Hurting from a Past Abortion?

Are you hurting from an abortion in your past? 

  • Are you coping with grief, guilt or remorse?

  • Are you burdened with chronic anger, addictions, or relationship problems?

  • Do you suffer from anxiety, panic attacks, flashbacks or intrusive thoughts, nightmares or sleep disturbances?

  • Do you have difficulty with anniversaries or other reminders of your abortion experience?  Do you feel alienated and alone inside?

  • Do you have a problem trusting the opposite sex?

  • Were you “OK” after the abortion, and then years later found yourself coming apart and unable to recover after a divorce, the death of a loved one, or another loss?

Abortion can be a traumatic experience.

A trauma is any event that you have experienced or witnessed that involves actual or threatened death or serious injury, and during which you felt intense fear or helplessness.  Abortion qualifies as a traumatic event for most people.

Each person’s response is different but there are common patterns to the trauma of abortion such as avoiding, re-living or feeling guiltyThis event has affected your body, mind and spirit.

Common Ways of Dealing with the Trauma of Abortion

Avoiding.

You may avoid people or places connected to the abortion, information or media about life issues, or anything that reminds you of that time.  Perhaps you avoid relationships, children or God.  Many people try to avoid things that remind them of pregnancy, such as baby showers.

You might avoid thoughts and feelings of your abortion and try to deny them or push them down.  Perhaps you can’t even remember everything that took place that day.  You can’t push down just one feeling, though.  Instead, all your feelings are pushed down, and you can become numb and detached from people and things.

Re-Living.

Deep down, you desire to heal, so you may consciously or even unconsciously revisit the hurtful event to resolve it somehow.  Anything (like medical exams, music, smells) that reminds you of the relationship or of the abortion – consciously or unconsciously -  may trigger intense distress, anxiety reactions or anger.

Guilt.

You may be feeling survivor’s guilt for being alive when your child is not.  Perhaps you are depressed or even have thoughts of suicide. You may unconsciously try to punish yourself with promiscuity, substance abuse, self-injury or abusive relationships.  You may just shut down your own life, feeling that you don’t deserve much fun or happiness or love.

Try as you like, you probably feel guilty. You know what happened and perhaps sense deep down that it was wrong.  This guilt can be the hardest burden after abortion, and it seems permanent, because the child is gone.

God had a plan when He made you, and that plan includes a way to fix whatever goes wrong. God does not want you to carry the burden of guilt.  And He does not want you to punish yourself.  He wants you to come to His mercy, and heal through love.

Grief and Loss After An Abortion

The loss of a child is at the heart of an abortion experience. That child was someone’s son or daughter, someone else’s grandchild, and was a sibling, niece or nephew, cousin, and neighbor.  Perhaps, this loss is not acknowledged or grieved, but it is felt nonetheless.

Grief.

After an abortion, you might feel that you have no right to grieve.  How can you grieve, when you perhaps helped bring about the loss? How can you grieve, when one has no remains, no name, no memories and no normal relationship?  The grief that follows abortion is profound.  But it is often avoided or delayed.

Relief.

Your initial reaction to abortion may have been relief.  You were relieved that it was over, that the crisis seems to have been resolved, that the people who wanted you to abort are satisfied.  But relief may only last a few hours to a few days or weeks.

Loss.

Most people feel an immediate emptiness, often at the very moment of the abortion.  At that point, they know, sometimes for the first time, that a child is gone.  This fact is too much to face.

Denial.

The fundamental loss of one’s child is denied because it is too painful to face this loss. Denial allows you to pretend you don’t have any negative feelings about the abortion. It can last 7 to 15 years, sometimes more.  Sometimes people find substitutes for real grief in work or substances or relationships or grieve in unhealthy ways.

Other losses.

Soon after the abortion, maybe you broke up with your significant other.  If so, perhaps you focused on this difficult loss but there may have been many more.  You may have lost a close relationship with a family member—mother, father, sister, brother, cousins, grandparents—because of the secret between you, or because one of them was instrumental in the abortion.  Maybe you lost your self-respect, a sense of a close relationship with God, a feeling of belonging in your church, or a sense of worthiness to be loved.

Unhealthy grief. The symptoms of unhealthy grieving are similar to the symptoms of trauma.

If you block your grief, bury your feelings . . . well, your feelings get buried.  You could self-medicate, compensate, develop eating disorders, workholism, perfectionism or sexual dysfunction.  You could develop phobias, dissociation or even cast yourself in the victim or martyr role—it all seems better than facing the death of a child.

After any death, it is normal to experience sadness, anger, fear, shock, confusion, difficulty concentration, preoccupation, crying, self-reproach and lack of energy.  But when these symptoms worsen of have no end in sight, they are signs that there is a deeper problem.

The good news is that traumas and losses can be resolved and their effects healed.  Through honestly facing reality in all its aspects, and reconciling with your child, you can experience peace and freedom and, yes, even joy.

Project Rachel is here to help you. Contact us today at 1-877-WeCare2
or project-rachel@austindiocese.org to begin your healing journey.