Infertility and Grief
Infertility and Grief
A little while back I wrote a blog about the stigma of infertility and my own personal journey. I have decided to re-engage this topic by discussing the grief associated with infertility as the focus. I read an article in Counseling Today (CT) magazine by Tristan D. McBain, that shared information on this unique grieving process. Because infertility can look very different in various individual experiences, it is important to remember that these are some general things to consider or think about but may not be applicable to every case.
In some cases of infertility, both partners may have issues leading to inability to conceive and in some cases, only one of the partners has the issue. This can play itself out in many ways. In addition, some individuals will go through costly and exhausting medical procedures aimed at increasing the likelihood of conception. Others may begin the process of adoption. There may be others who have been able to conceive in the past but are having difficulty currently. In all of these cases grief will look and impact individuals in many ways.
For me, I was unable to conceive the first time I tried to get pregnant and the biological issues were mine, not my partner. This had an impact on me in a way that may have been different than if the circumstances were changed. For me, it meant that “I am the problem”, “I am the failure”, and that “it is not fair”, and I questioned “why is this happening to me?” My grief was something that I hesitantly shared with others and I found comfort in connecting with others who had their own stories to tell. My grief resurfaced when anyone would give me “advice” or ask when I was going to have kids, however. It was a grief that many didn’t understand, it was very different than the loss of a loved one or the end of a relationship.
The CT article explains some of the losses associated with infertility as the loss of the imagined or expected family, and loss of the life stage of parenting (pregnancy, traditions, genetics, surname, future life stages such as grandparenting, etc.). McBain says “the loss comes from an absence of something that has never been rather than the absence of something that used to be.” Professional counselors can help in many ways, including being present and listening without judgement or “advice”, assist you in articulating what you need from others, help you redefine life expectations and the concept of womanhood, help you manage the emotions you may be feeling, assist in developing rituals, help you explore methods of self-care, and help you connect to resources.
As with any grieving process, you may find yourself cycling in and out of anger, disbelief, sadness, and so on. These emotions may come and go due to easy to identify triggers and sometimes with no explanation at all. Expect that you will experience this and that it can get better over time. Know that you are not alone and that support is out there. Reach out to others to help you and don’t go through it alone.