Rebecca had been referred to me by her male psychotherapist because she wanted to see a woman about the startling grief she was experiencing after an early abortion. She was engaged to a warm and loving man, and had discussed with him all the aspects of their finances, plans, and feelings about her pregnancy. They had agreed mutually that abortion was the right decision for them, and he had gone with her and been present during the procedure to provide support and care.
She had been anxious about the medical procedure, and felt relieved when it was over, but within a week she was feeling tremendous grief. We explored her feelings more deeply, and it was apparent to both of us that she had not been very attached to the pregnancy, nor did she view herself as having lost a baby. She was perfectly comfortable with aborting a six-week fetus. So why was she grieving?
I asked her about losses in her childhood. Had her parents, siblings, or grandparents died when she was young? Were there recent deaths or losses in her life? No, no one had died, Rebecca answered, but then began to cry. Her parents had divorced when she was four. Her father had just left one day and had very little communication with her for several years. She had felt lost, abandoned, and lonely. Her mother was sad and preoccupied, and Rebecca felt somewhat abandoned by her too. The depth of her grief was for the loss of her father.
In reviewing this loss in light of her abortion, she could identify with her father; she too had needed to abandon a child. She also identified with the fetus, who had been abandoned. The deep grief was for her little-child self. It was grieving she had never felt safe expressing as a child, because her mother was also sad and didn't seem able to tolerate her own pain, let alone Rebecca's.
She was also grieving the loss of her image of herself as a supreme care giver, because she had been unable to care for a baby at this time in her life. While her inability to continue being all-giving to those around her caused her grief, her grieving was also a liberation that let her form a more realistic and healthy concept of herself.