When we are forced to live in the midst of grief we find ways of coping that defy the everyday. Robert Romanyshyn (1999), psychology professor and author of The Soul in Grief writes, “Loss is a season of the soul – its winter – and, like the winter of the world, a moment whose time must have its place. I could neither hurry nor avoid these rhythms of soul any more than I could hurry or ignore those of the world” (p. 5). Slowing down and feeling the rhythm of pain and loss forces us to sit in it like a small child in a bathtub whose water has gone cold but who cannot get out alone. Telling the story of your grief can assist you in getting through the utter devastation you feel. In this forum it has the added benefit of communing with people who understand. Romanyshyn further points out, “In this landscape there really are no maps, no markers to plot the course of grief. Here I was forced to find my own way” (p. 6).
As you may or may not know, but I am here to tell you, there is only one way to go through your grief. Your way is the way. I am here to start discussion and educate you and hopefully steer you in a few directions you may not have thought to take. Do not mistake that for your own wisdom. What fuels your healing is you. So lets focus for a second on what helps you grieve? Tell us what has worked for you. You have wisdom to help your friends, share it.
Contact me at: Shannon [at] lifewithoutbaby [dot] com.
Resource: The Soul in Grief :Love, Death and transformation. by Robert Romanyshyn, writer, teacher and author.
Shannon Calder is a writer, psychotherapist, and survivor of grief. She has an MA in Counseling Psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute and is currently in a doctoral program in Clinical Psychology. She works in private practice treating people suffering from a wide spectrum of symptoms.
I experienced a lot of grief while I was going through fertility treatment and learning about all of my physical problems that prevented me from getting pregnant. The loss I suffered then was the dream of having children that looked like me or my husband. During this time, I don’t think I took very good care of myself at all and spent a lot of time pretending I was ok and withdrawing from everyone around me, including my husband. During this time, the one thing I did do to make myself feel better was buy myself a present after every appt where I received bad news. I acquired a lot of nice stuff back then. After 5 years, I found out I was pregnant and miscarried 3 months later due to my physical problems and that was a whole new grief. I thought it was my miracle baby. When I lost it, I felt like I wasn’t worthy of a miracle and even grieved my relationship with God. The responses I received from my doctor, my family, my neighbors and my friends were horrible and added to the grief (e.g. if your serious about having a baby, you have to use a donor egg; what do you expect at your age; now that you’ve been pregnant it will be easier to get pregnant again; you’re young and you have plenty of time (I was 40 but looked 10 years younger)). At that time, I had the realization that it was all a loss to me and that I needed to take better care of myself. I was so depressed over trying and failing. I told my husband I needed to stop because I could take any more so we stopped having unprotected sense. Within a few months, I felt a lot better because I now felt in control of the situation and my body, rather than my body letting me down. I started focusing on what I wanted as a child because those were dreams I could make happen as a financially stable adult. So, I adopted two rabbits and taking care of them, snuggling with them, was a great outlet for my desire to nurture. Since my life was no longer on hold waiting to have a baby, I left a job I hated and went to a new job that I loved. Since I was in a new company, I had to be able to commit to my new responsibilities which made me feel better about not trying to get pregnant. My husband and I went to couples counseling which helped us both become closer and slowly our sex life improved. Counseling helped us realize we need to have more fun together so we went on several really nice couple vacations. We also began searching for a vacation home and talked about it whenever we saw our friends who had children (I have to admit I liked making them jealous back then). We also bought an antique car to restore, and then another and go to car shows with them which helps us make new friends. I also began taking meditation and hot yoga classes, returned to church and reconnected with my faith, and focused again on my art by taking classes. Lastly, I shifted my focus away from children to my extended family that lives in 2 different countries, I connected with my aunts and cousins in those countries, and have created relationships with them. In the future, I am looking forward to meeting my cousins in Italy for the first time, more great vacations, and finding that second home. I still have bad days but they are far less frequent. I used to wonder if they would ever go away entirely but I think that is unrealistic. Our loss is no different than the death of a loved one and it never leaves you entirely but with time you are able to live with it. I was watching a movie the other day about a child who lost his mom and he said, “bad things can happen to you, but you can still live. You can still live.” And I thought, he’s right. I can still live, and be happy sometimes.
I hope this helps any of your readers get to a better place. As I was driving into work this morning, I was thinking I wish I could share what I went through with others so that I could help them get through their process. So odd that this was your them today!
