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Grappling with Grief

May 17, 2009

I saw grief drinking a cup
of sorrow and called out,
“It tastes sweet, does it not?”
“You’ve caught me,” grief answered,
“and you’ve ruined my business.
How can I sell sorrow,
when you know it’s a blessing?”
– Rumi

Grief is not a popular subject. It is exactly what the counselor and I talked about last Thursday at BigShotFertilityClinic. To their credit, they finally figured out that those of us who live near the satellite office were in need of counseling services. I signed up for the first slot. I liked the counselor. We talked about how I deal with grief. I do feel it. I do not try to cover it up, in general, with things like alcohol, TV, or food, though I have to admit, chocolate is my friend at times. But there is only so much grief I can stand. We talked about how I feel isolated by my grief. I notice that many people, including my DH, have a hard time staying with my sadness or anger.

Tonight, I went to see a movie called, “The Gifts of Grief“. The documentary highlighted seven people who had lost loved ones in many different ways. I was moved to tears many times, but I could not feel that I have had any of my own gifts from grief. Perhaps I am still too sad and angry.

What have I learned from grief?

To cut out the BS of life: I don’t have time for people who claim to want to help me, but just say that to soothe themselves. In the discussion after the movie, one woman talked about how she wanted to write a book on how to deal with a grieving person. She said that telling someone who is grieving, “just call me if you need anything,” was not helpful to her. She described how the responsibility was then put on her to do something at a time when she was not functioning. This wisdom could be applied to anyone going through a crisis or trauma. I felt like this completely during my time of crisis while pregnant. I can’t tell you how many people told me this, but who never really showed up in a real way to take action or to sit with me. I got lots of advice on what I should have been doing, but I was not functioning and could not do those things that were talked at me about. I didn’t know what I needed, so how could I call someone to ask? Or I didn’t believe that someone could really give me what I needed, so why bother asking. There were plenty of jealous women who were not pregnant or who had never been pregnant that avoided me, or worse yet, said hurtful things, acting out their own pain. There were the doctors and the healthcare providers who didn’t see me, even though I was telling them of my difficulties. It was as if they all had this image of “you’ll be fine” instead of seeing the truth. It was as if I was invisible. If they believed someone else was taking care of me, there was not a problem. I feel this way about grieving as well. As long as I’m functioning, people don’t really see how much I’m hurting. It’s easy to hide the sadness and anger by withdrawing, but I don’t really feel like I’m living much of the time.

I don’t really know of any resources out there that deal with the grief of going through infertility treatments, regardless of their outcome. If you know of those resources (i.e. have read the book, not just heard about it), please pass them on.

Someday, I may appreciate the blessing of grief. I know I have much more compassion for those going through infertility than I had before, so that is one gift. Can we be there for each other as we grieve day after day, month after month, year after year with each loss related to fertility treatments? Or does it feel better to cheer those on who continue to do treatment after treatment? I want to hear from those women who are in the trenches, dealing with these losses. I am guilty of not writing about how I feel, for fear I will turn off my readers or be viewed as a negative person, but the reality is that I am grieving still from the failure of our FET and from last year’s loss as well.

We all have a story to tell about our grief around infertility. I’d love to hear yours. Do you have any gifts from your grief to share?

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20 Comments leave one →
  1. hardknockedup permalink
    May 18, 2009 1:18 am

    My sweetie is a huge blessing in 1,000 ways but one thing he is terrible about is when I am desperately grieving. He always says “what can I do to help you?” And my response is always “great, now I have to figure that out, too?” So I hear ya, sister, on the “call me if you need anything.”

    One thing the last 5 years of infertility hell have definitely brought me is an ability to be much more compassionate with people around me going through hard times, also non-infertility-related. I know that people don’t want to hear false comfort, that the best thing you can do is say “I’m sorry things s*ck” and listen carefully to how they are feeling. This is a gift, even if I’d rather have gotten it some other way.

  2. niobe permalink
    May 18, 2009 6:31 am

    Back when I started my blog, I was consumed by grief. Now, two years later, I can taste a little of the sweetness of grief.

    Nonethesless, when I read this post, the first thing I thought of was that in German “gift” means “poison.”

