It’s like waking up into a nightmare: You got your coffee, clicked through your notifications, and there it was: The Supreme Court’s theocratic wing overturned Roe v. Wade. Most of us have feared this possibility our entire lives, but that doesn’t mean you’re emotionally prepared for the reality of it.
In truth, you may go through layers of reactions in the weeks and months to come, from numbness to fear to rage to helplessness. You might find it’s all you can think about; you might manage to bury your feelings to get through the day, only to find yourself lashing out about something small and unrelated. There’s no one way—and certainly no one correct way—to feel right now.
However, it’s as important now to take care of your mental health and wellbeing as it would be during any other time of grief and loss. We’ve put together some suggestions to help you manage your feelings and seek the support you need.
- Don’t feel bad about turning off the news. We’re going to be hearing endless hot takes and replays of the decision from every angle for weeks to come. You’re not going to miss the one vital piece of information that could change everything if you give yourself a media break.
- Feel your feelings. It’s okay to be scared. It’s okay to feel grief. It’s okay to cry or to feel rage or to even be in denial. This is tragic and horrifying, and it’s normal to have strong feelings about it—even if it’s not your body that will be directly affected.
- Complete your stress cycles. When you feel yourself fixating on the news and the threats to you or others that it represents, you can get stuck in “fight, flight, fawn, or freeze” mode, with your sympathetic nervous system in overdrive. Staying there can lead to burnout or fatigue, so take some action to move through that stage and let your parasympathetic system take over. Intense physical activity, having a good sob, seeking out comforting affection, or being creative can help you get there.
- Find an appropriate space for rage. Yes, it can sometimes help to just scream out your anger! But this is a tricky one—your “scream therapy” could cause fear and distress for people around you (and screaming *at* people is not a productive way to manage your feelings). Be aware that this is not a replacement for actual therapy and should be a moment of catharsis, not a regular practice. You might go to a protest where you can yell angry slogans, for example, to get the benefits of yelling without scaring your household.
- Talk it out. Spend your therapy session working through this, look for a local support group, or schedule a vent session with friends who share your feelings. Community and mental health support are going to be crucial for dealing with this news and its repercussions.
- Empower yourself. Sometimes the feeling of helplessness is the hardest to deal with. Remember that while no *one* can change this situation, collective action by many can. There are organizations that have been preparing for this day for years, and they’re happy to accept your help and show you what you can do that will be most effective. Spend time educating yourself about your local laws and the situations in other states. Even small actions will make you feel less helpless.
- Pause contact with problematic people. This might not be easy if, for example, your cubicle coworker is cackling with glee right now. But if you have family or community members who supported overturning Roe (or are very conservative in general), it might not be a good time to engage with them. You can either just quietly go no-contact for a while and mute them on social media, or you can tell them that you can’t speak to them right now—that’s your call.
- Write through it. Journaling can be an incredibly effective way to externalize and process your emotions, sometimes bringing unexpected fears or thoughts into your consciousness where you can deal with them. It can help you organize your thoughts and brainstorm what to do.
- Look for hope. Human history is full of triumphs and defeats, and change is the only constant. Seek out situations where oppressed people organized, fought for their rights, and won, and immerse yourself in those histories. You’ll see that those situations were complicated, often scary, and sometimes even seemed hopeless—but that progress still happened. Read about our youngest generations today and the passion of their activism and convictions. Google “good news” or “optimistic news” and read some stories about people making positive change. The goal isn’t to deny how you’re feeling, but to remind yourself that there’s still good in the world and still hope for reproductive justice.
If you don’t have a uterus or vagina, or if you’re in a position of power over people who do (such as a supervisor at work), here are a few suggestions for being supportive of the mental health of the people around you who are grieving right now:
- Be mindful of your language—not all women can become pregnant, and not all people who can become pregnant are women. Yes, be sensitive to the ways that pregnancy and motherhood have saturated our cultural ideas of womanhood, but remember our trans siblings are suffering right now as well.
- Don’t be dismissive or try to minimize others’ fears, even if your intentions are good. Now is not the time for devil’s advocate or silver linings. Understand that even though this decision may not personally affect your body, it does affect countless people who are legitimately afraid right now and need their fear heard and honored.
- If Roe’s overturning doesn’t affect your bodily autonomy, don’t try to center yourself in conversations. Speak out against it, yes, but take your lead from the people who *are* directly affected, and spend time listening to them and validating them.
- Be aware that a lot of people are going to be struggling to focus on everyday life tasks. They might be impatient or short-tempered, or could even break down and cry in the middle of a meeting. Be kind and allow your direct reports, your coworkers, your committee members, or your family to be less than perfectly functional for a couple of days.
- If possible and appropriate, make a space for people to come together and share their fears, anger, and grief. Manage the logistics, provide snacks, and give them some privacy.
It’s a difficult, frightening time and a lot of us are going to be grappling with some very strong feelings for a while. Let’s make sure we also take the time for the self-care we need to find some peace in the storm and keep ourselves going without burning out on emotion.
Need to talk to someone? Now is a good time to make a therapy appointment and get help managing your grief. Contact us if you’re in DC, MD, or VA and are looking for a queer- and trans-inclusive, body affirming, sex positive therapist.