Becoming a parent is something that many people usually look forward to by the time they're in their 20s and 30s. For some, it's a lifelong dream, and for others, it's a welcome surprise when least expected. Many take it for granted that they'll be able to become parents on their own terms and schedule. But sometimes life has different plans.
Not everyone that wants to will experience parenthood. Some will live the rest of their lives coping with never being a parent to a naturally born child. As difficult as it may be to accept, sometimes there isn't anything you can do to change these circumstances. Issues of infertility and miscarriage are often beyond your control. Modern medicine can only do so much to help with these medical issues.
At best, you can learn ways to cope with never being a parent without completely losing hope. Below are ways of coping with a miscarriage or infertility.
1. Read As Much As You Can
Reading and learning as much as you can about your infertility issues or miscarriage can help you make sense of things. There are many resources available to you that may help clarify why these things happen and why medicine helps some but not others.
Not everyone will overcome medical obstacles to becoming a parent. But the more information you have, the better prepared you'll be to ask the appropriate questions when seeking treatment. When all medical intervention fails, consider exploring ways that can help you cope with your grief.
2. Seek Support
The pain of never becoming a parent when that's been your goal can be unbearable. Seeking support starts at home by asking your partner and loved ones to be patient and understanding as you come to terms with this type of loss. Expect that not many people will understand what you're going through, especially if they already have children of their own.
Sometimes your journey will seem extraordinarily lonely, especially when surrounded by others who can't understand your loss. One of the best ways of dealing with infertility or miscarriage issues is to surround yourself with others who can support you through difficult times.
Those who are also dealing with reproductive loss will be able to understand the types of grief that you'll be experiencing.
3. Understand Your Grief
Grief caused by infertility and miscarriage is a type of complicated grief. That is, grief that doesn’t follow the normal and expected path to healing. Before understanding the stages of grief, it’s important to understand the causes of your grief.
Infertility and miscarriage will cause you to suffer grief based on losses associated with:
- Inability to conceive naturally
- Miscarriage or stillbirth
- Alienation (from spouse, partner, family, and friends)
4. Stages of Grief
There are 5 stages of grief that are used in identifying a person’s projected path of grief. These are the emotions and feelings that you should expect to experience as you cope with your loss. Over time these stages should lead to overall healing from your grief.
Not everyone's path follows the exact trajectory or timeline. Understanding where you're at in your grieving process as compared to this grief model may help you move forward.
The five stages of grief are:
- Denial. This stage usually occurs when first hearing the news and trying to process it. There’s usually a state of shock that accompanies the denial stage. It can last anywhere from several hours to several days or weeks.
- Anger. This emotion associated with the pain and suffering of your loss is sometimes manifested in physical or emotional outbursts. They may include experiencing anger, rage, crying, and withdrawing from others.
- Bargaining. When you attempt to bargain with yourself, others, and the world around you, you’re trying to enter into an agreement or exchange that you subconsciously know is impossible. This is where you begin to offer one thing in exchange for another. For example, "If I can get pregnant, then I'll start taking better care of my health." This usually leads to a deeper sense of loss when you aren’t able to manifest what you’re willing to do anything for.
- Depression. When you've lost hope of ever becoming a parent naturally, you may find that your sadness takes on the more serious form of grief that is linked to depression. Some things to look out for are: a chronic sadness that doesn't go away, becoming quiet or passive, not caring about the world around you, isolating yourself from others, and going back or regressing to the first feelings of loss
- Acceptance. Acknowledging your existing circumstances and moving forward from your loss is part of accepting and surrendering to the conditions leading up to it. This is the final stage of the grief process. This doesn't mean that when you reach this stage your grief will end. It only means that you’re healing from your grief and things will start to become easier for you to cope with as time goes on.
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5. Allow Yourself to Grieve
When dealing with reproductive loss, the grieving process begins at the moment of failed conception, or miscarriage. Failing to conceive is the first sign of something having gone wrong. This is where you’ll first begin to feel the effects of loss. If you've miscarried, your pain and suffering can be compounded by the loss of your child.
Allowing for the grieving process to take place naturally might be difficult as you struggle with trying to figure out exactly what went wrong. It may be that you're in denial and can't come to terms with your loss. You may try and put your grief aside as you focus on the whys of what happened.
It's easy to get lost in trying to figure out why this happened or what you could've done differently that you forget to focus on healing from your loss. Allow yourself the time and attention that you need to grieve and recover from your loss. Remind yourself that healing takes time and patience.
6. Honor Your Grief
When you honor your grief, you're honoring your journey toward healing. Honoring your grief means recognizing the grief process. It also means respecting the time it takes to heal from your loss. It can be difficult to see how allowing yourself to grieve helps you heal. You may think that it's selfish for you to take the needed time and space to process what you’re going through.
It helps when working through your grief to take your feelings and emotional well-being into consideration. Pushing away your grief or refusing to acknowledge it might make things more bearable, but it doesn't help you to resolve it. Grief that's left untreated can manifest in the form of unresolved grief later on.
Ways to honor your grief are:
Allowing time for self-care. Caring for yourself may include taking the time to get proper rest and nutrition. It can also mean tending to the most basic of needs such as showering and dressing. Other ways to practice self-care are to get daily exercise, breathing in fresh air, and taking care of your spiritual needs.
Taking time off from major decisions. An often overlooked way of practicing self-care is to take a step back from life’s major decision-making and allowing time for you to process your loss. There are certain decisions that can wait to be made. You shouldn’t put added pressure on yourself to move forward from your loss as quickly as possible. Some things can wait until you’re in a better state of mind.
7. Let Go of Your Grief
Letting go of your grief begins with acceptance of your loss. Once you reach the acceptance stage, permit yourself to let go of your grief. Holding on to it doesn’t mean that you’ve given up or lost hope. When you let go of your grief, you allow room for other things to come into your life.
One way to let go of your grief is to honor your loss. One way is to honor the memory of your child if you've suffered a miscarriage, or by accepting that you did everything possible to try and conceive.
8. Accept Acts of Love and Kindness
Not everyone will understand the depths of your pain and suffering as they try to console you. Their words of sympathy and advice might not ring as authentic to you.
When others offer their condolences for suffering a miscarriage, consider that their words are coming from a place of love and try to accept them with grace and understanding. Try and see these as offerings of love and kindness and accept them in whatever ways suit your needs.
9. Move Forward
Moving forward from your pain might seem like an impossibility for you right now. In time, you’ll begin to heal from your pain and suffering and things will become easier. It may be that not all of your pain will go away, but that you’ll learn to cope with it. This is a normal part of the grieving process that you should come to expect as you begin to heal.
Moving forward includes accepting your new identity as one who’s lost a child to miscarriage, or as someone who can never become a parent.
Coping With Never Being a Parent
The sad truth is that not everyone who wants to will experience natural parenthood. The grief associated with this type of loss is incomparable. Taking one day at a time will help you overcome your grief as you look for other ways to heal from this type of loss.