  3. Duck permalink
    May 18, 2009 7:54 am

    Gifts from Grief – mine has just made me angry/miserable/unaccepting of the facts (ie- my uterus sucks – I can not carry a child).
    Someday, I may see gifts, but, not now, not yet.

  4. The Muser (aka Beautiful Mama) permalink
    May 18, 2009 10:17 am

    Oh, I can so relate to that feeling of being so abandoned and invisible in the midst of grief. It’s not something most people in our culture know how to cope with or sit with. I think I’m still grieving the loss of relationships that just did not survive my experience of ppd and ptsd. Thanks so much for sharing this. Love to you. Healing to you. Peace to you. I’m grateful for your vulnerability.

  5. DAVs permalink
    May 18, 2009 11:54 am

    I think for me, the grief is an undercurrent. As in, immediately post negative I am intensely IN IT, everything is awful and I can’t see straight I’m so grief stricken. But then it lifts a bit and remains in the background…and sort of colors everything else. I hate that. But it is what it is–it is unresolved, plain and simple. And I don’t think it will just go away with a BFP, a pregnancy, a birth, or even when I’m a parent. I think the current will less in intensity, and I won’t be at risk of being dragged under as much.

    I will say that writing it all out (blog and in my other forms) has really been helpful. Writing is therapeutic for me. And of course, all the support I receive in the blogworld and in my other online groups–it is so tremendous I could not have made it this far without it.

  6. Retro Girl permalink
    May 18, 2009 2:26 pm

    The thing that I have always found to be most helpful when I’m grieving is validation of my feelings. When I say “this sucks” the thing that helps me most is when the other person responds with “yes, it does suck”…no fluff talk, no “it will get better”, no out pourings offers…just good ole’ plain validation.

    I agree with hardknockedup that infertility has taught me to respond to others’ grief in this way.

    I think with infertility the hardest thing is that there are so many levels of grief – it’s not just grieving the possible child, but also grieving the changes in relationships, all the emotional and financial effort..somewhat of an endless list.

    Thinking of you. Infertility sucks.

  7. Sue permalink
    May 19, 2009 12:07 pm

    I have a hard time finding gifts in the grief. I think I was enough of a compassionate person before I had to experience IF and m/c and everything that comes with it! I think all it has done for me is teach me that other people don’t know how to deal with it. I notice myself getting short with my mom when she says the wrong thing – and then I have to realize that she just doesn’t know what the right thing to say is. And, most people don’t. So, my answer is to hide under a rock until I can come out of the grieving a little bit and live in everyone else’s world again. I still wish that I never had to learn any of this. I don’t think it has made me a better person at all -but maybe it has made me appreciate other things a lot more than I did before. I don’t know.

  8. Blossom and Her Fruit permalink
    May 19, 2009 2:49 pm

    It is really wonderful that they offer this service. I am not sure what gifts of grief I’ve had but I think I am a better listener and friend having experienced this and still being here for so so long…

  9. May 21, 2009 1:49 am

    I’m in the trenches with you and poke my head up to wave.

    Ongoing greif, and multiple greif is so hard and sometimes feels unbearable. I got no solutions for you honey, all I can see is that I won’t look away. You’ve certianly seen me at my ……. most unedited.

    I can appreciate some of the grief related to losing Maya. but the grief of infertility just makes me really really angry. i think you are right, it is hard to see it while in it, and truly, how can you know what a new place has given you while you are still travelling?

    ……… but i’ve been given a lot of flowers, chocolate, wine and love………..

  10. Anita permalink
    May 21, 2009 1:53 pm

    My gift of grief from dealing with IF-I am now much more aware of what others are feeling who are going through it & know exactly what NOT to say.

    ICLW

  11. dragonflymama permalink
    May 21, 2009 2:29 pm

    hi, i’m here for ICLW. wow, thank you for posting this. i know for me, the grief is always there, it stays with me, and it’s changed me, for better or worse, i’m not sure.

    the best way for me to describe grief is that suddenly, where someone cherished was, there is a hole, and it’s there forever. and the only thing that helps me are what other people have said, just a simple acknowledgment that the loss is unfair, that is sucks. but it is amazing to me how much that simple acknowledgment–that asks nothing of me in return–means.

