01 October, 2019

Finding acceptance and compassion

Several blog posts over the last few weeks have all come together in my mind, as well as observations of a Fbk group focused on ageing without children. And so I had to put some thoughts down.

I read a post of a woman who was struggling with the fact that it was unlikely that she will have the third child she so desperately wants. I read Fbk posts from people who seem to reside permanently in grief over the children they were not able to have. They seem unable to be able to move on, and I feel for them. I read their comments wishing that they could join this community, and feel the hope and compassion and understanding that I try to offer, and that is offered by my readers and fellow bloggers. And I read Léa’s post here about the difficulty of acceptance, referring to a study (one that I had quoted after Loribeth had referenced it about five years ago) that found that acceptance is vital for happiness. 

Then I read responses to the people who were stuck in their grief from a person who berated them for that. Just because this person was able to move forward and embrace their life, and embrace the children of friends and family, they seemed to think that everyone should be able to do that. And they weren’t particularly kind. They didn’t think that maybe their circumstances were different, maybe their friends and family were more inclusive, maybe they had children in their lives they could influence, or maybe they had the mental and physical wellbeing to be able to cope with their lives. So they were judgemental of the grief-stricken for not moving on. Which is, as we know, exceedingly unhelpful.

“Get over it,” or words to that effect, are never going to work. I am cautious even when I tell people that it gets easier, because I know many will resist and resent that message until, one day, they realise they can start to believe it. Over 15 years, I’ve seen this pattern over and over again. Over one, two or three years, the large majority of us learn to accept our lives. We first learn to let go of the yearning. Then eventually, the mourning turns into remembering. And we learn not only to accept our lives, but to love them. We learn to look to the future.

But what of those who don’t? Decades on, they are still grieving, or worse, still yearning. I don’t know if they are stuck in their grief simply because they have never received help and encouragement to find a way to stop their yearning that will never be fulfilled. Or maybe they’ve never had to face and overcome their emotions, their fears, and now don’t know how to even start to do that. Or maybe, perhaps, they were just having a bad day (as we all do), and needed some understanding and compassion.

It’s frustrating. I started this post to write about those who have been unable to move on, and who continue to feel their loss keenly. I end it with no helpful conclusion, other than that compassion and understanding and acceptance – our own, as well as that of others – is key to our well-being. As Léa said so beautifully (in translation), "it is essential for (our) mental health to mourn without continuing to hope in vain."


  1. I love your differentiation of grieving vs yearning. I don't think I'll ever NOT grieve for the children I never had, but I don't yearn for that life anymore. But it's such a personal thing, when you can accept things for what they are yet still be sad from time to time, or deep in the heart of you. When I decided to stop pursuing IVF, my therapist said, "wow, you are an example of you're not ready until you're ready." Others could try to get me to be okay with a different path, or tell me how they hated seeing me suffer, but I had to be the one to say, "OK, I accept it's not going to happen this way." Accepting not having children at all was much harder. Everyone's process is different and I don't understand why anyone would berate someone else for "not getting over it fast enough" -- only you can decide your timeline. More empathy would be so lovely. More just sitting and listening and saying, "I hear you, and you are dealing with this in your own way."

  2. I love your expressed compassion and lack of judgement. I agree with it. We each walk our own paths as separate individuals and our dreams were created in different events by different sources. Our grief, our desires, our joys are the same. Thank you.

    1. To be clear: 'grief, desires, joys are the same' as in VARY BY INDIVIDUAL not one size fits all.
      Rose, who re-read and realized I was not clear! Very sorry to anyone hurt by my failure in communication.

  3. I wanted and was unable to have children and I can say during my 30s, my grief was acute, because so many people were able to have children at my age and I couldn't understand why them and not me. When I reached 40, I accepted it was not going to happen but most of my 40's were spent fighting grief triggered by well meaning people pushing me to continue to try to adopt or IVF because stories in the media indicated it was still possible. Now that I am in my early 50's, I feel more free of the grief because no one ever suggests IVF or adoption and I think sometimes their acceptance has helped with my acceptance.

  4. I see what Anon2 is saying about kind of aging out of other people's judgment of one's situation.

    As for your thoughts, I have long been fascinated by resilience. Why do some continue to grieve and yearn? Why are some able to grieve and end the yearning?

    And, not to berate them, but why the heck is anyone berating anyone for anything?

  5. I think people berate others because they are still angry about their situation and haven't fully addressed their grief. I know I stuffed my feelings down in my 40s and pretended everything was "back to normal" but I was just in denial and trying to get on with my life. Even now, I sometimes feel the presence of a child that is absent, and the other day I was thinking this must be how a person feels when they have lost a limb, that kind of phantom pain associated with feeling the limb is there but it is not. I wouldn't call it yearning anymore, but a momentary awareness of the absence. Does that make sense?

  6. There is such a huge difference between grieving and yearning, im still in both. I still grieve for my children and i yearn for children. some days are easy and some days are not, but i have chosen to continue moving forward in both yearning and grieving.

  7. Thank you Mali for quoting my blog :-) And I agree with you. Sometimes I wonder if my writing about acceptance might make people feel sad because they didn't reach this point? It is a difficult topic. And for sure I'm ambivalent too, depending on my mood and what happens in my life.

  8. After taking a break from blogging, I decided to open it up and peruse the blogs I followed once upon a time. It was good to take a break. And reading this blog is well timed and validating. Sometimes it's hard to let go and you have to do so on your own timeline. However, happiness is what you miss out on when the yearning is too big. I think that is why I took a break. While the yearning was lessening, it was far too present. I needed to put it up on the shelf to allow myself to be more than and to make more space for happiness.