People have always had feelings about their abortions: grief, indifference, relief, you name it. Since the Supreme Court ruling on Roe v. Wade, these emotions might become stronger or be resurfacing for many folks. If someone you love has abortion experience(s) and they reach out to you for support, here are some ways you can help!
1. Listen: Don’t assume
Perhaps you think you have an idea of how your loved one would feel about their abortion based on how you would feel if you were in their position. Perhaps you think that you would mourn the end of a pregnancy, so they must be feeling this way. While there is a chance they feel that way, some folks also experience their abortions purely as a necessary medical procedure. Or maybe they feel somewhere in the middle. Abortion experiences can be extremely different person-to-person. They involve difficult decision-making, stigma, navigating the healthcare system, taking time off of work, and now more than ever, difficulty accessing. The best thing to do is ask your loved one how they feel, as long as they have indicated that’s okay with them. You may find that they even feel some seemingly conflicting emotions at once. This is completely normal. Whatever their current situation, your job is to ask them what they’re feeling, listen intently, and remind them that it’s perfectly OK and normal to feel that way and that they are not alone.
Some helpful tips include:
-Asking open ended questions: “Do you want to tell me more about [insert feeling or experience]?”
-Avoid using judgment about their experience or how they are perceiving it, even if you disagree with something.
-Using reflective statements to show you’re actively listening: “So I’m hearing that you’re feeling [insert emotion], did I get that right?”
-Keep the story centered on your loved one. If you are going to use an “I” statement try something like: “I don’t think you did anything wrong.” or “I think you are such a caring parent.”
2. Support: Fight the temptation to problem-solve
It’s a natural inclination to want to remove or fix the source of whatever is causing pain for our loved ones. Whether it be justifying their feelings or “putting things in perspective” for them, most times it is healing to simply to share their story in a nonjudgmental space and be present with a loved one.
There are still several actions you can take to show that you want to help without having all the answers to unanswerable questions. For instance, if they’re undergoing a medical abortion at home, see if they’d like company and come equipped with a heating pad, flowers, a movie, or whatever else you think they’d like as a distraction. Is it possible to take over some pet or child care duties for them? Once they reach out, check in periodically over the next few days. If they have any medical concerns about their abortion, offer them the Miscarriage + Abortion Hotline as a resource to reach out to (mahotline.org).
All abortion experiences are unique, and your loved one’s feelings can’t be forecasted. Let them know as often as possible that it’s completely normal to experience whatever emotions may arise. Ask if there’s anything else you can do to support them. If you’re comfortable doing so, thank them for being brave to reach out during a vulnerable time. And, of course, we are here at Exhale Pro-Voice for additional support via our textline. Both you and your loved one are invited to reach out to talk about any abortion experiences.