The coldest reaction to childless grief

“Get over it.” That’s what his girlfriend said when this man who wrote to me told her he’d have a hard time dealing with not having children. They were talking about marriage. She had been married before and had a daughter. Now 45, she wasn’t interested in trying for another. But he was younger and still wanted kids. He wanted her to understand that he would need a lot of moral support if he never became a father. She said, “get over it.” 

As far as I know, they’re still together, but now he’s worried about her attitude.

You don’t just “get over” losing your chance to have children. We all need to find a way to live with it, to keep it from ruining all that is good in our lives, but that feeling of something missing does not just disappear. It’s a bit like the feeling we have when someone we love dies. As the priest told my father, brother and me before my mother’s funeral, there’s a wound in our hearts that will never completely heal. Ten years later, I know it’s still there.

I have heard people say “get over it” about lots of things. Childlessness is definitely one of them. I know men and women who have progressed from childless to childfree. They have come to a place where they don’t mind not having children. They’re even glad about it. God bless them, but it’s not that easy for most of us. The least our partners can do is try to understand that sometimes that old wound will still hurt.

I think “get over it” is one of the most hurtful phrases in our language. It denies our right to have feelings, and those who say it should get over that.

Has anyone ever said this to you?

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5 thoughts on “The coldest reaction to childless grief

  1. Hi Sue, I've been reading your blog from the perspective of the person due to whom the other becomes “childless by marriage”. My husband recently decided that he wants kids after we had both decided against it together awhile ago. It was a jarring and saddening change for me also because it was a really sudden switch-flip for him as he was always indifferent before. But that's not the point. The reason I'm reading your blog is because I am trying to give him moral support. Though I don't feel badly about wanting to remain childfree, and my husband doesn't seem to plan on leaving me, I do feel TERRIBLE that this has to come between us and that anything that's a part of me has to cause him so much pain. I am making efforts left and right to ease his pain (while of course, I can't just give in to having children as that would be a big mistake for both of us and for the kids). You should tell your friend that his girlfriend's attitude is not where it needs to be. You can not want anymore kids, and still try to be sympathetic! It's not that hard. He should ask her for what he needs emotionally if he's not to have kids. If she's that cold and ruthless, he should consider what that means for their relationship.

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  2. Anonymous, I totally agree with you. It's the attitude that really endangers their relationship. I thank you for offering your side of the story and I appreciate your willingness to help your husband through it. Just this weekend, I was talking to my cousin, who is 34 and has two boys in their teens from her first marriage. She does not want to have more children. The man she is dating wants children and she says she does not plan to marry him because she knows this will be too hard for him.
    In these situations, it's impossible for everyone to have everything that they want, but it helps if they can work through it together.

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  3. i agree that the attitude of both people is the issue. my husband gets very angry whenever i bring up that i am grieving not having my own childern. he feels that he is not going to “pick up” the respondability for “ruining my life” He has said i should have pushed more…i feel he never heard me… this attitude is making it very difficult for me to grieve with any support and is causing a really big distance in our relationship. i have tried to turn toward him in this situation but it is becoming extremly painful to handle his outbursts of anger. i feel dismissed. I read silent sorority and read some of the womans comments to my husband and this is the latest arguement. He feels that is it ridiculous for woman suffering from childlessness to “expect” everyone else to tip toe around them. I feel i have to deal with this issue everyday and almost moment to moment. How can we share and support eachother with out resentment from either of us? i struggle and sometimes find it so painful i want to leave just to get some relief from the grief that is so physical for me. In reality there is no escape for me…and he gets relief as long as i dont share my pain….it is really difficult to move past this….any suggestions?

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  4. Anonymous, reading this makes me feel lucky to have the husband that I had. I honestly didn't share my grief with him too often because it made him feel bad. Maybe I should have, but he felt guilty and hated to see me unhappy. He never got angry about it, at least as far as I know. It is such a difficult issue, and it's important for a couple to be able to talk about it as calmly as possible. In your situation, I wonder if therapy would help. I suspect he wouldn't go. Maybe you need to not talk about it with him for a while but share your feelings with other people who are willing to listen and sympathize.
    If it's too late to have children, you're both going to have to find some way to live with it peacefully if you're going to stay together. I wish you luck with this.

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