How to deal with Infertility GriefFeb 01, 2021
When I was in my 20’s, I watched my father die of cancer and held his hand as he took his last breath. I had visited my grandmother and hugged her in the hospital the night before she died. And this all happened a month apart!
So, I was no stranger to loss and grief. But the grief associated with infertility is a whole different ball game. And if you find yourself resisting calling it grief, have a think again. We are in fact grieving the loss of the dream pregnancy – where sex makes a baby and you spend your 9 months of pregnancy in joy, not fear. We are grieving lost babies, mourning the anniversary of every single milestone after. The loss of our identity in some cases. And the loss of friends as their lives move forward, while ours is on a constant loop. Where we part ways, because we can no longer relate to them.
Of course, while I was on my fertility journey, I didn’t realise it was grief I was experiencing (or in my case, trying to outrun).
For the 7 years I was on my fertility rollercoaster, I thought that if I was just stronger, more positive, more grateful, and more hopeful, that I would be able to get through it. The story that was going through my brain was that I was weak. Because infertility hurt more than anything I had ever faced before.
And the reason it hurts so much, is because it’s never ending. There is no finality. For the death of a loved one, you go to the funeral, pay your respects, go through the grieving process and receive support from your friends and family. They bring you casseroles, send you flowers and let you know they’re thinking of you. And while the pain never ends, it lessens a little over time.
But infertility – you’re stuck in this constant cycle of grief. Because you’re still struggling to fall pregnant and stay pregnant while you’re mourning the loss of everything else at the same time. You’re trying to move forward, but you’re being pulled back into the darkness at every turn.
And of course, there is no support for you. Because people don’t understand that you’re hurting so much, and even if they did, they don’t know how to console someone who is suffering from infertility grief.
Here are some things I wish I had known at time, that you may also find helpful –
- Firstly, it is important to acknowledge that you are grieving, and that infertility hurts. And because of that, you need to remind yourself that you are not weak. You are entitled to all the time and space you need in order to grieve all that your fertility struggles have robbed you of.
- Process the grief. If you keep pushing it down, and pretending that you’re ok, it will fester. Nor will it go away when you get to the end of this journey. I know that from personal experience. Today, I still grieve all that I lost, despite now having two beautiful children.
- Understand that grief is not linear. If you read any book on grief, there are 5 stages - DENIAL (when we tell everyone, including ourselves, that we’re fine), ANGER (why is everyone around me falling pregnant? Why is this happening to me?), BARGAINING (I’ll eat the pineapple and take a million supplements if you make this happen for me), DEPRESSION (I don’t know if I can do this anymore), and ACCEPTANCE (trusting the process and that this will happen when it’s supposed to). But you don’t just walk through them. We bounce around inside those stages over and over again (and in some cases, multiple times a day). And THAT is why you feel up and down and why we call it a fertility rollercoaster.
- You can feel this pain AND survive. One of the biggest fears on my fertility journey was, if I acknowledged how much pain I was in, I wouldn’t be able to stop crying. Or that my loved ones would make me stop. I know now that this pain does not need to consume you. You can process it, without falling down that rabbit hole. But you will need support.
- If you’re not sure how to even start processing the crap load of baggage you’re carrying, here are some tips –
- Schedule “grief time” in your diary. I know that sounds weird. But if you don’t make a time, it won’t happen. Because you are never going to WANT to grieve. And if you schedule it in, it’s less likely to catch you by surprise in your morning management meeting or at the grocery story. Set aside an hour to sit in the shit.
- Set yourself a reward. If you’re afraid that you won’t be able to pick yourself back up after your grief session, make plans to do something you love straight afterward. Go for a walk, run a bath, or go shopping. Something that will cheer you up or change your mood. And something that will encourage you to do the time.
- If you’re not sure how to get into the “grief bubble”, try watching a sad movie or listen to sad song. If someone has announced a pregnancy during the week, push it aside until your scheduled time and then pull it back out when you need to cry. Journaling is also a great way to grieve and process things.
I’ll be honest with you. It isn’t easy. But nor is this journey.
The benefits of processing what you’re going through, is that you will feel lighter and more in control. Think of your grief as a jar with the lid screwed on tight. If you keep putting things into that jar, it will eventually shatter into a million pieces. But if you deal with your emotions as they come up, it will remain at a manageable level.
I wanted to end this blog with a passage from my book, The Injustice of Infertility, which not only shares my journey, but the lessons I learned along the way. This is the lesson regarding grief.
“What I didn’t know at the time was that we were experiencing grief. I had always thought that grief happened when someone died. So I didn’t believe I had a right to claim those emotions. But I did - because I was grieving that picture I had in my head of how my path to motherhood would happen. I was grieving the loss of myself to infertility. Later on, I was grieving lost babies. And I was trying to come to terms with the fact that bad shit happens to good people.”
Your pain is valid. And you deserve the time and space to unpack it.
If you’d like a sneak peek inside The Injustice of Infertility, you can gain access to your free chapter HERE.
And if you’re ready to start unpacking that bag, send me a MESSAGE and we can chat.
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