Grief. My 2007 post about childless grief has been the most clicked and commented on over the last seven years. Readers continue to pour out heartbreaking stories about being denied the chance to have children and finding the loss unbearable. They write, “I don’t know what to do.” “I can’t go on.” “My heart is breaking.” I tell them I’m sorry. I tell them I’m praying for them. I urge them to find someone to talk to, whether it’s a friend, family member, or therapist. I tell them to keep talking with their spouse; don’t hurt in silence.
The pain is real. The loss is real. You are trying to figure out how to live without the family and the life you thought you would have. It’s not just the children. It’s not just grandchildren and descendants through the ages. It’s also a way of life, an identity as a mother or father, an experience that most people have and you never will.
How do you begin to heal? What do you do with this pain? A reader recently suggested that I write about this. In the next few posts, we will look at ways to heal. Even if you do eventually have children, you won’t forget the years when you thought you never would, so healing is needed.
The stages of grief outlined by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross can be applied here: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
Denial: He’ll change his mind. We’ll do IVF. I’ll get pregnant by accident. She’s 43, but it’s not too late. We all do this. We think a miracle will happen, and we will have a baby. While we’re waiting for that miracle, our lives are passing us by.
Anger: It’s his/her/God’s fault, and I am so pissed. He cheated me out of my chance to be a mother. She’s too selfish to give me the children I always wanted. I never should have married this @#$%. I’m an idiot. And God, you suck.
Bargaining: I’ll let him get his degree/sports car/trip to Europe, and then we’ll get pregnant. If I get a second job, she’ll change her mind. If we move to Cleveland, which I hate, he’ll let us have a baby.
Depression: I am so sad I can’t go on. I want to have babies. I want them so bad I die every time I hear about somebody else having a baby. My friends and my sisters are all having kids, and I feel so left out. They just don’t understand. Nobody understands. I’m never going to have children, and my life is ruined.
Acceptance: They say you have to hit bottom before you can start working your way out of your troubles. One day, you will begin to see that although you don’t have children, life has many other good things to offer: a partner who loves you, great food, blue skies and green trees, work you enjoy, a house you love, hobbies, friends, God. You realize lots of other people do not have children and live happy, successful lives, and you can, too. You still wish you had children, but life goes on whether you’re a parent or not.
As anyone who has suffered the loss of a loved one knows, we don’t progress through the stages of grief in a straight line. One day you’re feeling acceptance; the next day you’re back at depression or anger or denial. I still feel sad sometimes, and sometimes I cry and punch things because I’m furious at how my life worked out. But the acceptance grows with time until it becomes your usual mood.
In coming posts, we will look at alternate life plans, ceremonies and rituals to let go of grief, and more steps to take toward healing.
Please forgive me if my posts are not quite on time this month. I’ve been in California taking care of my father, who broke his hip, and there is no WiFi at his house. But I will not desert you. You are all in my thoughts and prayers as we heal together.
Copyright 2014 Sue Fagalde Lick