Abortion - A Secret Shame
The Family Therapist is In
As in any situation of loss, the effect is personally unique. For women who have been through an abortion, the hurt they suffer afterwards is often confusing and shameful. Many ask themselves, "If it's my right to make this choice why am I in so much pain?" "Why doesn't anyone want to hear about my pain?," is another frequent quandary.

I have talked with so many women who have shared their shock at how alone they felt after they had an abortion. This pain is a natural emotional response to grieving a loss. However, often women feel isolated because even though society says the choice is theirs to make, this same society doesn't appear to actually want to hear too many details after the fact.

"About one out of every six women have had an ABORTION. That's a lot of women grieving a silent loss."
Let's face it: Abortion is an uncomfortable subject and because of our general avoidance of the topic, women who go through the experience feel abandoned. Women seek abortions for a variety of reasons: a baby won't fit into their lives, they're pressured from a boyfriend or from family or maybe they were the victims of rape. Whatever the reason, the goal is the same; to put the pregnancy behind them and get on with life.

If only it were as easy to do as to say. Not all women are affected in the same manner and many appear to move forward from the experience with no outward physical or emotional side affects. However, sometimes the scars of the loss run deep. And if they're honest, no woman ever really forgets. According to Linda Dillow and Lorraine Pintus, authors of the book "Intimate Issues," 94 percent of the women who've chosen to have an abortion admit to experiencing negative physiological effects, and about one out of every six women have had an abortion. That's a lot of women grieving a silent loss. Maybe you or your sister or your girlfriend or your wife or your neighbor or your co-worker . . .

Post-abortion Syndrome (PAS) refers to the behaviors that may occur as a woman internalizes the stress of her grief. She is unable to openly process feelings of guilt, sadness or anger and can't grieve the loss of her baby or come to peace with herself or others involved in the experience. Dr. Paul Reisser, a post-abortion counselor, says; "The first task of healing this loss is for a woman to access her negative feelings that surrounded the experience." Again, easy to say, hard to do. Repression and denial are powerful coping strategies. Mourning the loss of the baby, having no one to talk to and being unable to cope with grief often produces abnormal behaviors.

Author Linda Dillow suggests some behaviors or emotions that may come as a result of PAS:
  • guilt
  • self-destructive behaviors including drug and alcohol abuse, abusive relationships, promiscuity, and suicide attempts
  • anxiety in the forms of irritability, dizziness, inability to relax, pounding heart, upset stomach, headaches, and inconsistent sleep patterns, unconsciously avoiding anything to do with babies
  • emotional numbness displayed by avoiding intimate relationships, holding people at a distance
  • depression exhibited by overwhelming sadness, hopelessness, despair, uncontrollable crying episodes, extreme emotions and emotional swings including rage and thoughts of suicide, intense thoughts around the anniversary of the abortion
  • eating disorders displayed by obsessive control issues with food in order to compensate for having no control over the abortion situation or gaining weight to unconsciously make herself unattractive to men
  • flashbacks in the form of nightmares, unreasonable fear or sadness with certain sights, sounds or smells that unconsciously relive the abortion experience
  • disinterest in sex and refusal to give themselves permission to enjoy sex
  • preoccupation with becoming pregnant and the desire for an atonement baby to replace the one that was lost
I started this article sharing that loss of any kind is personal and difficult. To believe that you have to keep that loss locked up inside of you might be devastating. Release can bring understanding and healing.


If the thoughts in this article have touched you personally, Kim hopes to hear from you. She's willing to meet and chat if you'd like. E-mail her at
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