Facing family and friends

What, when and how much to tell family, friends and work colleagues can be deeply problematic; here are some approaches to try.

If you are in a relationship, you need to decide as a couple whom you want to tell about the decision to stop fertility treatment. You do not need to tell the world but some people find it helps to tell family and close friends. Others may prefer to take time to to grieve on their own first until they’re strong enough to be open with others

If you’ve told your family and friends, they are more likely to have some understanding of what you have been through and what it means to stop actively trying for a baby.

By being as open as possible with people it can help to avoid awkward questions and you can explain why you don’t feel able to attend certain family events, for example.

Make sure to stress that although you are now moving on to a new phase in your life, this is not something you have put behind you and there is still raw grief. Maybe arrange to meet your closest ones so that you can discuss how far you want to be involved with younger family members and friends’ children at the moment, and your hopes for more contact in the future. By being open you can set the boundaries about what you want to talk about and which subjects you want to avoid, but be prepared to make the first move because families may be wary of saying something for fear of upsetting you.

Another strategy is to decide how you are going to answer certain questions.  You are bound to get the inevitable question of ‘Why don’t you just adopt?’  Make sure you are prepared with something like ‘it’s not for us’ or ‘it does not suit everybody’.  And when people ask you if you have children, you can say something like ‘sadly not’.  That way you can help avoid awkward situations.

Family: our family may also be grieving the loss – they will have been looking forward to grandchildren or nephews or nieces. In addition, for your parents you will always be their children and it hurts them to see what you have been through.-

Friends: friends may often not know how to react. Those with children may thrust their children on you or they hide them away from you. If you can be open with them you can again set the boundaries for contact. If it helps, meet your friends in the evenings away from children. As time moves on you may feel happier about having youngsters around, but if you’ve been open with your friends it will help them understand, to not put their foot in it, and to not be offended. You may find that some friends just can’t understand or push their children on you. If you find this too painful, then you may decide to distance yourself from them in the short term at least. You have to do what is right for you.

Now might be a good time to rebuild friendships you may have neglected or avoided while you were going through treatment – maybe because they had children, but you could also look to building new friendships where there is no history between you – possibly couples who have been through the same experience.

Work colleagues: while you might not want to broadcast what you have been through around the office, it can help to have a sympathetic colleague to confide in.  Don’t let work colleagues take advantage of you by grabbing time off during the school holidays if you wanted it too – make sure you jump in before them occasionally. And don’t get stuck at the office while they rush off to pick up their children. You are an equal member of staff.