I was thinking a bit about grief lately, for several different reasons, prompted by the arrival of Infant and Pregnancy Loss Awareness month, the discussions around Chrissy Teigen’s pregnancy loss (Loribeth has written a good post about it here, with some links and other resources), blogposts and a question asked by another in our community, and last but not least, the fact that COVID-19 has meant that many people have to grieve losses without the families and support systems that you might get if people could travel easily and congregate.
Disenfranchised grief – grief that is not acknowledged or talked about – is a common feature of not being able to have children. I’ve written quite a lot about it, so what I’m about to say won’t be new. But maybe you haven’t seen what I’ve said in the past. Maybe you want to be reminded of it. And maybe – I know this is the case for some – you will vehemently disagree with it. But I want to put this out there, because it may apply to some of you too.
A lot of people say you never get over the grief, that it stays with you but that you learn to live with it. In some ways, this is true. And I am not denying anyone’s experience who believes that this applies to them. But for me, mostly, I disagree with this, and – as I’ve said before – I don’t like the impression that it gives new arrivals to life without children that they will always feel as bad as they do at the outset. It sounds so ominous, as if there is always that black cloud hovering, as if the depth of the grief you feel at the beginning is always there, waiting for you to let it out. This is not my experience. I don’t have a black cloud hovering. I don’t feel that there is an enormous wave of grief waiting to be unplugged. I let 95% of my grief go, and it has, indeed, gone.
So even though I know life is different for me, even as I might worry about my old age or loneliness if/when I lose my husband, I don't feel that I’m living with my grief. The reality of our losses and the results of that have most certainly stayed with me. I have learned to live with that. And so of course I still occasionally get pangs or feel real sadness about that. But I don't feel that the grief is there any more. It's just something about my life that I feel sad about from time to time. Does that make sense? Unfortunately, it can pop up when you least expect it. I had a moment a few days ago, reminding me unexpectedly painfully of what we have never had. But I wouldn’t call it grief. Loss? Yes, perhaps. A pang of a reminder of what we might have had? Yes. But not grief. It is too fleeting for that. I know that this fades so quickly now, and I can soon get back to a much happier normal.
I’ve learned to live with my situation, and I’ve learned to embrace it. It’s not hard to do that. There is indeed much to embrace about our lives. I guess I choose not to focus on what I don't have, and focus on what I have. It takes work to be able to do that, and I won’t deny that it was very hard at first. But it really helped me to be able to move on, and I've found that it works in a range of situations. It's all about our perspective on life, I guess. And what works best for each of us. This works for me.