Taken from Abortion ~ a personal approach by Joy Gardener Used with permission.

An Abortion is a Death

For some people, an abortion is a matter-of-fact event, a biological accident, a meaningless collection of cells that has been removed from a woman's body. But in my practice I find that most women have strong feelings about this event, and that it's healthier for them to acknowledge these feelings rather than pretending that they don't exist.

If you do decide to have an abortion, please don't take it lightly. It's so tempting to cut yourself off from the powerful emotions it can arouse.

But this is a death. It is a loss. It is a sadness. If you deny this, sooner or later it's likely to catch up with you. In my practice as a counsellor, I see many women who took their abortions lightly, but even 30 or 40 years later, they find themselves thinking, "how would my life be if I had that baby now?" Even then, it's not too late for these women to express their grief, to cry for the daughter or the son they never had.

But too often the tears that aren't shed today are tucked away in some part of the body, to emerge years later as pelvic inflammatory disease or a breast tumor, or uterine cancer.

It's sad that in our society we reserve funerals only for those who have actually lived in the world. We don't publicly acknowledge the death of a stillborn baby, nor a miscarriage, nor an abortion. And while these potential mothers (and fathers) may feel a bonding with these potential babies, it's often difficult for others to relate to a being that was never born. So the sorrow is often a lonely experience. Sometimes there's also so much guilt that a couple may find it difficult to grieve together over an abortion. Yet for most people, this is a death, and a small, private funeral can be a helpful way to put your emotions to rest.

A Funeral

Your egg and his sperm came together, and a small thing began to take on a life of its own. Life is miraculous. In time, a live baby could have formed.

What you have now is not a baby. Why make a fuss?

When a medical abortion is performed at an early stage, what is removed looks like clots. If requested, most doctors will give this to you. Through it doesn't look like much, for some people, disposing of these remains in a thoughtful way helps to affirm the sanctity of all of life, and seems far preferable to throwing it in the garbage (which is what hospitals and clinics generally do).

I've found that there is a definite mourning that occurs with an abortion, and that having an actual body, or even some fragment of that body, makes that mourning more intense, more real. THus it is very helpful as a catalyst in a kind of purging process which can help you to eventually cry out all of your tears and be able to get on with the stuff of life.

One of the best ways to do this is to plan a ceremony of your won. Most women prefer to do this alone, or with their mate, but some also like to include one or two very dear friends. Your ceremony can include the fetus, but if it's not available, try to create something which, for you, symbolizes the baby you might have had. One woman molded a baby out of clay and took it up on a mountain top, and made a flower wreath for it. Another women had a small flowered pillow which she held to her breast and imagined it was her baby. A couple used an egg to symbolize the child: they held the egg, slept with it, and felt that it absorbed the vibrations of love which they would have wanted to give to their baby.

Whatever you choose, keep this fetus-object with you for an hour or a day or as long as you like. Cuddle it, hold it in your arms, sing to it, tell it all the things you want it to know.

And then, when you feel truly ready, say goodbye to it. And perform a burial, or some other ritual that feels complete to you.

It brings up a lot of sadness to acknowledge this death through such a ritual. But that sadness is a part of life, and if we pretend not to feel it, something may begin to die inside of us. By allowing the tears to flow, we participate in life, begin to move toward accepting and resolving the loss which has occurred in our lives.

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