; throw it into fire. You’re done. Forget about it! You’re cleaned.
Why can it work? Think about it! Who is getting hurt by your anger? Only you! Not the person who you are angry on. Only you! These are feelings inside you and these are ruining your daily life. You probably don’t deserve more torture. I don’t say that you can get rid of them purely with the strength of a momentary decision, but you can decide not to stick with your anger too long. Slowly but surely you can work yourself to the direction of let them go!
Similarly to the anger, all other negative feelings what you might have: resentment, contempt, disappointment – hurt only you! People with various problems reported they stepped on the route of recovery when they forgave to their abuser. Not because this is so noble ethically, but because those negative feelings harm only the person who have them.
Forgiveness is a process, not one simple choice and doesn’t work overnight. If you chose to forgive, you can slowly and surely modulate your emotional reaction to that direction – then you help indeed yourself – not the person who you resent.
Most people following abortion are isolated. They fear from contempt, blame, from rejection or they fear the opposite; annihilate their doubts. They keep their secret in fear to lose those few friends they still can speak. Isolation acts against healthy psychic work, and grief. I would encourage you keep up with friends, but I know you are in a very vulnerable state of mind, you have to be very cautious who you can trust your pain. You don’t want to risk an additional breakdown because of rejection! But feeling understood, accepted and valued is profoundly important for the healing process. It would be great if you found someone who can provide it for you!
Clear communication with you partner about what have happened and why can be the very first step to recovery. Working out your difficulties, understand and accept the different attitude towards life, family life, future, responsibility and others can be fruitful development for your connection. (If you both feel sorry for the abortion, you can grieve the baby together, but don’t force it if one of you has different feeling.)
Don’t forget to ensure each other about the things what you love in each other, and keep in mind and express if you agree with each other. This can be the base of the diverse approaches.
By clear communication I mean you can share verbally what you feel and think, but you better not unleash raw emotion to the other. That would damage the connection even further. Don’t be surprised if you have to deal with this topic time after time in the long run. Healing is a process not en event.
Listen to your dreams! In the Jungian point of view – and I am a full believer of that – dreams are messages from the unconscious mind, and they often complement the conscious mind. It means that if the conscious mind leans in one direction, the unconscious can lean to the other creating balance.
For example if you have rage against you partner because s/he didn’t behave the way you have expected, you might dream why or what you love in him or her. Other times when you feel like you are just lost, your dream can show you new, creative directions where to face.
Be aware that the dream speaks in symbols. Open up for the meaning of your symbol. Although the human culture is full of common symbols, you are the only one who can guess the meaning of yours. You are the dreamer – you’re the only one to know. But don’t worry: the nature of the symbol is that it has more meaning, and they are rarely crystal clear, you have to able to handle some uncertainties!
Dreaming is also a process. There is a theory, that every next dream is an amplification of a previous one. If you don’t understand your dream, ask for another one, it might help you to interpret what your unconscious mind wants to bring to your awareness!
I wish you lots of strength, patience, persistence and of course forgiveness for your recovery. I am sure: recuperation is possible, but I also know that this is a slow, wavy progression.
If you need some more personal support or guidance from me I am more than happy to be there for you! Don’t forget, in our computer age you don’t have to live nearby – we can talk through Skype either!
Take a big breath, and call or Email me!