5 tips for understanding your infertility grief

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Why is it when we think of infertility we think of IVF?

IVF feels like the emblem for fertility treatments – it’s the most recognised treatment, it’s questionable how successful it actually is and yet most people consider it to be the answer to infertility. There are in fact many ways of treating infertility, some that are less invasive or less expensive or no treatment at all.

However, if you haven’t chosen IVF you can often feel left out of the infertility conversation entirely.

And what about those who choose to end treatment altogether?

Those that choose or have no other option but to choose involuntary childlessness.

I think that you can feel totally forgotten about, which compounds the misery that you are feeling.

Making the decision to end treatment, means having to make shifts in your life expectations – hopes and dreams have to be adjusted, life goals reimagined, requiring extensive reorganisation of your self-concepts or internal working model.

It’s coming to terms with being denied one of your main life goals.

I can’t help but wonder if these women and couples – you, fall through the mental health “cracks”. You may not have been offered counselling or even thought about getting the emotional support you need.

You are facing a loss and you need to grieve that loss.

The identification of loss in infertility is often difficult to comprehend especially for friends and family, who may not understand. Also, for you, as you may think it’s silly to grieve something you never had and yet the emotions are very real and very valid.

In society there are rituals for handling loss through death with memorials, burials and wakes, which are helpful to aid and process grief. However, there are no rituals to deal with lost dreams and future possibilities. And you can find yourself with no tools, resources or mechanisms to handle your personal loss.

Grief is a normal process when facing a loss and it’s important to understand the emotions involved and how it may take effect in your life.

Here are some helpful tips for understanding your grief:

  • It is normal to feel numb or detached from things and relationships – to not be around those things or people that remind you of what you have lost.
  • A feeling of yearning may persist – it can be hard to let go of what was hoped for. You may feel overwhelming sadness, which can be intense; or guilt or anger at your situation.
  • There can be a sense of meaninglessness or fragmentation. This is the most painful phase, as there may be an expectation to get over it/recover – however, the internal model is broken, and a new working model is yet to be formed.
  • Reorganisation is the final stage – this is when a new situation is accepted, and it becomes possible for new relationships/possibilities to be formed. It may take time to get to this stage, if at all.
  • Depression and anxiety may indicate chronic yearning or sadness – if so, therapy or counselling should be sought.

Lastly…

Infertility can have a lasting impact. The emotional response to involuntary childlessness needs to be worked through and processed. It’s important that through the grieving process you receive the appropriate care and support you need and more importantly that there is no expectation from yourself or others of immediate recovery, acceptance or moving on.

If you need support, I provide infertility counselling and women’s health counselling in Gravesend, Kent, face-to-face or online.

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