For about six years I worked in an abortion clinic. This generally sparks a lot of feelings in people, most of which is general curiosity. Which I welcome! I tend to get a lot of questions about what I did (short answer: I started out as a counselor that supported women through their procedures and eventually went on to run their counseling program), if I liked it (short answer: I loved my job) and if I felt any differently about my time there now that I have children (short answer: No. Definitely not).
At the clinic we knew that if women felt confident in their decision, felt supported by someone around them and that they weren't being coerced by anyone that they would likely cope well after their abortion. And the largest group of psychologists in the United States agrees (read more). In fact, women are at a higher risk of mental health issues if they are denied an abortion (more on that).
The reality is, after having an abortion, most women feel a combination of sadness and relief. But abortion is a socially charged issue and so we tend to pick apart these emotions and try to label them as right and wrong. I remember a patient who came to see me a few weeks after her abortion who was struggling with the fact that she didn't feel more sad. Or, those patients who were sad about their decision and a little surprised by the relief they were experiencing.
Have you ever been through a divorce or its equivalent? Have you ever had to move to another city because of a job? Life is full of experiences that leave us with complex and at times conflicting emotions. We make decisions based on the information that is in front of us. We can know with all of our hearts that it is the right decision for us and still feel sad that it is the best decision.
I trust women. I trust them to make decisions about their lives and their existing and future families. I also trust that grief and healing are an individual process that look different for everyone.
If you are finding yourself tangled in "shoulds" or lost in grief, reach out. Find someone you can talk to who will listen, without judgment of your experience. Because what is mentionable becomes manageable and I trust you have the ability to come out on the other side.