Is it Normal to Experience Grief After an Abortion?
When it comes to reproductive healthcare, one of the most important things is education and choice. Whether it be about testing for sexually transmitted infections, exploring your options when it comes to birth control, or deciding to terminate a pregnancy – everyone deserves choice, and the education to make an informed decision.
Even when you have the ability to make an informed decision, these can be delicate situations, ones that can bring up a lot of emotions, like in the case of abortion. After you’ve been informed of your abortion options, and go through with the procedure, that may not necessarily be the end of your journey.
After the fact (or even before), you may have a whole slew of emotions come up – including grief. We’re here for you in this tricky time and help you navigate grief after an abortion.
Is Grief After an Abortion Normal?
First off, you might be thinking “I should not be feeling this way. I made this choice.” But grief after an abortion is totally normal and ok. So are anxiety, sadness, relief, ease, and anything else that comes up. You’re human, it’s normal to experience intense emotions after an intense experience. Not only that, but after an abortion, your body is healing physically, and you go through hormonal changes similar to postpartum, all of which can affect your mood.
People have abortions for all different reasons including medical necessity, not being ready for a baby, difficulties with your partner, financial issues, or not wanting another child. You don’t owe an explanation to anyone, and the reason behind your abortion doesn’t have to dictate how you feel about it.
It’s also important to note that if you don’t feel grief, you’re not a bad person. Every emotion and reaction to having an abortion is valid and real. It’s all normal, and it’s all ok. But what do you do with these feelings?
What Does Grief After an Abortion Feel Like?
The thing with grief is that everyone experiences it differently. We’re all unique with our own emotions, histories, and reactions, all of which come into play after going through something like an abortion.
What sort of feelings might come up when you’re grieving?
- Guilt or shame
- Sadness or depression
- Anxiety or worry
- Numbness or shock
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Anger and irritability
You might experience all or none of the above, or some combination of these emotions. It could last for a week, a month, or a few months. No matter where you’re at in your grieving cycle, you can always use extra help getting through it.
How to Navigate Grief After an Abortion
Hopefully, we’ve normalized your experience a bit. Looking for some practical tips to help you navigate your grief? We’ve got you covered.
- Get out of shame and guilt: These can be heavy after an abortion, especially if you grew up in a culture or religion that we’re anti-abortion. You did nothing wrong. You made the best choice for yourself and your body, and there’s no reason to shame yourself or feel guilty.
- Physical healing: As we said, you may still be healing physically from being pregnant. You can help balance your hormones through tools like massage therapy, herbalism, and acupuncture.
- Do what you love: Reconnect back with yourself by doing the things that light you up. That could be cooking, gardening, art, traveling, spending time in nature, and connecting with loved ones.
- Share your story: Platforms like Shout Your Abortion provide a space for people to share their abortion stories and read them from other people. This can be incredibly healing and help to normalize your experience more.
- Spend time in your community: Being with your loved ones whether that’s friends or family is like a balm for the soul. This is one of the best tools you can give yourself when dealing with grief. Community reminds you that you’re not alone and that you have support around you.
- Find online support: If you don’t have people who are understanding about abortion in your immediate circle, you may want to find an online forum or support group where you can get that support from other people. People who are going through a similar experience as you.
- Mental health support: If you’re really having a hard time with the grief, if it’s been longer than a month or so, or if you just want some objective support, you may want to seek out a mental health practitioner. A therapist or psychologist can help you talk through what you’re going through and give you practical tools for dealing with grief.
- Take your time: Healing can take time, often longer than we want it to. It’s ok to want to take your alone time or not do all the social activities you normally do. It’s fine if you’re laying in bed a lot more than usual. Take your time, and get the rest that you need. Grief can be exhausting!
Whether it was you who had the abortion or you’re reading this to help support a partner or friend, we hope this gave you some insight into the wide range of feelings that can come up after having an abortion, and what to do with them.
Natasha (she/they) is a full spectrum doula, reproductive health content creator, and sexual wellness consultant. Her work focuses on deconstructing the shame, stigma, and barriers people carry around birth, sex, and beyond, to help people navigate through their lives with more pleasure, softness, and sensuality. You can connect with Natasha on IG @spectrumoflovedoula.