Read on to find three important things that help; Meaning Making, Acceptance and Pursuing Other Meaningful Life Goals.
If you are reading this you probably have a strong desire to have (more) children that you have not been able to fulfil. As such, you may be faced with one of life’s hardest challenges and may be experiencing a huge sense of loss and grief.
These materials aim to help you overcome your situation, by letting you know what science[i] tells us about what most people in your situation experience and what helps them overcome such a difficult life challenge.
You are also invited to engage with a few activities you may find helpful to cope with your unmet desire for children. The activities were designed to be done individually. Couples may choose to come together at the end of each activity and share their feelings and experience. Some activities may be challenging in that they confront you with your situation and prompt you to face the future. We suggest you engage with one activity per week, but only you can know what the right pace is for you.
When confronted with the fact that they cannot have (more) children, most people experience a prolonged period of intense grief, entailing feelings of profound pain, sadness and loss. With time, such feelings tend to decrease and to become more bearable. Women may feel emptiness, loss of control and self-blame. Most benefit from talking about their grief with family and friends. Men tend to be more private and may suppress or deny their grief. They are often surprised by the intensity of their (female) partner’s grief reactions and may feel helpless in supporting them.
It’s like someone died but nobody else knows it.
Many people withdraw from the ‘fertile world’. When faced with this situation, many people find it hard to share their grief with others. It may be difficult to talk about their loss with family members because they might have also been hoping for children, for instance grandchildren. In general, people find it is difficult to cope with comments, questions and other social interactions around children. These can be perceived as intrusive or insensitive, or can accentuate one’s feelings of loss, because they carry strong societal expectations that most people want to and will become parents. Many people also become disconnected from friends who have children because they are unable to share parenthood experiences and find it painful to be around children.
I found myself making excuses for not visiting, or taking a trip to the bathroom when the latest photos of the grandchildren were passed around. I really had to get a grip on myself…
To be involuntarily childless means some form of exclusion… it is something you can’t share with many others… it can be ordinary things such as if you have friends that talk about their children and so on…
With time, around nine in every ten people are able to let go of their desire for children and rebuild a happy and fulfilling life. Indeed, despite the initial grief and pain, as time passes, most people develop a sense of survival and personal and spiritual growth. This progressive recovery usually takes around 2 years, but it varies and some people need more time than others. Those who come to terms with their unmet desire for children experience a renewed sense of hope towards the future, of restored strength and agency, and of equilibrium with themselves, their partnership and the world.
I used to think the pain of infertility would last forever and now… sometimes I forget how hard it was…it’s almost like we never had the problem… it just doesn’t matter anymore, it’s over.
I think one of the biggest things I’ve come to understand or to appreciate is myself. I am a hell of a lot more comfortable with who I am and know that I do not have to live up to somebody else’s expectations.