It is axiomatic in the counseling world that there are just five basic feelings: anger, fear, shame, sadness, happiness. I had a patient who covered all her bases-- especially the first four. She came in with major attitude-- slamming about, throwing things, refusing blood work, leaving the clinic, arguing with her mother. My staff just wordlessly handed me her chart: It said: "Abortion is disgusting!"
So, I sat down with her. She was angry at everyone and everything: she couldn't believe this was happening to her. She was also sad: the more we talked about it, the more she could connect with that feeling. She was scared: she didn't know what to expect. She had always been against abortion for herself (though not for others) and felt ashamed that she was in a clinic.
Miraculously, listening to her attentively, without judgment, and respectfully seemed to do the trick. At one point she said, "I don't really have anyone to talk to about this." She was right in her concern about how she would process this afterwards. (Me too.) But, she felt she had no choice--she had two small children, one an infant, no means of support, had some mental health problems, and partner not present. Gradually we mapped out some ways that she could shift from an impossible view of herself to a more self forgiving, compassionate place. It turned out that she couldn't square her personal identity as a mother with having an abortion, even though she was doing it largely FOR her children. In this instance, the workbook A Guide to Emotional and Spiritual Resolution After an Abortion was a good resource for what was sure to be an ongoing process.
Tough stuff. I often urge women, as I did this woman, to give themselves credit for struggling with all these big issues, in the face of all sorts of negative messages from our culture and often people close to them.
She finally said, "I think I'm feeling better." Then we did her ultrasound which was actually very reassuring to her. She was our patient of the day. When I saw her in recovery, she gave me a thumbs up and smiled. It probably wouldn't qualify as "happy" but I'm gonna take it-- five for five!