Infertility and the Approach to Grief

My wife and I have been trying to get pregnant for more than a year. A few months ago, we lost a baby at just five weeks. To say it has been a challenge is an obvious understatement.

Our journey with infertility and miscarriage has shown me a few things about how we approach the grieving process and spurned a few thoughts on how we might do it better.

 

Avoidance

Far and away, the most striking thing about our approach to grief is that we avoid it. As we have shared about our journey, we get all sorts of responses. People will give us practical advice. They’ll tell us their own stories of overcoming infertility. They will assure us it will happen soon.

These responses are not unhelpful and are certainly made with the best of intentions.

The response we most need we rarely get. It is a strange grief to feel a loss you never really had. Miscarriage is closer to making sense, but even our little Sprout was not something we touched with any conventional sense. In the wake of this strange loss, the people we talked to (not to mention our own psyches) fought very hard to avoid the grief.

It is such a challenge for us humans to face grief. Even to acknowledge its existence feels dangerous. The truth is the avoidance is more dangerous than the naming. The naming is actually a part of the solution.

Our best comfort came through others who were in the throws of struggling with fertility themselves. Not just because we were in the same situation, but because they were sitting in the same unavoidable grief.

 

Fix It

My wife and I, as well as the people around us, tackle grief like a leaky sink. Something that needs to be fixed. A problem to be solved.

When we lost a baby through miscarriage, there was a lot of focus and hope on getting pregnant again. But this doesn’t fix the loss. A new baby doesn’t really replace the lost one. It’s not like they are interchangeable parts. A new baby is a different baby.

There are other ways we, and others, tried to fix the problem. We researched the timing methods obsessively. We filled our conversations with ‘what are we doing wrong?’ Sometimes, talking to people from our church, I felt like I was face to face with Job’s friends. Infertility was an indictment on our lack of faith. Maybe I was projecting a great internal fear.

In the end, grief is not a problem to be fixed. This is really just an extension of the avoidance issue. If we can erase it or cover it up with some comparable joy, it will go away. But grief doesn’t go away. Not truly. It is a monster we must reckon with.

 

The Reckoning

As we continue to struggle, there are a few helpful approaches to grief that have bubbled to the top.

First, as has been discussed, is just to acknowledge the existence of grief and allow oneself to feel it honestly for what it is.

Second is some perspective. Life is a journey through The Mood Curve and today’s struggles are not the end. I’m not talking about rose-colored glasses. I’m talking about taking in grief in its proper place. We do not have to hide from grief but neither should we wallow in it. Grief doesn’t have to steal our hope.

Third is to recognize how not-alone we are. It was incredible to me when I discovered how prevalent miscarriage and infertility are. There are a lot of people struggling with the very same thing. And, greater than that, there are a lot of people struggling with a lot of things. In our world so plastered with best-appearances, sorrow can feel like a lonely enterprise. It isn’t. And being in a place of sorrow has empowered us to influence others to be honest about their own grief.

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