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"Understanding Abortion Grief, Denial, and Trauma Bonds," Reflections on BHM Training Class

09 Jun 2016 9:32 AM | Kathy Conway (Administrator)

The following is a guest post by one of our generous volunteers, Maria Elliott.

In April, several of the Bethesda Healing Ministry leadership members attended a training entitled, “Understanding Abortion Grief, Denial, and Trauma Bonds” given by Trudy M. Johnson, LMFT, author of “Choice Processing and Resolution – FacingGrief After Abortion Without Fear.” Many of the truths and philosophies that Bethesda is built upon were reinforced, enlivening in all of us a renewed spirit. We wanted to share some of the key points with you.

As we all know, life after abortion can often feel like a solitary road. 

Picture via Pixabay user Unsplash, Public Domain

But you are not alone! Since the legalization of choice in 1973, there has been an average of 1.2-1.5 million abortions every year. Processing your experience individually and with others can lead to present and future resolution and peace.

Abortion grief is real and there are reasons that you feel this grief.

Abortion stops pregnancy but not the bonding and connection. In 2002, researchers Anne Stevens, MD, PhD and J. Lee Nelson, MD published astonishing results of their Maternal and Fetal Microchimerism study. They report that cells traffic between fetus and mother during pregnancy, perhaps as early as 4-5 weeks gestation. These fetal cells persist for years, probably a lifetime in the circulation of normal women.

The bonding between woman and baby is real.

Women and men who have lived through the trauma of abortion are grieving many things:  the loss of the pregnancy, loss of relationships, the loss of dreams, and the loss of control.

Yet this grief experienced from voluntary termination of pregnancy is often felt as culturally unacceptable grief. There is no permission or public venue to express feelings or grieve. Women and men often believe,  “I don’t have a right to grieve for a loss I was responsible for.”  So the loss becomes a secret. And a highly protected secret: one of the event and another of the grief and pain experienced. This secret often lasts more than 18 years!

After holding such a secret for so many years, women and men affected by an abortion experience often conclude, “I don’t need someone to validate my choice. I don’t need someone to condemn my choice. I just need someone to validate my grief. “

As human beings, all losses must be grieved. But often, because of the reasons described above, the grief becomes buried or denied. This buried or denied grief doesn’t just disappear, it comes out in other ways: anxiety, depression, anger, substance use/abuse, and destructive behaviors. Relationships also are greatly affected, for if you are numbing out emotions related to the pregnancy termination, you will also numb out emotions in relationships, leading to issues with boundaries, communication, anger, fear, and shame.

Many believe that denial protects from the pain, but denial stops the grieving process and can lead to deeper and extended pain.

There will be challenges to address the “secret”, but the process of identifying and processing the grief will lead to resolution and peace.

Trudy Johnson describes: “Loss not grieved turns to sorrow in our heart. That sorrow manifests itself as depression or anger. Acceptance precedes change. Accepting that your abortion was a pregnancy loss will give you the permission you need to let yourself “go there” in your grief.”

Bethesda is such a place where you can “go there.” Other women and men who are experiencing the same pain and grief that you do are willing to share your journey with you. For more information on abortion grief, denial, and trauma, please feel free to contact us.

You may also find more information at www.Missing pieces.org  and Choice Processing and Resolution: Facing Grief After Abortion Without Fear by Trudy M. Johnson, M.A., L.M.F.T.

“Tears have  a wisdom all their own. They come when a person has relaxed enough to let go and to work through his sorrow. They are a natural bleeding of an emotional wound, carrying the poison out of the system. Here lies the road to recovery.”  -- F. Alexander Magoun

Copyright 2016 Bethesda Healing Ministry.

Bethesda Healing Ministry is a non-profit organization

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