Response #
Current experience of grief
Respondent details
45-54 | Female | German
Q1: What was the nature of your relationship with the person who died?
I am grieving the loss of my unborn children. Although they never came to this world, I feel and know them as real, truly existing persons that I never will have the chance to get to know. They never came, but I have spent decades of my life welcoming them in my heart, preparing the place for them and loving them until the moment I had to accept that I will stay irrevocably childless. So at the same time, I’m grieving the loss of a family life, of the chance to pass onto a next generation the gifts I received from my ancestors.
Q2: How has the person’s death affected you during the hours, days, and weeks that followed?
Deep despair from the moment of understanding the dimension of my loss. Many tears, not even remembering what the last time of the day was without tears. Difficulties in sleeping at night. Feeling empty, useless, unworthy, betrayed by nature, painful heartache, the whole skin of my body aching for that touch, longing for being able to hold my child, to be there for it, loss of identity, anger towards my body, sense of failure, questioning what it means to be a woman, acute pain when seeing children and not being allowed to be part of their lives, waves of anger, depression, sadness, a feeling of love so intense, burning me alive, a rollercoaster of all possible emotions never experienced before.
Q3: How, if at all, have your relationships with other people (particular individuals and other people in general) been affected by the bereavement?
Sense of not being understood, the feeling of experiencing a disenfranchised grief as there was no one who could understand. After all there was no real death, was everyone saying. The dimension of that loss of motherhood is hard to explain. There are so many layers to it, that take time to understand. I am still working through all that pain. Not only I am longing for someone and for a life that I had wished for so deeply, but I have to deal also with the consequences of living in a patriarchal society where pronatalism dictates how women are seen. On the one hand, mothers are glorified, as if the only successful life model for a woman that is far away from being considered egoistic, would be being a mother. On the other hand, the grief of women who are childless not by choice is dismissed. I lost so many friends that thought I should quickly “get over it”. I couldn’t, especially BECAUSE there was so little understanding and no one to share with, except for an online community of women founded by Jody Day (Gateway Women), where women who share the same experience support each other. Without this support, I would have felt even more lonely and marginalized in a society that is generally unable to deal with anything subtle or invisible that is far from success, efficiency and the dogma of being always in control.
Q4: Does the surrounding world seem any different to you while grieving? If so, how?
It’s a completely different world. Strangely, I feel more alive and sensitive than ever, having very strong emotions in the whole range of possibilities. I love deeply, and I suffer deeply. I see and understand so many things that were hidden to me. I suddenly know what it feels like being part of a minority, being excluded from what people call “a normal life”, I suddenly know what it means to be in denial, as I have been in denial for a long time all those years when I was still in hope I could get pregnant, I had to learn the hard way that it’s no one’s fault if something goes wrong, but still have to struggle on a daily basis when people don’t want to hear about it and keep repeating the mantra of how easy happiness is to achieve, no matter what the price might be.
Q5: Has your experience of time changed in any way?
Yes. I feel small. Impermanence has shown it’s face. I am a little part, a little human in the genealogy of the centuries, and I am so sad not to be able to continue in time what has reached my life from the past that was before I was.
Q6: Has your body felt any different during grief?
Deep ache, skin burning in desire for that one special, not sexually intended human touch.
Burning need to move, to walk, to run to be able to cope with the heartache, to irrationally try to find the child wherever it could irrationally be “hidden”, in nature, on the streets, along rivers, in the sky, in the wind, in the sun or the moonlight.
Q7: Has grief interfered in any way with your ability and motivation to perform various tasks, including paid work?
Yes. Deep feeling of insecurity, constant need of finding the time to process my feelings, need to hide periodically to be able to cry and be alone. Not so productive anymore. Not so creative anymore, except for tasks which I could use to express my feelings and my grief. Very difficult to concentrate on other tasks, impossible to read a book, impossible to relax. At the same time, increased inability to accept injustice, increased need to be truthful and to speak up for my needs and the needs of others. Increased empathy, and ability to understand others.
Q8: Is your experience of grief changing over time? If so, how?
The time I spend crying is thankfully diminishing. The waves of different emotions (sadness, despair, anger, denial, bargaining, depressing) still come, but are not as intense or as long as they were in the beginning.
I am slowly approaching the condition where I can start trying to give a meaning to my loss. I will never find a true and whole acceptance of not being a mother, but I see a chance of maturation, of personal growth in my experience. I start feeling more confident again, and have learnt how important it is setting boundaries. I am very aware of the problems women face in our society and am interested in finding new role models, new ways of being a woman, of femininity.
Q9: Have you ever found yourself looking for the person who died or expecting that person to appear?
Yes I was driven to go for long walks in nature every day or every second day, running like crazy, to irrationally look for my child, and on these walks I used (and still do sometimes) speak to and connect with my child.

I could literally feel the skin of my child as if I would hold it in my arms as a baby. It felt like if it was truly existing.
Q10: Are there times, places, and occasions that have made you especially aware of the person’s absence?
Yes. When I see other children. When I hear them cry, it nearly destroys me, as I feel I cannot help and will never be allowed to be there for a child.
When I see other families. When I pass along a square where children play. When I smell/see/hear anything that reminds me of plans/dreams/wishes I had regarding being a family. When I speak to my elderly parents in loving conversations, knowing that I will never have that kind of conversation. When I see my husband, lovingly, and understand that he will never be the loving father of my children. When I look at the mirror and see my body and ask myself who I am and who I have become and what my breasts are there for and why was my body not able to welcome our child. Every time when I play/listen to music and my emotions can float, my children come visit me in my mind.
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?
My child is always present in my heart. It will always be. I feel it as real in my body. I experience the presence of only one child, maybe the first one that would have come? I know it’s irrational, but it feels like real.
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?
It’s deep love. Pure love, a love that is so big that my body is hardly able to contain it.
What I desperately miss is the opportunity to really meet that person and to get to know it and to be challenged by that experience, challenged in my own limitations, abilities and beliefs. I feel like I have been robbed of that experience, it’s such a loss and irrevocable limitation
Q13: Since the person died, is there anything that you have been doing in order to feel close to them?
Lighting candles, walking in nature, writing poems, playing music for the child
Q14: Is there anything that you do in order to avoid being reminded of the person or of their death?
Q15: Has anything in particular helped you to cope with grief? Has anything made you feel better or worse?
Sharing with my beloved husband, growing through this, deepening our connection and our love.
Sharing with likeminded people, especially with the community of Gateway Women. This has been of invaluable help.
Q16: How understanding have other people been? Have others said or done anything that you've found especially helpful or unhelpful?
The grief of involuntary childlessness is not yet understood. It’s invisible. But it’s real. Many are suffering from it, women and men. Awareness about it needs to be raised. People dismiss it and still think, becoming a parent is something you can choose freely and you can control. There are things in life which can’t be controlled.
Only to be able to share and being listened to without judgment would take away a huge part of the suffering.
Q17: How, if at all, has your experience of bereavement changed you as a person?
I think I have been able to grow and to learn to accept my own vulnerability.
Q18: How, if at all, does grief over the death of a person differ from other forms of loss that you have experienced?
Q19: Are there any aspects of grief that you find particularly puzzling or difficult to put into words?
The dark side of grief: the dark feelings like anger, self-hatred, self criticism, harsh judgment, envy.
Q20: Are there any important aspects of your experience that we have not addressed?
The grief over a person that someone has welcomed/wished for/loved in advance but was never there can be as devastating as the grief over the death of a person that has lived a real life.