I was about 25 years old, well into my grad school internship and I was working at a large bookstore (coolest part time job ever if I don’t say so myself). I was working the information desk and for those who don’t know or who have never been in a bookstore (gasp!) when you need to find a book and you are completely lost, the info desk is the place to go. Anyways I was working there and this woman approached the desk and looked lost. Like not just physically but in all aspects of the word. Of course my newly learned therapist spidey senses were going berserk as I asked her what I could help her find. She asked for the grief section. I asked if their was any topic in particular and she said loss of child. Ugh my heart was breaking for this woman as we were walking to the section. We got there and she looked really uncomfortable and asked ” is there anything here specifically dealing with abortion” and then she lost it. Starts crying really hard right there in the aisle with me. I tried my best to comfort her as she kind of spilled her guts to me. She was a mother of three teenage children and had gotten pregnant in a situation in which she did not feel comfortable bringing a child into this world – so she had an abortion. The thing that seemed to be the most difficult for this woman was that she was already a mother and that she had chosen this.
This is something that I have run across more than once with women in my practice. These particular clients, for reasons I completely understand, who already have children and choose to have an abortion later in life and then have an incredibly difficult time accepting this decision as well as dealing with the grief afterwards. I can’t speak for everyone in this position, only the few women that I have run across ( and please know that in all these posts I am speaking from my experiences with both other therapists and clients and not speaking for any particular group as a whole) but there is an incredible amount of shame regarding this decision and isolation as a result. It is interesting work that needs to be done with these ladies – a combination of grief work as well as working through the shame that they feel.
With the women’s march fresh on my mind I couldn’t help but think of this topic and these women whose grief is suffered in silence because of the choice that they made.
What’s my point? I guess I am just wanting to start a discussion about being forgiving in our thinking and holding our judgements in regards to abortion and the way a woman “should” feel after. The experience that I have had with clients and friends is that the choice is rarely an easy one and that there are a multitude of emotions afterward. With my client, the big one was shame and the dialogue she had about herself was worse than anything I think anyone could say to her. These women do not need hatred, judgement, or stigmas – they need compassion.
So back at the bookstore – what did my brand new baby therapist self do with the sobbing woman? I offered her what I could – empathy and the names of some really good therapists.
For anyone struggling with this issue here are some supports –