If you are the partner, friend or family member of someone who is considering having or having an abortion, you may be wondering how to best be there for them. We know that support is one of the most important factors in how people feel about an abortion. If you are able to show that you care in a non-judgemental way, and be physically and emotionally present during this time, you can make a huge difference in their experience. Here are some tips on how to be a caring and effective support person during this time and how to also take care of yourself during this process:
- Let her know you care about and want to be there for her. It’s a good idea to ask how she feels and what would help her most. She may not know the answer or be able to articulate her feelings or needs, but even just being asked can often make someone feel better. It is also important not to assume what she is feeling or what her needs are – it’s always good to check in.
- Never underestimate the power of just listening. You do not need to have the solution. Try to allow her to talk about the decision and/or experience as many times as she needs to. However, it’s best not to try to make her talk if she does not want to. She may not know how to tell you what she is feeling, or she may want to think things over herself before she puts her thoughts into words.
- You can acknowledge any feelings she is having without trying to “fix” them or brush them aside. Emotions like nervousness, sadness or feeling overwhelmed are normal responses to an abortion experience and it can be helpful to be able to express that.
- If you are her partner, be affectionate if she welcomes it, but be prepared for her to not want to be sexual (some of us do want to be sexual again soon after an abortion, and others don’t). Do not put any pressure on her to do so.
- Many of us need our support people close to them during a time like this. However, for others the most important thing they need is space. If this is what she asks for, then try to give her time to process the experience on her own or with other people close to her.
- There are lots of great ways to offer practical as well as emotional help. This can include transportation to and from appointments, childcare, help with getting or preparing food, or even just making sure she has the things that bring her comfort during a stressful/difficult time. Doing something special for her can help both of you feel better.
- Try to make room for both positive and negative emotions. For example, some of us may feel mainly relief around an abortion, and that is normal. Others feel mixed emotions including sadness, fear, feeling overwhelmed, grief, and anger. These are also normal. She needs to define her own experience, even if it is different from what you think it should be.
- You may also be having difficulties related to the pregnancy and/or abortion. Or, you may find acting as a support person is taking a toll on you. Do not expect the person who had the abortion to be able to take care of your needs – she needs to focus on her own right now. However, do get the support you need to work through your feelings and remember to take good care of yourself when you are caring for others. If you have mixed or conflicted feelings about the situation, you may not be in the best position to be a support person. You do not have to be the only person that she turns to for help and perhaps you or she may benefit from seeing a counsellor. Ask the clinic for resources or referrals.
For tips on how to support someone before an abortion or during a pregnancy decision click here.
For tips on how to support someone after an abortion click here.
Please note: we use the pronouns she/her/hers here as that is what the majority of our clients use, but recognize that trans and non-binary people also have abortions. If you would like a gender neutral version of this resource, please contact us via this contact form.