A common question our Phone Coaches are asked is “how can I talk to my family about my abortion?”  It’s an unfortunate truth that the stigma around abortion has made it a difficult topic to discuss with anyone, even the people we are closest to.  It’s a complex issue that has political, emotional, and spiritual overtones. However, if you’ve had an abortion in the past, it’s natural to want to discuss it with your family to get their support.  And while you can never predict how your family will react, there are some things you can do to help the conversation go smoother than you may expect. Read on for our advice on how to navigate this situation.  If you need someone to talk to beforehand, or simply want to process with someone who understands, call H3Helpline at 866-721-7881.

Make Sure You’re Prepared

The most important question to ask yourself is “am I ready to have this conversation?”  For many women, talking about their abortion experience can be painful if they aren’t at a place of emotional health and strength.  Your health and self-care always comes before having to take care of or worry about what others will say or think. 

Next, take some time beforehand to think through what you want to say.  Something that may be helpful is to write down everything you’re thinking and feeling.  That way, when the time comes to have the conversation, you can have a list of all of the thoughts and feelings you want to express in front of you and won’t be as stressed about what you’re going to say.  

Also, it’s helpful to have an optimistic outlook on how the conversation will go.  It’s easy to imagine the worst case scenario, but consider that unlike other discussions about abortion, this is YOUR story.  It’s not an impersonal story of someone else; it’s a deeply personal story that has affected you. No matter what your family’s views on abortion are, their love for you transcends whatever personal views they have.  You may be surprised at how the conversation goes.

Make Sure They’re Prepared

Talking to a loved one about your past abortion is never an easy thing to do, but you can soften the impact by making sure they hear the news in a comfortable setting. Don’t blurt it out in passing or while you’re in a public place, and don’t tell them in anger or out of fear. Again, this is a deeply emotional part of your life to share, and you should only do so when you’re fully prepared to. Think through beforehand what you want to say and where and give them a heads up that you want to sit down and talk.  It can also be helpful to ask a trusted friend or family member that you’ve already told to come with you to the meeting to provide you with support.

Anticipate and Accept Their Feelings

No one can ever predict how your family will react to the news.  They could be angry, disappointed, confused, shocked, or even hurt that you didn’t mention it before.  But even though you can’t know exactly how they’ll react, you can plan ahead and imagine a few different reactions you think they might have and how you would respond to them.  The most important thing here is to show them grace. If they’re not expecting it and it comes as a shock, they can react emotionally and might even say something that is mean or hurtful – and so might you. But it’s important not to let this conversation become an argument. You’re all in this together, and you need to support and respect each other to make it through. Allow them time to process the news, and if needed, ask to continue the conversation another time when they’ve had time to process and can discuss it with clear minds.

You’re Never Alone

While everyone hopes that the conversation goes well, unfortunately this isn’t always the case.  They may react strongly to the news and need some additional time to process everything. In these cases, it’s easy to feel guilty about upsetting them and be lost in feelings of despair or wondering how you could’ve approached the conversation differently.  However, you need to remember that you can’t control how they react; you can only control how you choose to respond.

So don’t forget – your health and self-care always comes before having to take care of or worry about what others will say or think.  It takes a lot of courage and strength to open up about your past abortion to anyone, especially family members. Just as they may need time to process everything, you may need to process their reaction with someone.  If this is the case, or you simply need someone to talk to, call H3Helpline at 866-721-7881.  Our Phone Coaches are available 24/7 to talk with you and are all women who have experienced abortion first-hand as well.  They’re here to not only listen and process with you, but to connect you with resources and community support in your area to help you find help, hope, and healing.  Don’t hesitate to call; we’re here for you.