To live a normal life we need feelings (emotions). Feelings are a very important part of human life. Feelings about something cannot be right or wrong, good or bad -- they are what they are. Feelings need to be expressed. It is very important to confess feelings to ourselves and express them in a dignified way.
It would be difficult to imagine a life without feelings, but this is exactly how life can be for a woman after an abortion. She may think it is possible to avoid the pain by excluding all of her feelings. On her way to healing she will have to learn how to express the feelings associated with her abortion, her relationship with her unborn baby or even the baby’s father. She needs only to be honest and to not judge herself -nothing more. It would be helpful at this time to think what feelings she tried or is trying to avoid. When she begins to confess to herself her feelings and all that is connected to them, she will not have to hide them from herself; her feelings will again become part of her life.
Many professionals in the field of counseling will tell you that identifying losses will make it easier to grieve them and let them go. It is impossible to let go of something you don’t know. She will not be able to let go of a loss of her child without recognizing all aspects of this loss, a loss of a real child. She will need to go over her loss(es) that are real for her. Some losses will be connected to the time of abortion, some to some time following the abortion. All these losses are very real and make sense for her.
“Confronting unfinished business.”
It is worth it to mention that there are certain patterns of how we cope with events in our life. Particularly with the events that alter and change our life in a very profound and sometimes, as it is in case of abortion, in a very shattering way. Coping with the pain, in our case usually means escaping it all together. Attempts to “regain strength” or “provide for” suffered losses. These attempts or even behavior trades are very common for women who have had an abortion. All these “activities” may temporarily provide some sense of peace and work as self-defense mechanisms, but they will always be like a continuous “unfinished business”. Following are few examples of such defense mechanisms:
- negation (when she negates that something happened or it was important)
- compensation (when she tries to correct something that she did, or tries to compensate in some way her loss by “doing good things”, become involved in promoting good causes, become ideal and perfect mother etc.)
- rationalization (trying to justify or explain logically the decision she made in hope that this will take away the pain)
- suppression of memories (it is natural to have certain memories suppressed after a terrible experience such as abortion. You will find that a woman very often does not remember the clinic, the name of the doctor, or the town where the clinic was. But there are sometimes attempts to suppress these memories when they begin to surface, because these memories bring up the pain. We have to be careful here as well, since some of the memories may lead to the flash backs of the abortion. This is why I personally am against posting big signs of dismembered babies by the roadside or certain radio commercials during the day time. We never know who is driving in that car, if the woman has a flashback looking at the sign or listening to the radio and then an accident is unavoidable. The rate of abortion and car accidents while women driving go hand and hand. You will hear people say it’s because more women drive this day. Maybe they are right but the correlation is interesting.)
- fleeing and projecting (trying to flee from the responsibility and putting it on others)
- justifying (attempts to justify her decision and hide her real feelings by declaring to everyone she can that her decision was completely conscious. Women who use this mechanism of self-defense often become advocates in movements for the “right to abort”.
Women may also try to avoid completely another pregnancy as a way of self-defense. Or they may continuously repeat to themselves: “I will repent every day for my action”, “I will never do this”, or “I will try not to think about it.”
This kind of behaving will have little success in the attempts to embrace life again, since they are based on three things: fear, faith in chance, and baseless hypothesis.
Fear is based on desire to not ever taste or feel the pain (even if is very little), irritation, feeling of guilt or weakness.
Faith in chance is very ineffective or even damaging since everything depends on a chance. One cannot fully appreciate forgiveness in its fullness being guided by faith in chance. Forgiveness is seen more like a lottery ticket than real grace and complete gift.
Baseless hypothesis consists of hopes that feelings will leave us in peace. This often requires us to flee from reality; but life remains as it is and does not depend on our attempts to escape from it far away or for a long time.