I was fortunate enough to have several friends come to me recently to tell me their abortion stories. I had only mentioned my work in passing and they approached me separately to confide in me. Their abortions weren't particularly recent, but they were still hurting. Some women hurt, some don't, and neither response is wrong. (And for the love of Mike, some fillings hurt, but that's no reason to outlaw them, so can it, antis.) My friends were and are glad they had a choice, they don't regret their decisions, but they were living quietly with their grief. I jumped into counselor mode in the middle of the coffee shop and I listened, offered resources, and suggested healing and coping techniques. And we hugged and I gave them instructions to call or email me whenever they needed an ear.
After I counsel women at work, I give hugs or a pat on the back or a few pamphlets or a souvenir flowchart we developed together that details a plan for healing. And I write my phone number at the clinic on the handouts with my name next to it, and I give the clients the same instructions to call me whenever they need to. Only a handful of women have taken me up on it, and I love hearing from them because even if they're sad, they usually are calling to also say thank you or tell me about the good things going on in their lives, or because they're open to talking. The rest, I think about and send a wish into the universe for their well-being. I don't forget them. And the thing that struck me the most when my friends came to me was the hope that they had a counselor who listened to them and walked with them through their abortion experiences. And I worried that they didn't.
A couple of weeks ago on PostSecret there was a postcard that said something to to the effect of, "To the nurse who held my hand last year as I lost my baby and told me eventually I would be OK: I am. Thank you." I wish I had saved the image, but it came and went like the postcards do every week. I loved that card, though. (And maybe it was about a sick infant or a miscarriage, but the beauty of the site is that it's open to interpretation.) It was like getting to hear the happy ending of every client I've ever wondered about. And I like being a part of the beginning, middle, and end for my friends.
Update - Thanks to a couple of lovely readers who let us know where to find that PostSecret submission! Here it is: