Monday, June 1, 2020

Disenfranchised Grief: In The Wake of Girlfriend's Abortion

Ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.  ~ Kahlil Gibran

A reader writes: My girlfriend and I got pregnant about two months ago. She went and took the abortion pill yesterday.I begged her not to, to marry me and have this child. But she said no. She doesn't want to be in a relationship with me anymore. I am grieiving not only the loss of our possible child together, but the loss of our possible life together. I'm not even sure where to begin, but I still can't believe that she actually went through with it. 

My response: I am deeply saddened by your message and send you my heartfelt condolences. You have sustained not only the loss of your girlfriend but also the loss of your unborn child, along with your hopes, dreams, expectations, fantasies and wishes for the future. I can only imagine how overwhelmed, devastated and alone you must feel in the wake of these significant losses. I am so sorry.

The grief that surrounds the death of a relationship is real, and so is the grief that accompanies the death of an unborn child. In both instances there are feelings of deep sadness, which may be complicated by the attitude of others that, in the case of an abortion, you don’t have a legitimate right to grieve. It is a classic example of Disenfranchised Grief. People can be very judgmental about these matters, and the support you find from family and friends may be minimal at best. Sadly enough, in the grief that follows an abortion, the person most “forgotten” is the father, whether he is married to the mother or not. And the more conscientious he is, the more guilt and pain he will carry.

Read these poignant words by Robert Fulghum in his beautiful book, From Beginning to End: The Rituals of Our Daily Lives:
When we’ve changed our religious views or political convictions, a part of our past dies. When love ends, be it the first mad romance of adolescence, the love that will not sustain a marriage, or the love of a failed friendship, it is the same. A death. Likewise in the event of a miscarriage or an abortion: a possibility is dead. And there is no public or even private funeral. Sometimes only regret and nostalgia mark the passage. And the last rites are held in the solitude of one’s most secret self — a service of mourning in the tabernacle of the soul. 
Whenever there is a loss of something significant in our lives, we suffer grief.  When an intimate love relationship ends ~ whether we were married, living together with a partner or significant other, or committed to another as part of a couple ~ the separation can be overwhelmingly painful. The same is true with  abortion, because it is so often a hidden loss accompanied by secret sorrow. Usually for a death there is a set ritual with a funeral or memorial service, and some understanding in our culture that mourning is important. But for the death of a love relationship, there is no prescribed ritual of mourning, and the accompanying grief that is part of the breaking-up process is seldom acknowledged or accepted. Both the ending of a love relationship and the ending of a pregnancy are in reality other kinds of death.

I want to assure you that you have a right to grieve and to mourn both these losses, my friend, and I hope you won’t try to struggle through them all by yourself. Many resources are available to help you understand and come to terms with the grief you're experiencing. See, for example, Mourning The Death of A Relationship: Suggested Resources and Silent Grief: Pregnancy and Infant Loss.

If you visit our online Grief Healing Discussion Groups and read some of the posts in our forums, you will find that you are not alone. Here you are invited to share your own experiences, mourn what has been lost, and find reliable information, comfort and support as you move forward on your journey. See especially our forums for Loss of A Love Relationship and Loss of An Infant.

Your feedback is welcome! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question, or share a tip, a related article or a resource of your own in the Comments section below. If you’d like Grief Healing Blog updates delivered right to your inbox, you’re cordially invited to subscribe to our weekly Grief Healing NewsletterSign up here.

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay 

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