Response #
Current experience of grief
Respondent details
55-64 | Female | USA
Q1: What was the nature of your relationship with the person who died?
My child, my son or daughter, whose names I've held on to in my heart, and I've longed for my whole life.
Q2: How has the person’s death affected you during the hours, days, and weeks that followed?
I didn't know it was grief I was dealing with until 3 years ago. For the past 35 years, I've been alone because everyone else has children. No one will talk about my loss with me. No one can understand what it's like to carry this loss. In their minds, no baby meant no loss. Many felt I needed to "move on" or "let it go". It's been extremely painful to see children, pregnant women, families, attend baby showers, celebrate Christmas. Life passing me by every day, every minute. Constant, countless reminders in storybooks, movies or articles of the "happy ending with a baby". Society rarely recognizes or values women without children. There were no resources available to help me process this incredible loss of life during the '80's, '90's, '00's, '10's.
Q3: How, if at all, have your relationships with other people (particular individuals and other people in general) been affected by the bereavement?
Very few people who have tried to be there for me have offered words of hope, words of advice, words of solutions, all trying to "fix it". Up until 3 years ago, no one listened, heard, felt the pain, validated it, acknowledged it. To this day, I still put on my happy face, try to be interested in listening and remembering their stories of their lives, children, families, celebrations, graduations, wedding, experiences... But since I don't have children, no one thinks I have anything to tell, no one thinks I have any experience with children crying or struggles children may have or medical knowledge of pregnancies. I'm left out all the time while trying to smile or frown during their time of sharing. People avoid my topic of childless loss like the plague. They don't know what to say, so they avoid it. Meanwhile, I held it all in, never fully understanding the magnitude of all of this until I hit bottom 3 years ago.
Q4: Does the surrounding world seem any different to you while grieving? If so, how?
No. After 35 years, they still don't want to hear me, validate my feelings or loss. They see my tears as inconvenient, self-centered. They have no idea how to respond.
Q5: Has your experience of time changed in any way?
Not really. What's changing over time is that now all of my friends are becoming grandparents. This means I get to hear it all again how special they are and how insignificant I am.
Q6: Has your body felt any different during grief?
Lots of energy burned from anger, frustration. I went through 20 years of counseling, and even then, the counselors didn't know how to help me grieve my loss.
Q7: Has grief interfered in any way with your ability and motivation to perform various tasks, including paid work?
If anything, I worked harder to block out the constant reminders what I didn't have.
Q8: Is your experience of grief changing over time? If so, how?
Yes. As I've learned over the past 3 years, I have a better understanding of my resentments, a better understanding of what others haven't learned or experienced to help them understand me, the importance of telling my story, experiencing, acknowledging, validating my child's identity. I can also compare my lose to one who lost use of their legs or who is blinded later in life. There is no magic miracle to cure us. We all have to learn how to live without, learn how to live being different.
Q9: Have you ever found yourself looking for the person who died or expecting that person to appear?
I've tried to imagine what my daughter would look like today, her height, color of hair and eyes, what her interests would be, if we would be as close as I had hoped. It's heart-ripping. I don't know how to process that.
Q10: Are there times, places, and occasions that have made you especially aware of the person’s absence?
Yes. Baby showers, birthdays, Christmas, weddings, graduations, picnics, parks, restaurants, movies, my living room, my future when I'm old and alone wondering who will take care of me or comfort me in my final moments.
Q11: People who are grieving often report experiencing the presence of the person who died. Have you had any experiences that you would describe in those terms?
I have had dreams that I was pregnant back during my child bearing years. Today, I experience the presence of my daughter and God carrying me during my times of sorrow while I'm mourning the loss of my daughter I never had.
Q12: Do you still feel a sense of connection with the person? If so, could you say something about when you feel this and what the experience is like?
Yes, I do all the time. Part of my healing has been to bring her to life. I say her name out loud now, I can see her hair, her smile, I talk about her to the one person who allows me to talk about her. It warms my heart and gives me great peace to acknowledge her existence.
Q13: Since the person died, is there anything that you have been doing in order to feel close to them?
I had a bracelet made with her name engraved in it so I can wear it whenever I need to feel her near me. I had a bookmark made with her name on it and I use it to remember her always.
Q14: Is there anything that you do in order to avoid being reminded of the person or of their death?
Prior to 3 years ago, I did everything and anything to avoid being reminded of her. Now that I've started the healing process, she's with me everywhere, all the time and I won't ever let her go.
Q15: Has anything in particular helped you to cope with grief? Has anything made you feel better or worse?
In my most desperate hour 3 years ago, I found the Gateway-Women online community, its founder Jody Day, her book "Living the Life Unexpected", and consequently, my tribe, my people who have experiences I've have, who have shared their losses and have acknowledged, understood and recognized my loss. I'm no longer alone. I have people I can go to for support now. We process our grief together.
Q16: How understanding have other people been? Have others said or done anything that you've found especially helpful or unhelpful?
People outside of my tribe need to be educated on how to support a "childless not by choice" person in their lives. They have no idea (even though they think they know). More examples need to be available for all to see, to learn by example, how to respond, and to see how life can go on without children. Being an American, we now have a President and Vice President who are from blended families, the First Lady has no biological grandchildren as of today. The Vice President has no biological children, she is a step-mother, and is close with her nieces. For the first time, society in the entire world has been given an example that it's okay, it's acceptable, it's not something we need to pity if someone has no biological children. These two women are strong, positive, fulfilled, happy, real.
Q17: How, if at all, has your experience of bereavement changed you as a person?
I have lost my father when I was 20, he was 45. I have lost my 94-year-old grandmother 10 years ago. I have lost my beloved pets. Experiencing bereavement has given me compassion and understanding to others who have lost. It has helped me to appreciate my remaining time with my 85-year-old mother. It has taught me to forgive wrongs and continue to build bridges with people in my life.
Q18: How, if at all, does grief over the death of a person differ from other forms of loss that you have experienced?
I don't believe it's very different. Loss is loss. If I didn't win the gold medal, if I didn't get my dream job, if the surgery didn't heal my broken body, it's all an experience of grieving an incredible loss, the loss of hope, the loss of a dream, the loss of a relationship. It's all there, it's all real, it's all loss.
Q19: Are there any aspects of grief that you find particularly puzzling or difficult to put into words?
Yes, but I can't describe it.
Q20: Are there any important aspects of your experience that we have not addressed?
This childless loss happens to men too. As long as a childless man or women's grief is recognized, validated, and understood by society, my tribe can move forward.