Response #
Current experience of grief
Respondent details
45-54 | Female | USA
Q1: What was the nature of your relationship with the person who died?
I was to be their mother.
Q2: How has the person’s death affected you during the hours, days, and weeks that followed?
There was no one who understood my loses so I was left isolated in my deep sorrow and grief. My grief was deeply disenfranchised by my family of origin, friends and the culture. I developed social anxiety, sleep issues, broken friendships and a general sense of loss of meaning in my life.
Q3: How, if at all, have your relationships with other people (particular individuals and other people in general) been affected by the bereavement?
They have been deeply impacted. Not having my losses seen, acknowledged or empathized by others is hard, but what is worse, having my losses be judged, denied and questioned. That made the extraordinary experience of losing my children to infertility deeply painful. What added to the pain was losing relationships with people I considered my friends but who could not walk this path with me and worse, judged my response to my life circumstance. It is an experience of loss, upon loss, upon loss that the broader culture does not is excruciating.
Q4: Does the surrounding world seem any different to you while grieving? If so, how?
Yes. With this particular grief, a deeply disenfranchised one, it is clear that the world has very little understanding of grief and loss. The world has felt cold and uncaring and just plain clueless. Losing a person is huge for so many...I have lost my father and father in law. Both these loses were unexpected, traumatic and painful. They were also the type of losses that are on the short list of losses that the culture is willing to acknowledge, however briefly, but actually acknowledge. That made a huge difference. Losing my children to infertility and the subsequent lack of cultural understanding of that loss has been exponentially more complex and painful than losing both my fathers.
Q5: Has your experience of time changed in any way?
Yes, losing my children to infertility has created many holes in my life where life events related to one's children typically are. This makes time and the passage of it disconnected for me. Also, infertility and the stress of the disenfranchised grief put me into early menopause which upended the sense of being in the right timeframe around life events with my peer group, especially other women.
Q6: Has your body felt any different during grief?
Yes. Disenfranchised grief brought on physical aches and pain, anxiety, sense of disconnection, difficulty concentrating, weight gain…
Q7: Has grief interfered in any way with your ability and motivation to perform various tasks, including paid work?
Yes, my grief took the meaning out of my work and hobbies.
Q8: Is your experience of grief changing over time? If so, how?
Yes, it has taken a long time, but through meeting others like me who understand my grief, therapy, education about disenfranchised grief and learning about pronatalism I have been able to begin to accept my my losses and grief and find meaning in the things I enjoy, including my work.
Q9: Have you ever found yourself looking for the person who died or expecting that person to appear?
Yes. It does not happen as much as it used to though. It usually shows up when I am not busy on the weekend. Where most couples I know my age are engaged with their children, I feel at a loss with what to do with is a feeling of something is missing that I can not put a finger on, then I realize it is my children that are missing.
Q10: Are there times, places, and occasions that have made you especially aware of the person’s absence?
Yes, any occasion that is centered around children, motherhood or mark the passage of time are stark reminders of all I have lost...examples include: baby showers, birthday parties for children, my birthday, mother's day, father's day, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, first day of school, any and all Facebook mother challenges and children related milestone posts, graduations, summer vacation, weddings, friends becoming grandparents, birth announcements, last day of school, parks, generally being in the presence of women as the majority of them of a certain age are mothers and tend to gravitate to that identity as a topic of conversation. It is pretty much everywhere...
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?
Yes, I have a relationship with my children who were not born. They live in my heart.
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, there are times when I can feel their presence in the empathy or compassion I am holding for another who is going through a really hard time. It is so hard to explain, but I can feel their love and my love for them when I am bringing them up in my mind and heart.
Q13: Since the person died, is there anything that you have been doing in order to feel close to them?
Talking to others who understand my loss connects me to them. Also, I feel a connection to them through the growth I have experienced through losing them. I am a much more empathic, compassionate and grief literate person because of my experience loving them and trying with all I have to bring them into being. I also collect stones and place them on a small shelf in my house that I have designated as a place to honor my children.
Q14: Is there anything that you do in order to avoid being reminded of the person or of their death?
It has gotten easier like I said, but I avoid or use some level of avoidance, if possible, with all the items listed in number 10.
Q15: Has anything in particular helped you to cope with grief? Has anything made you feel better or worse?
Learning self compassion. Talking with others who have gone through what I have. Therapy. Being gentle with myself and allowing myself to grieve even when the culture does not acknowledge my losses as a loss. Letting go of friendships that are unsupportive. Avoiding many of the things that I listed in #10 when I can and saying no. All these have helped.
What has made the process of grieving so very hard is how incredibly taboo it is to talk about reproductive loss, infertility and childlessness. It is the disenfranchisement that makes it, at times, an untenable path to walk.
Q16: How understanding have other people been? Have others said or done anything that you've found especially helpful or unhelpful?
The nature of disenfranchised grief is that people are not understanding. Mostly people have been unhelpful. When I have tried to talk about it I have received defensiveness, been offered unhelpful suggestions like "why didn't you just adopt" or been subjected to a myriad of miracle baby stories...What has been helpful, but mostly offered from those who have experienced similar losses, is empathy and compassion.
Q17: How, if at all, has your experience of bereavement changed you as a person?
It has changed me in every way. I see life very differently now. I have a deeper understanding of loss, grief, compassion and empathy. I am humbled by the experience. I have a deeper sense of the fragility of life which makes me appreciate what I can about the life I am living. It has also made me a less social person and less patient with inauthenticity.
Q18: How, if at all, does grief over the death of a person differ from other forms of loss that you have experienced?
I spoke about this in #4
Q19: Are there any aspects of grief that you find particularly puzzling or difficult to put into words?
It took me a very long time to realize that what I was feeling was grief. I think that is one of the byproducts of disenfranchised grief. I also learned that grief moves in it's own timeline and it changes overtime and it has changed me. It is something I no longer fear, I welcome it and know how deeply healing grieving can be. I experience grief as a form of love and a deeply important part of this human experience.
For a long time, I thought that my losses were something that I would one day get over and then I could get back to the life I was living before infertility and childlessness. What is hard to explain is that there is no getting over it and getting back somewhere...there is a moving through, healing and a living with.
Q20: Are there any important aspects of your experience that we have not addressed?
I don't think so.