an After abortion

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Wednesday, May 5, 2004

In "Grieving Reproductive Loss", authors Gray and Lassance advocate for a particular healing model. Acknowledgement of the loss is one of the first priorities that they encourage caregivers to adopt:

Acknowledgement of reproductive loss can also be the first healthy response on the part of the bereaved to the loss. This acknowledgement gives permission to the bereaved themselves to grieve their loss. Thus, to acknowledge loss is to allow, own, permit, recognize, and accept the reality of one's loss. It's opposite is to deny, dismiss, reject, and shun.

When we do not acknowledge and accept the reality of loss, reproductive or otherwise, it is as if we were saying that we do not want to get involved, and so we have given ourselves permission to become detached and distant from the bereaved. It lets us "off the hook," as it were, of becoming involved in their pain. When health professionals, family, or friends do not acknowledge these reproductive losses, they minimize, deny, and thus disenfranchise the grief and loss of bereaved parents. Not knowing what to do or say at the time, they will often resort to cliches such as "You're young. You can have another," or "That's nature's way," or "It was probably deformed anyway." These cliches are not helpful and may further compound the distress of the grieving parents.

Lack of acknowledgement on the part of a significant other can be very hurtful and may even forestall the grieving process. One woman reported that her husband had not acknowledged a miscarriage she had suffered or even the fact that she had been pregnant. Could it be that acknowledgement of this loss implies a recognition of the fact that some events are not under our control and thus make us feel helpless, vulnerable, powerless, and out of control? Is it a case of denying the reality of the event and its accompanying manifestations of grief? Another example is that of the mother who cannot acknowledge, who even minimizes her own daughter's miscarriage because she had not grieved her own reproductive losses. In another situation, a woman who had had an abortion followed by a miscarriage was inconsolable as she tried desperately but unsuccessfully to become pregnant. She received no comfort or sympathy from her husband, even though he had tacitly approved of her abortion. He blamed her, saying, "Well, it was your decision, you're the woman. You're the one who had it done." He also blamed her for the miscarriage saying that it probably happened because she really did not want to be pregnant.

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