Finding Your Way Through Grief and Infertility
The journey of growing a family is fueled by so much hope. However, if you are struggling to conceive, it also involves inevitable heartbreak. Grief and infertility go hand in hand. Grief accompanies the sinking feeling when your period arrives, it accompanies the disappointment when only one line stares back at you on your pregnancy test, and/or receiving the dreaded, “I’m so sorry,” phone call from your fertility clinic.
Many struggling with infertility also know the deep pain of loss – failed embryo transfers, chemical pregnancies, or miscarriages.
Whether it’s the loss of hope, the loss of a dream for a particular cycle, or the loss of a baby, there is a lot of grief with infertility.
While I wish there was something I could do to spare you from the pain, what I will offer you here are some ideas to help you take care of you and to help you move through your grief so that you don’t get stuck and can continue on your fertility journey in the healthiest way possible.
Here are 7 self-care strategies to help you navigate through grief and infertility:
01 Know That You Are Not Alone
When all you want is to be pregnant it can seem that everyone around you is easily getting pregnant and you’re being left behind. In reality, there are so many people who are at the exact same place as you, facing the same disappointments.
As human beings, we have a tendency to draw inward and isolate ourselves when we’re hurting, which compounds the feeling that we’re the only one.
Whether you’re ready to connect with others or not, know that you are not alone. When you are ready to reach out, look for infertility or pregnancy loss support groups, a good therapist, or an understanding friend. Many women in my IGNITE Your Fertility Membership report feeling less alone because they are among women who ‘get it.’
If you want to meet some of these women who have been able to re-ignite hope after experiencing grief and infertility, click HERE.
02 Give Yourself Permission To Take Your Time
Time often feels like the enemy and seems to be in short supply when the biological clock is ticking.
I also know that those who take breaks navigate the journey with greater ease and with their physical, mental, and emotional health intact.
It is tempting to move through a disappointment or loss as quickly as possible when all you want to do is get on with the next cycle. However, if you don’t take the time to process your grief it can begin to build up in your body, creating emotional and energetic blocks that may hamper your future family building efforts.
So give yourself permission to take your time.
03 Feel What You Feel
Feelings of loss, disappointment, anger, grief, despair, and hopelessness are all common, and all uncomfortable. It’s natural to want to avoid pain, however, pain is always there for a reason and can help you to heal if you allow it to.
Similar to how the physical pain of breaking an arm forces you to rest the arm in order to heal, emotional pain is also serving an important purpose.
Avoiding what you are feeling will never serve you in the long run so allow the tears to flow. Express your rage into your pillow or onto the pages of a journal. Stand at the edge of the ocean and scream and yell and allow the ocean currents to take it away. Allow yourself to be held by your partner and let the tears flow. If your emotions feel overwhelming or scary, find a therapist who can help you to process what you are experiencing.
When it comes to grief, the only way out is through.
04 Honor Your Experience of Loss
Just because a cycle didn’t turn out as you had hoped doesn’t mean that it wasn’t important. You pour a lot of love and effort into trying to conceive, and that deserves to be acknowledged. If you’ve suffered a loss, whether it’s the loss of an embryo or a baby, they deserve to be honored. There is no right or wrong way to make a mark.
Here are some ideas on how to honor your experience:
- Take the day off, create a piece of art.
- Listen to a special piece of music as you allow the tears to flow.
- Buy a keepsake.
- Plant a tree.
- Write a letter to yourself or your baby.
- Frame the embryo or ultrasound photo.
- Light a candle.
- Say a prayer.
- Write about it in a journal.
- Express your gratitude for the opportunity to try or the little life that was there.
- In the case of a pregnancy loss, you may also choose to give your baby a name.
05 Use Movement As Medicine to Move Through Grief and Infertility
Sometimes the last thing you want to do when you are grieving is to get out of bed or off the couch and move.
However, movement helps to digest grief and move energy and will help you to start feeling better.
You can start slow with a gentle yoga practice, walk or swim. Maybe you feel ready for a more vigorous activity such as running, cycling, or engaging in your favorite sport. Joining a class or finding an accountability buddy to exercise with may be the external motivation needed to get up and move. In addition, bodywork therapies such as massage, acupuncture, or reiki can help to move energy that is stuck and feels great.
Remember, as with any practice the key is repetition and consistency!
06 Eat Well & Sleep Well to Combat Grief and Infertility
When faced with bad news it’s common for all good intentions to go out the window as you reach for your favorite comfort food and snuggle in under the covers.
Go ahead and eat that chocolate cake and turn off your alarm. Just don’t make it a habit!
Give yourself a couple of days to indulge if that feels good to you, but then set yourself a boundary. Poor nutrition and sleep habits often compound feelings of worthlessness and depression, so after a few days of slack try to get to bed at a reasonable hour and set your alarm. Make healthy food choices to help you feel your best again. If you just don’t have the energy to cook, consider ordering in healthy meals or using a meal plan subscription service to give yourself a break while also taking in the nutrients you need.
This chapter may not have turned out as you had wished, but it is not the end of your story.
You are not irreparably broken. Even when you don’t feel like it, you are a strong warrior with an amazing capacity to heal and grow.
You WILL get through this!
If you need affirmations to help you through grief and infertility, download my free fertility affirmation deck.