  12. Kami permalink
    May 21, 2009 3:55 pm

    I liked the book Unsung Lullibies which specifically addresses the hardships of infertility.

    There were a few gifts for me (probably not worth it overall, but gifts nonetheless). One of them being that I know I can survive anything. The second is in learning to emotionally mentor myself, I might be able to emotionally mentor my daughter. It is something that is not usually practiced in our society.

  13. looking4#3 permalink
    May 21, 2009 4:14 pm

    Unfortunately, I get the grief thing. My sister was killed 2 hours after turning 17. What did I learn?? Not to hold grudges, remember to say I love you, tomorrow is not guaranteed. I also learned that I am far stronger than I thought. If I can bury my 17 year old sister, there isn’t much that can come along that I can’t handle!!!! Any “crisis” that has come along, my sister’s passing ALWAYS puts it in perspective!
    Also, my BFF came when my sister was killed–I didn’t have to ask. She told ME when to eat, when to shower, when to brush my teeth, when to get dressed, I just didn’t function. That’s what I needed. Someone to tell me the basics!

  14. caitsmom permalink
    May 21, 2009 6:26 pm

    Yup, hated the “call me if you need me” statements. I did start to tell people that I wouldn’t call, because when I truly needed someone, I was too bereft to remember their number and I asked them to “please, call me, because that’s what I need.” Peace.

    ICLW

  15. CappyPrincess permalink
    May 21, 2009 6:37 pm

    It sure never felt like there was a blessing to be found in the grief of IF and loss while it was happening. Looking back now, it’s easier to see that things weren’t all bad. In fact, it was the grief of IF and loss that helped me become strong enough to face other challenges in life as they came along. I wouldn’t wish grief on anyone, but someday, somehow, you’ll be able to see how you’ve changed in positive ways because of your own grief.

    Hugs and best wishes.

    ICLW

  16. theworms permalink
    May 21, 2009 6:38 pm

    I’ve been grieving for the last couple of months not being able to conceive a child with my husband. We’re moving onto ds soon and I still feel over-whelming sadness and loss and I’m not sure if it will ever go away. The one good thing that has come from our years in the trenches is that DH have grown closer and stronger and really know what unconditional love is. Also, I am more compassionate.
    I hate that so many just don’t get and want you to hurry and get over it because they can’t handle sadness or loss.
    I’m so sorry for your losses.

    ICLW

  17. Kristin permalink
    May 22, 2009 11:57 am

    I spiraled into a deep depression due to the grief I experienced over my multiple miscarriages. The grief and anguish I felt has made me much more sympathetic about what other people are going through.

    ~ICLW

  18. Cara permalink
    May 22, 2009 3:11 pm

    The first 18 months after losing Emma were nothing but grief soup. Now, I see meaning – not becuase it was ‘supposed to be’ that way but because I created meaning where there was none.

    I guess that as sweet as it gets.

  19. Jaymee permalink
    May 23, 2009 10:14 pm

    grief gave me an amazing amount of compassion and empathy. i will be the first to admit that i have told people to call me if they need anything, but now i call them. i pick up dinner, ring the bell, drop the food and run. i come in, i-pod blaring in my ears and start cleaning, doing laundry, or anything else that i never was able to do for myself. i also just sit, pinch myself so i do not give some stupid plattitude, and just listen. when i was hurting all i wanted was for someone to just listen, i did not need a fix just an ear. it is difficult at times, but i do the best that i can.

    grief has made me a better friend, wife, sister, daughter, and other relative. sadly, i get very little of this in return, but that is okay because i am trying to ensure that those around me never end up in the pits of hell like i did.

    ILCW

  20. wereyoulookingforme permalink
    May 26, 2009 8:54 pm

    I’m currently grieving the loss of ever having a biological child. At times this grief is unbearable. No one knows how to deal with me in this, no one really wants to talk about it. Every person that I have talked to about what I am feeling has mentioned adoption, as if that is a panacea and will make everything better.

    I agree with what many others here have said, that experiencing the pain, disappointment and grief of infertility has made me more empathetic towards other people going through IF or tough times. It made me realize that we can’t possibly know the pain other people are going through under the surface and that we must treat everyone with care and love. No one deserves to experience additional pain, especially from an offhand comment. I just try to be careful and kind.

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