Here in the U.S., we’re entering into another three-day-weekend to celebrate Memorial Day. This is the kind of holiday that, in my Plan A life, would have included a family picnic, a family barbecue, maybe a family outing to watch a parade, and overall a fun opportunity for my children to spend time with the many generations of our family.
So add all of the above, once again, to my list of invisible losses that come with being childfree-not-by-choice. Also on my list:
• Never being able to see my father’s, husband’s, or own eyes in another human being.
• Never having the pleasure of hearing someone say “She’s just like you at that age.”
• Never getting to throw an over-the top child’s birthday party with an ooh- and ahh-inspiring magician, balloon artist, or bubble-making machine.
• Never getting to quietly take pride in my child’s achievement.
• Never being able to watch my grown child pass on to his child the traditions, rituals, and stories I taught him.
In Living the Life Unexpected, the always spot-on Jody Day adds her own list of invisible losses followed by this line:
If you take the time to think about it all in one go, which is more than most of us are ever likely to do because of the breathtaking amount of pain involved, it’s a testament to our strength that we’re still standing at all.
“It’s a testament to our strength that we’re still standing at all.” That line took my breath away the first time I read it, and it reminds me that grieving and healing is a long and circuitous journey.
I know it’s painful. I know sometimes the “easy” route of denial is appealing. But today I encourage you to set aside some time to acknowledge what you’ve lost. The visible and not-so-visible. I think that is the first step toward letting it go.
If you need help working through the process of grieving, I encourage you to check out the many resources available to you, starting with Lisa’s book Life Without Baby: Surviving and Thriving When Motherhood Doesn’t Happen.
If one book or author doesn’t speak to you, don’t give up; find another. It’s what I’ve been doing, and I promise you it helps.
And wherever you are in the world, whether you’re celebrating Memorial Day or facing just another rough weekend, I hope you’ll remember that you are loved and you are not alone.
Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She is mostly at peace with her childfree status.