Odds are, you know someone who has had an abortion. If you feel unsure about how to be a source of support for someone post-abortion, read on!
If a friend just shared that they had an abortion, you may feel conflicting emotions. Abortion is a stigmatized and very publicized topic. You may also have your own personal views and bias when it comes to abortions. Regardless of how you are feeling, it doesn't change the fact that having an abortion is a very personal decision. Your friend is coming to you needing unbiased support. This is a big vote of confidence, and indicates that you are a safe person (Go you!!) Here are some ways to provide support.
Take a Deep Breath, and Honor Your Feelings
“Your friend is not looking for a trained mental health professional. They're just looking for a friend.”
The first step in providing support is to check in with yourself. What is coming up for you? How are you feeling in your body? It's okay to take a few deep breaths and honor your feelings. While it's important to keep the focus on your friend, your feelings are also valid.
You might be feeling worried about making sure you say the "right thing."There can be a lot of fear around accidentally offending or causing emotional damage. The best thing you can do is be your authentic self. It takes vulnerability and trust to share your abortion experience with someone. Your friend is not looking for a trained mental health professional. They're just looking for a friend.
Here are some ideas of what to say to honor your feelings while also being supportive:
Thank you so much for telling me. I want you to know that you are safe with me. I am not sure the right thing to say, but I am here for you.
I am here for you. How can I help?
I am feeling xx (a little nervous, surprised etc.), and I am so grateful you told me. What feels good for you to share?
I am feeling unsure about how to best support you. What do you need?
Don't Assume. Instead, Ask
Each person's abortion experience is unique. Instead of assuming how your friend is feeling, ask them! They might be feeling really relieved about ending an unintended pregnancy. They might feel sad, confused or conflicted. Remind your friend that there is no right way to feel.
Respect Their Privacy
“Be a vault. Respect your friend's story by keeping it safe.”
This one is fairly straight forward. The information your friend shared with you is private. Unless otherwise discussed, their story should stay with you. Be a vault. Respect your friend's story by keeping it safe.
If Needed, Help Them Find Additional Support
There is a common misconception that having an abortion will cause physical or mental health issues. This is a myth! However, like any life event, your friend may need or want additional support. When looking for support, it is important to be intentional about what organizations you trust. For example, Crisis Pregnancy Centers advertise misleading information and might be more damaging to your friend. If an organization is on this list, you may want to find an unbiased organization.
Check out examples of post-abortion support resources for ideas on where to find support.
If you are living in the state of Maryland, and are seeking a mental health therapist, I am here to help!