Healing the pain of abortion
Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s five stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance – have been, for years, a prescriptive definition of what every grieving person must go through. They are so culturally imbedded that, when I was writing our company page on grief & loss, I had to include her name and stages or Google wouldn’t even recognize our page as legitimate.
For the most part, her work is fine. The Google algorithm’s fervent belief that a woman, who mostly just studied terminal patients, wrote the last word on the subject of general grieving really doesn’t create much in the way of issues. More useful people like Murray Parks (The actual author of the modified stages of grief on the above linked page) are not so far away from it that we can’t dance around her.
Well, at least until we come to the subject of abortion…
When we look at people who have just experienced an abortion, the general consensus is that almost all of them don’t start with denial. They feel relief – at least for a while.
Then, for many, a strange guilt and sadness sets in.
It’s not that easy to apply Kubler-Ross’s five stages of grief to someone who is experiencing the incredible confusion and distress caused by a simultaneous experience of both relief and sadness while feeling intense religious or societal guilt about the abortion…
Add to that the complicating reality that most of the clients I have seen have hidden this part of their history for over ten years (sometimes even from the father of the child who is now also her husband) and you have something that none of Kubler-Ross’s theories on grief and loss even remotely apply to.
The cocktail of relief, sadness and guilt creates an intense but isolating grief in the life of a woman. Most will come to believe that it will never be possible for that grief to even be acknowledged by others – much less validated by them. The fear of judgment keeps the secret hidden forever…
Generally depression plus self medication through drugs, alcohol or an eating disorder.
A depression that the majority of the women experiencing never connect to the unprocessed feelings surrounding the abortion.
An eating disorder that acts as a means of self punishment and penance the woman believes she owes herself.
For most women, unless she finds a safe and judgment free place to talk and cry out the natural grief component of the abortion choice and releases the pain of the abortion, she will likely go through life becoming more and more sick behind her carefully kept mask.
But, it’s not necessary to stay in hiding. Feelings of grief & loss, can be resolved. Depression can be treated, eating disorders resolved and there is a safe and judgment free place for you to finally grieve, if you will just reach out.
Addiction treatment centres have a slogan: “You are only as sick as the secrets that you keep.” It’s so true in this case.