Don’t stifle grief …

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Cheers, dear readers,

As we each walk our own infertility journey, there are many moments that can bring you to your knees. Miscarriage, difficult and frightening surgeries and procedures, even just month after month of negative pregnancy tests, dashing your hopes and dreams of the family you always thought that you would have. These experiences affect our well-being, sanity, and can even cause PTSD, deep anxiety and trauma. I have mentioned in other posts how infertility is like an invisible grief. Many don’t even know that we are going through it. And even after they do, the grief is still rather invisible. There is no funeral typically (except with still borns), no physical loss that others can see and understand. Even with miscarriage, this is a difficult concept of loss for others to truly understand and perceive. Yet nevertheless the loss of our unborn children to those who experience it can be profound.

I’ve often been told by others to literally “stop talking about my infertility.” That is painful to hear as that means that others are asking me to stifle my own grief, and they are also letting me know that they would prefer to not hear about it. To shut up already. Get over it. Move on. Afterall I could have adopted – as if that fixes the loss and I chose not to fix it. Adoption does not fix the loss of my unborn kids, as well as the trauma that I/we went through on my infertility journey. It just doesn’t.

I spoke to a friend in the infertility community recently who shared some wisdom with me that she developed over the years. She got the impression that her friends expected her to stop talking about her infertility ordeal after years had passed. She pointed out to them that her infertility journey is part of the fabric of her life, part of her story, part of who she is – just as her friend’s children are a part of their life, their story. So as she listens to and supports stories about her friend’s children over the years and that is natural for them, it is also natural for her to speak of part of her story, her history – which happens to include infertility. She said it helped those friendships by managing their expectations about conversations, as well as remind them that grief is not linear.

I found this amazing article yesterday that speaks on some of this. Here’s an excerpt:

“I’d like to point out that we are a culture of emotionally stunted individuals who are scared of our mortality and have mastered the concept of stuffing our pain. Western society has created a neat little “grief box” where we place the grieving and wait for them to emerge fixed and whole again. The grief box is small and compact, and it comes full of expectations that range from time frames to physical appearance. Everyone who has been pushed into the grief box understands it’s confining limitations, but all of our collective voices together can’t seem to change the intense indignation of a society too emotionally stifled to speak the truth. It’s become easier to hide our emotional depth than to reveal our vulnerability and risk harsh judgment. When asked if we are alright, it’s simpler to say yes and fake a smile then, to be honest, and show genuine human emotion.

Expectation: Time heals all wounds.

Reality: Time softens the impact of the pain, but you are never completely healed. Rather than setting up false expectations of healing let’s talk about realistic expectations of growth and forward movement. Grief changes who you are at the deepest levels and while you may not forever be in an active mode of grief you will forever be shaped by the loss you have endured.

Expectation: If you reflect on loss beyond a year you are ‘stuck.’

Reality: Not a day goes by where I am not personally affected by my loss. Loss becomes part of who you are and even though I don’t choose to dwell on grief it has a way of sneaking in now and again even when I’m most in love with life at the current moment. It’s not because we dwell or focus, and it’s not because we don’t make daily choices to move forward. It’s because we loved and we lost, and it touches us for the remainder of our days in the most profound ways.

The grieving need to do what is right for them, and nobody knows what that is except the person going through it.

One hundred percent of the people who walk this earth will deal with death. Each of us will experience the passing of someone close that we love or our personal morality. It is about time we open up the discussion around death, dying and grief and stop the stigma that surrounds our common bond. Judgment, time frames, and neat little grief boxes have no place in the reality that surrounds loss. Western culture asks us to suppress our pain, stuff our emotions and restrain our cries. Social media has given many who grieve the opportunity to open up dialogue, be vulnerable on a large scale level and take the combined heat that comes with that honesty. As a whole, society does not want to hear or accept that grief stays with us in some capacity for the rest of our lives. Just like so many other aspects of our culture, we want to hear there is a quick fix, a cure-all, a pill or a healthy dose of ‘get over it’ to be handed out discreetly and dealt with quietly.

The reality is you will grieve in some capacity for the rest of your life. Once loss touches you – you are forever changed despite what society tells you. Stop looking at the expectations of an emotionally numbed society as your threshold and measuring stick for success. Instead, turn inward and look at the vulnerable reality of a heart that knows the truth about loss. With your firsthand knowledge escape the grief box and run out screaming truth as you go. If we make enough noise maybe someday societies warped expectation will shift to align with reality.”

We all will have experiences in our life where we will encounter grief. Whether it’s disease, loss of a spouse or other loved ones, divorce, a life threatening accident… the list goes on… There is no point in comparing misery.

When we measure things, we miss the opportunity just to love one another and support each other through life’s hardest moments. I’m not here to measure your heartache because my journey is different than your journey. I can’t measure a road I’ve never walked, and you can’t measure a path you’ve never taken.

Instead I will mention to anyone reading this far to go live life on your terms and by your rules. Life is difficult regardless of your road, but you won’t ever make it better if you become angry, bitter and carry a “grief scale”.

Regardless of how you lost your future….do not let it stop you from making the most of the moments you have been given. Grieve for what you have lost, take time for yourself, learn and grow…evolve.

I hope you learn to dance in the rain and live the life you have left.

We are all still here for a reason, all of us. Go find out what that is.

Please join me next week to hear more about my personal journey down the infertility path. I look forward to speaking with you. I wish you the best on your journey.

Warm regards,
Cathy

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