So odd that it was your theme today! Sorry for the typo
Thanks Maria. All your renewed energy and focus on your life was really inspirational and motivating!! It would be lovely if more of us could share the things we’ve been up to to try to pull ourselves a bit out of the slump and start living life more fully. My slump has also been caused it part by going back to school, acquiring student loans, and not having a full time good paying job… I think once I’m on solid financial ground again, I might be at a better place. I did bikram yoga once and nearly died, so my hat goes off to you!! But I should find a good yoga place and get back into it as yoga is something that I have definitely found to help relax and re-energize me!
Thank you Iris for your nice words. I forgot to add that when I decided to start taking care of myself, I also started declining invitations to baby showers, baptisms, and children’s birthday parties. I limited contact with certain people who were hurting me (even if they thought they were trying to be helpful), and defriended a lot of people on Facebook. That helped a lot to surround myself only with people who were good to me.
Thank you so much for this post. As I slowly realised that I was infertile I really struggled with the lack of a “road map” and the feeling that I could only see a few metres ahead of me…now I’m more accepting of it. I too started limiting my baby contact and carefully distanced myself from some people – I felt quite guilty for doing this at the time….but now that I feel the difference it’s made, I’m amazed I waited so long! I renegotiated my job description at the same company to a new role which plays more to my strengths and allows me more time off with my husband. We feel that as we don’t have children, it’s important that we spend time doing things together other than recovering. I started learning guitar and walking 3-4 times a week. I’m going on a Bali holiday with another childless girlfriend in a few months which I’m looking forward to. I have planted a herb garden and we’re planning ahead for a slightly bigger home with a backyard…and a puppy! I guess the main decision I’ve made, in small ways over and over again, is to be gentle to myself and take care of myself.to be accepting of where I am on this journey and not put pressure on myself to ” do better” or”be stronger”. And I’m gradually giving myself permission to enjoy, to truly enjoy, good things, even though not every good thing I’ve desired has come to pass. I’m still relatively early in this journey (4years in) and still trying/hoping to find a future with a child in it. But for a long time I’ve known that I need to have a goal ending with a plan B as well – that this journey offers no guarantees. Thank you a much for all your comments and your openness about living a full life BEYOND infertility regardless of the “child-status” at the end. It’s amazingly helpful to me and has given me so much strength and encouragement for the journey.
I was re-reading my post and didn’t mean to leave the impression that getting over the grief requires a lot of money. I’m not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination and the things I described doing occurred over 10+ years. The car project we were able to do because it was my husband’s hobby and he did all the work himself. Anyway, my point was that we all need to recognize that we have suffered a loss and are entitled to grieve it. The next step is taking good care of yourself and figuring out what you personally need in order to heal. Some of the things I did that were free was decline invitations to baby showers, baptisms and birthday parties. On the day of those events, I made plans with single friends for a walk in the park or had them over my house. I also became a volunteer at my local animal shelter as a dog walker. The dogs gave me a lot of affection and the other volunteers seemed to be lonely, single people looking for companionship too so it allowed me to make new friends without kids. I started going to church’s Saturday mass where all of the attendees were adults rather than Sunday which had a lot of children. So, again, I’m sorry if I came across in the wrong way with my initial post. We are all in the same painful position and I want to be supportive in any way I can.
I can really identify with the metaphor of the seasons. Even when life is good I tend to have winter blues, but this past winter was probably the worst I’ve experienced. We quit TTC a year ago last month and the grief, equating to mostly anger and sadness, has been pretty intense this past year. I try to put up a good front on the outside because I don’t prefer to share my inner emotions, but like Maria said, I withdrew from people, especially my husband. I was just mad and upset all the time, which was affecting our relationship, so I finally decided to start some counseling in October. This helped some and gave me some good methods for working on the issues that could be controlled, but the winter was still really bad. The gloomy weather, dead-looking trees and early darkness just mirrored my moods. Then when the first day of spring rolled around I started feeling like a weight was lifted off my shoulders and I suddenly became cheerful and chipper! The combination of counseling, the year passing and the arrival of spring all seemed to flow together into healing. I wish that I could control when I feel happy but my counselor helped me to realize that I simply can’t, and she told me when I was feeling anger and grief I needed to stop trying to deny and ignore those feelings and actually FEEL them. I think that advice helped the most. I had to explain that to my husband, because he was always telling me things like, “Don’t be sad/mad/depressed, look at all the good things you have , etc….” when what I really needed to do was focus on the root cause of the negative feelings and just FEEL THEM! He understood, fortunately, and things started to get better gradually. But springtime is the manifestation of coming back to life. I guess I can’t help that my emotions mirror the seasons!
just been told i cant have children my follicle stimulating hormone is to high dont know how to move forward?