In my last blog The Grief and Loss of Fertility I wrote about Kubler Ross’ different stages of grief and loss and how these are triggered by your infertility journey.
Every fertility journey is different and yours may be different to other women you know - but, one thing that is consistent on all fertility journeys, is pain and suffering!
Grief challenges the way you see yourself and the world around you. As you struggle with fertility, feelings of grief are continually being triggered with each loss infertility throws your way, cycle after cycle and month after month.
It’s really hard. It’s exhausting. It’s overwhelming. It’s also extremely common and you aren’t alone.
Emotions you might experience
There are many emotions associated with grief, here’s just a few: anxiety, anger, disillusionment, loneliness, and isolation. Do any of these feel familiar?
Those emotions can go hand and hand with feeling hopelessness, disbelief, confusion and maybe even preoccupation and detachment. The truth is, these thoughts and emotions impact your behaviour, so you may find yourself feeling agitated, withdrawing, not sleeping well, even changes in eating patterns either over or under-eating. You might be feeling the pressure of weight and fatigue in your body, a lack of energy or being breathless, and even tightness in your chest, back, stomach or throat. As if infertility isn’t enough right?!
It may seem strange to you, but one of the reasons I do this work is because I get to work with women feeling just like you. Amazing women who summon up the resilience to continue through all this. Women who send themselves back into the ‘lion’s den’ each and every month, some of them have been doing this for years on end before they get to me – they are simply amazing!
Please know, there is no right or wrong way to grieve.
Is there such a thing as ‘good grief’?
Yes, there is …. let me explain. Grief is a response to loss. It is perfectly natural, healthy, and very individual. Grief does NOT have to be damaging to your mental health. While it feels devastating for most people, it isn’t necessarily detrimental.
Grief is a process that you need to lean into. It is through this process you can put things that matter to you into perspective. Grief is healthy and needs to be “resolved”. “Resolved” is just a clinical term which means it is a feeling that makes sense and can be placed somewhere in your psyche, not to be ignored or to be afraid of. So, when it is resolved, grief can be clarifying and transformative.
In order for grief to be transformative, you need to accept it as a natural and an important part of loss. You need to accept that the loss is real, it may not be a permanent loss, but in this moment it is real. Grief is often seen as a space we need to travel through, but not to stay.
You need to embrace all the messiness that it brings – like a foggy brain, a heightened range of emotions, including sadness. You don’t need to be frightened of grief.
You might be asking at this point, why you shouldn’t be afraid? And the answer is simply because grief is driven by your connections to your values. You grieve most when you lose or expect to lose something of great emotional value to you. You move through grief when you accept the loss and embrace the changed circumstances - or what is sometimes referred to as the ‘new normal’ - what life is like today rather than clinging to trying to return to your ‘old’ normal.
What does this mean and how can you manage the grief you’re experiencing?
So by now you better understand the stages of grief from my previous post. Hopefully you can also see that grief isn’t actually as bad as it feels right now! So how do you actually get through grief so that it is ‘resolved’ and you can keep moving forward?
As a psychologist here are some tips I recommend to help get you through:
Acceptance - this is key. Be open to your feelings - acknowledge they are just that - feelings - and that you feel them because this stuff is really important to you.
Support system – ensure you have the ‘right’ people on the journey with you. Trust them by sharing your pain with them and allowing them to support you. Help them understand where you are at and what you need right now. Don’t be afraid to let them know you need to step out of things for a while and you will let them know how they can support you in doing that.
Keep moving – moving your body helps process the stress hormones that are released throughout the grief and loss process. Try not to get fanatical about it - you aren’t running from your grief. Think of movement as a way of processing your grief. So keep your body moving with gentle exercise like walking, swimming, yoga, hiking, stretching. Feel the power in your body and help it recover and rebuild.
Journalling – sometimes you can start to write things down and end up in a completely different space and mindset, that’s what’s great about this process. Remember you don’t need to keep the journal, in fact, it’s usually best to destroy your journal as you don’t need it once you have processed your thoughts and feelings. You will know how far you have come, you don’t need to go back and read it to know this.
Write a note - to express your loss. Maybe it’s a letter to the baby or babies you’ve lost on this journey. You may want to name your baby - even if you don’t share it with anyone. It might be helpful to pop this into an envelope with your ultrasound photo or even in a memory box or a drawer. If it feels right for you, give it to your partner to read. And then pop it somewhere you feel you can let it go.
Utilise nature – you may want to plant a seed or a young plant and watch it grow or give it away. This seems to create a feeling of permanence and sustainability. An enduring connection with what you have lost and takes it into the present and the future. Planting plants that flower and attract butterflies or bees will bring that added layer of contributing to the cycle of life and growth.
I tell a LOT of my clients that grief is just like confetti - you can sweep it up - but you never quite get it all. At different times there will be an unexpected trigger, and you will find a piece tucked away somewhere. Grief can be like that, tiny pieces come at unexpected times. Hold it dearly and then move on.
Whatever you do to get you through, make sure you tap into your creativity and loving energy. This is such a difficult time and understanding it does help. Use these tips to prevent getting stuck on any one of the grief stages and keep moving forward.
Remember, your fertility doesn’t define you! If you’re looking for additional support on this difficult journey or to learn more how to unlock your fertility through the Mind-Body Program For Fertility, reach out today and let’s chat to see if we’re a good fit.