This “disenfranchised grief” is a societal Achilles heel

By Dave Andrusko

The unspoken grief of abortion can be the elephant in the room.
Art: Terry Pontikos

Corrine Barraclough is a columnist for the Daily Mail of Australia. The title of a her story flat-out grabbed me “The Secret Grief of Abortion.”

As did a kind of term-of-art mentioned later by a counselor who deals with traumas: “disenfranchised grief.” I looked up the term and it refers to grief that is not recognized by society. Examples range from the loss of a pet to moving from a home that is filled with meaning to suicide.

Another definition of disenfranchised grief is “when your heart is grieving but you can’t talk about or share your pain with others because it is considered unacceptable to others.”

What a perfect illustration of what so many women—and not a few men—endure after an abortion.

Barraclough begins by talking about the walls we build “to silence people in pain.”

Complicated, intricate strands knot themselves around people’s throats as they try to walk through life collecting unexplained self-­destructive behaviour.

Here is one: for too long society and the medical profession have ­denied any negative aspects of abortion. That’s not helpful to those trying to navigate the aftermath of abortion.

Australia has a repeat abortion rate of 37 per cent. For those under 30 it is 50 per cent, according to Pregnancy Outcome Unit Epidemiology Branch, Department of Human Services, SA Health.

At what emotional cost?

Client care manager at Abortion Grief Australia (AGA), Amy Chia, tells The Saturday Telegraph: “Abortion takes a toll on both men and women — people just don’t want to talk about it. At AGA we see vulnerable men and women constantly.”

But to acknowledge that there can a ghastly price to pay when we take a baby’s life—or encourage (or coerce) a woman to do so—is both the ultimate elephant in the room and something so terrible we must insist it doesn’t exist.

Chia explained that “There is no one common way for post-abortion grief and trauma to present itself.”

“After having an abortion, a mother may treat their children differently. Psychologists talk about ‘good enough parenting’ as being what everyone needs to aim for.

“It means being present to the child to meet their physical and emotional needs in a realistic way. When you shut down pain, you shut down positive emotions.

“Some women who struggle with grief, loss and guilt after abortion may find it difficult to ­experience the joy of having a new child in their presence. Women are feeling things they don’t understand.”

Another counselor told Barraclough

“Many remain unaware of the grief or trauma that can fester quietly for years, or the impact on children of women who had terminations. It’s creating a generation who can struggle to bond with their babies.”

Men can suffer grievously as well—even more of an unpalatable truth.

Barraclough concludes her fine piece by asking what happens to win when this trauma surfaces years later? She has no answer, since she not want to be seen as taking a position on abortion. But there are places for women (and men) to turn to—pro-life helping organizations such as Rachel’s Vineyard “where women and men can express, release and reconcile painful post-abortive emotions to begin the process of restoration, renewal and healing.”

But surely Barraclough is correct when she concludes

The first step, surely, is giving this issue credence. Having heavily edited conversations to make sense of a narrative often means a silent elephant in the room. This is one of those times.

It is one of those crucial conversations that silence isn’t helping.

This is an Achilles heel in society — and it’s time to start.