This ritual can be started before your pregnancy release process, as part of your discernment and preparation, or after you have your abortion. It can be done with the support and witness of close, trustworthy friends, or by yourself, with the support and witness of the Earth, benevolent ancestors, and guides.
As you move through the flow, use what works for you and leave the rest. Feel free to replace some elements with others that work better for you. More than anything, trust your intuitions. Trust where you feel led. Trust what you need. All your feelings are there for a reason; feeling them fully can help guide you through your healing.
Finally, there are so many ways to engage the Earth. You may live in a city where it’s not as possible or comfortable to find a space with plants, trees, rocks, and earth. You can adapt this ritual to your life, using a candle (even a birthday candle), a houseplant, or other special objects you have lying around. That said, if you’re able to take yourself to a tree, it can be a powerful place to plug into the healing, composting, interconnected world that supports your healing and integration. Make this process yours. There is no wrong way.
This ritual will follow the spiral of The Work that Reconnects, a collection of practices for the integration of collective grief developed by Joanna Macy. We will move through four portals along the spiral: gratitude, honoring pain, seeing with new eyes, and going forth.
- A bowl of water
- A candle and matches or a lighter
- A tree or plant
- Something comfortable to sit or lie on
- A pen and paper
- A hard surface (like a book) on which to write
- Optional: a flower whose petals you can pick
Beginning in Gratitude:
Set yourself up in a place where you can be comfortable near your tree or plant.
Light your candle to open the ritual space.
Take a few deep breaths. You could put on or sing a song that you love to help you settle in.
Introduce yourself to the world around you. Say your name, your parents’ names, your grandparents’ names. Then say:
Calling on my benevolent ancestors and guides
To come be with me and around me
As I make space for the fullness of my experience
Help me to feel the warmth of your love and support at my back and by my side
As I honor, move through, and release what is ready to go
And as I hold tenderly and closely what needs to stay
Then, in whatever way feels right to you, drop into your gratitude.
What do you see around you?
In the midst of this intense life experience, where are you finding comfort, solidarity, help?
Who – seen or unseen, alive or ancestor – has been supporting you through this time?
Look closely at the hairs on your arm, at your fingernails, at the texture of your skin. Can you find some gratitude for your body’s strength, resilience, pain?
Place the bowl of water in front of you. Take some deep breaths and name your gratitude, silently or out loud. If you have a flower whose petals you’re able to pick, with each gratitude, put a petal in the water.
No matter how clear your decision, pregnancy release can bring up so many different emotions. There is space for all of them here.
Your feelings are all here for a reason. Grief is the other side of deep love. Anger means we care deeply. Regret speaks to your longings for a good life. Tenderness is our full humanity showing up. Each of the emotions that is hard to bear is rooted in a deeply held value or longing. By making space for them all we make space to heal, to re-root, and to integrate what we care about most.
Abortion stigma wants us to think we are the only ones who have experienced this. It wants us to forget that we are backed and flanked by millions of other women and birthing people who have made this holy, loving choice, who have walked this path and integrated it into their stories. Their support and accompaniment is with you here, helping you to feel the depth of your feelings.
In this part of the spiral, the invitation is to write a letter that will help you express the fullness of your emotions.
This could be a letter to your pregnancy, to the spirit of the potential baby if you relate to it that way.
It could also be a letter from your future self to your current self, letting her know how this pregnancy and abortion experience has shaped her story, seeing her in the fullness of her feelings.
It could be a letter from you, as you are right now, to the future, or to the ancestors who have walked this path before you, asking for help and support or expressing rage, regret, pain, longing, loneliness – anything you need to be seen in.
Take your time. You can play music as you write if that helps it flow.
When you have finished writing your letter, place the bowl of water in front of you. Sing or speak the words of your letter into the water, knowing that water is a receptive element, able to hold the immensity of us.
As you finish, you can submerge the letter in the water, allowing your experience to infuse the water. You can also choose to hang onto your letter if that would serve you.
Seeing with New Eyes:
With the bowl of water in front of you, take time to play with the surface of the water. Notice how it changes, ripples, spirals.
Let the water settle and become still. Then lean over the bowl and find your reflection. Look upon your face with the eyes of a benevolent ancestor or a loving grandmother, perhaps even your future self, someone who has walked this path before you and knows what it is to fully experience and integrate it.
What do you notice? Who do you see looking back at you? See if you can sense your tenderness, your strength, your trustworthiness, your love. If those are hard to access or judgements or self-criticism get in the way, return to embodying the gaze of a benevolent ancestor or guide. Can you see yourself in your fullness through their eyes?
As you gaze into the water, see if you can sense or see the little one in you and also the ancient one. What does it feel like to connect with your younger self and with your future self?
Notice what’s reflected in the space behind the reflection of your face. Maybe you see tree branches and leaves, or an open window. Maybe you see the pictures on your wall. Allow the reflection of your face to be a part of the wider web of interconnectedness that holds you.
If there is a song or a favorite poem that comes to you to sing or read, offer it to your reflection. (A few possibilities that might fit are “The Guest House” by Rumi, “Go to the Limits of Your Longing” by Rilke, and “Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver).
When you are ready, offer the water to the tree or plant with you. If your letter has been in the water, bury it in the soil. The water holds the fullness of your experience, and offering it to the plant or the tree allows the roots of that being to metabolize, compost, and transmute your experience into the fertile soil of your life. You can offer it with a prayer for your integration, and for your life going forth.
As you offer the water, you can play the song “You’re Not Alone” by Allison Russell or any other song that feels like it supports your wholeness and your emergence across the threshold of this ritual.
With words, gestures, or movement, offer gratitude to yourself, to the Earth, to any people who have gathered, to your benevolent ancestors and guides who support you, and to the Spirit of life that infuses all of it.
As the song ends and you feel ready to close, blow out the candle. Clap over it, turn around, and walk away from the ritual space, trusting that it will be there for you when you need it again.
A Note on Aftercare:
Rituals like this take a tremendous amount of courage, energy, and openness. It is normal to need a lot of gentle integration time. For the rest of the day or evening, take it easy and listen closely to what your body and spirit need. Rest, watch some TV, spend easy time with loved ones or a pet, eat nourishing food, drink plenty of water or tea. Good aftercare is an important supporter of the potency of the ceremony.