By Sarah Terzo
A post-abortive woman’s story shows the damage an abortion can inflict on one’s closest relationships.
In her 2019 book, therapist Ellie Shumaker wrote about some of the post-abortive women who came to her for counseling. Shumaker changed names and identifying details to protect her clients’ privacy, but the stories are true.
The Loss of a Best Friend Over an Abortion
Julie came in for counseling soon after her abortion. In one session, she said to Shumaker, “I thought I was lonely before. I didn’t even know the meaning of the word.”
Julie had just had a falling out with her best friend of three years over her abortion. She says:
My best friend Sonia—or at least, I thought she was my best friend—won’t even talk to me anymore. She thinks I should just get over it. She’s sick of me crying and talking about the abortion.
Sonia said to Julie, “Grow up, Julie. You decided to sleep with Tony. You decided to have the abortion. Live with it.”
Julie wished she could just “live with it.” She says:
[S]he has a point. It’s what I keep saying to myself, but I just couldn’t believe a friend would say such a thing… I’ll never trust her again. So now, I just lost one more person in my life. As if I hadn’t lost too many people already.
Like maybe Tony … and like my…my…pregnancy.
At this point, according to Shumaker, Julie started crying. She knew she’d lost a baby but couldn’t bring herself to say the word. Julie lamented, “How could [Sonia] put me down like that when I’m already at rock bottom?”
Bringing up Painful Memories?
Julie was even more upset because Sonia had had an abortion of her own. Therefore, she should have known how painful the aftermath could be. Why didn’t Sonia recognize her grief?
Shumacher speculated that when Sonia listened to Julie talk about her post-abortion trauma, it brought up repressed feelings about her own abortion.
Shumacher told Julie, “When she sees your tears about your abortion come out, it may make her own tears begin to come out, and maybe that’s the last thing she wants.”
Julie also felt resentful toward Sonia because she didn’t try to stop her from having the abortion. She says, “I’m having a hard time forgiving her for that, too. She should have known. She should have warned me.”
Problems with the Baby’s Father
Julie was also having problems with her boyfriend, Tony. Tony didn’t want to talk about the abortion at all. Julie wondered if the reason he shut down the conversation was because he felt guilty. He’d agreed to the abortion; now, he was seeing how much it traumatized her.
Julie said that Tony was acting “all tense and mean” around her.” She also suspected he was having an affair.
She was having nightmares about Tony and the pregnancy. In her recurring nightmare, she was eight months pregnant and thrilled. Tony was with her, smiling and patting her stomach, also happy about the baby.
But then the dream took a turn:
Then, all of a sudden, his smile turns cruel, and his teeth get sharp, and I’m scared of him. I try to run away from him. I run and run, and he almost catches me and then I wake up … It was just horrible, horrible.
Julie woke up, night after night, from this horrible dream, upset and in tears.
Unable to Stand Being Around a Pregnant Friend
Julie also lost another friend. She had a friend named Olivia whom she’d known since high school. She says, “I know [Olivia would] be good to me, but now that’s ruined too.”
The problem was that Olivia was six months pregnant. Julie couldn’t bring herself to see Olivia or spend time with her. Seeing Olivia pregnant just triggered her own feelings of grief and loss.
Julie said, “I can’t stand to be around her… It hurts too much to see her there, getting bigger and bigger, her husband all excited about it, while I’m…not pregnant anymore.”
Violent Fantasies About a Pregnant Woman
Julie was also troubled by disturbing, violent thoughts:
I was in the grocery store last night, just going down the soup aisle with my cart, and I see this woman, around the corner, and she’s pregnant, real pregnant. And she’s wearing this pretty pink maternity top, and all of a sudden, I get this urge.
I get this urge to find a knife, take it and stab her, stab her right in the belly … Awful. Awful … How could I think such a thing? I’m an even worse person than I thought.
These jealous, violent thoughts increased Julie’s self-hatred.
Even though everything looked fine with Julie on the outside, she was falling apart on the inside and said, “Everyone thinks that here I am, this successful, happy lawyer. If only they knew.”
Isolation and Fear
What upset Julie the most was her own isolation. Other than Shumaker, she had no one to talk to about her abortion. Seeing Shumaker once a week was not enough—she desperately wanted the support of a friend she could confide in.
Julie said she couldn’t bear her “horrible burden, day after day, alone.”
Julie was afraid to talk to any pro-choice people about her grief, saying, “[I]f I talk to the pro-choice types, they’ll blow off my pain, tell me I did what I wanted with my own body and all that.”
But she was also afraid to talk to pro-lifers. She believed pro-lifers would judge her and “cut my head off.” She expected nothing but condemnation from them. She didn’t realize that many pro-lifers are compassionate towards post-abortion women and, in fact, run support groups and retreats to help post-abortion women cope.
Finding Friendship and Healing
Julie’s story has a happy ending. Shumacher convinced her to go to a local pregnancy resource center and join a support group for post-abortive women. There, she found people she could talk to who understood.
She made new friends, followed the program, and found healing.
Source: Ellie Shumaker, LCSW Frozen Tears: 15 Stories of Blindness Before and Hope After Abortion (2019) 6-10.
Editor’s note. This appears on Ms. Terzo’s substack.