When a woman is hoping to get pregnant, the month is long. A few days into her cycle, she may feel a bit of relief, as if she can resume normal functioning for a few days.
And then the game begins. “Will we get pregnant?” she asks. The excitement of trying can be fun at first, but it can also become disheartening. The days leading up to the anticipated possible “test” day can be so long.
The constant analyzing of possible symptoms can torment and distract the most focused working woman. And that first sign that indicates another failed month most always brings tears. Failure. Again. Is it ever going to happen?
The silent, painful experiences of infertility leaves couples feeling unseen.
I experienced secondary infertility for a number of years and found my training as a counselor helpful during the tumultuous season. Facing infertility puts a strain on mental health because of the tendency for many to keep family planning discussions quiet.
Even if couples share about their struggles with a few close friends or family, perfect strangers may poke into one’s personal life, unknowingly triggering a flood of emotions. This can increase anxiety about being around people who might hurt them.
I’ve heard many women share a desire to withdraw. Although I do not recommend that people isolate, hearing others share this experience was comforting for me; I was not alone in my feelings.
Labeling the grief of infertility is helpful. It is important for couples to identify specifically what is being grieved. Walking through all of the unseen elements of grief brings healing. The way one sees themselves, their loved ones, and their world changes with loss.
Processing the changes can help us be gracious toward ourselves and understand why we may feel so unstable at times. Lastly, reframing one’s grief and looking to help support others can bring healing when we find ourselves in a place of loss.
How do we help someone feel ok with facing infertility? We don’t. Why? Because they don’t feel ok with the diagnosis of infertility, and they shouldn’t. Telling them they will be ok does not help. Well, it may help the speaker feel better, as if they have grand advice. But it does not help the grieving person.
How can we help? We cry with them. We show them we’re not ok with it. We pray for them. We set reminders to reach out to them. We’re devastated for them. With them. We sit. We hug (especially in the midst of a pandemic, when hugs mean more than ever.)
How do we overcome grief? With the love of God and others. You’re "other." So love.
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