Response #
Past experience of grief
Respondent details
45-54 | Female | USA
Q1: What was the nature of your relationship with the person who died?
I am childless not by choice. I live with grief for the children I never had and the identity I lost as a result.
Q2: How has the person’s death affected you during the hours, days, and weeks that followed?
Fortunately, I had left my job of the last ten years just before our 4th IUI, so I was able to just be at home and grieve as I needed to for a while. Sometimes it was stabbing grief with sobbing, other times it was a numbness, an incomprehension of how I had arrived at that point, who would I be now?
Q3: How, if at all, have your relationships with other people (particular individuals and other people in general) been affected by the bereavement?
I finally told my parents that we'd done fertility treatment but there wouldn't be any grandchildren. That was very hard, but their support was great.
Apart from two friends who are mothers who continued to be wonderfully supportive and truly reciprocal, empathetic friends, I started keeping my distance from women who are mothers.
Q4: Does the surrounding world seem any different to you while grieving? If so, how?
How could life go on as usual?
How could no one know or see or notice my tragedy, my grief?
I raged, and still sometimes rage, at the obliviousness of most people to childless grief.
Gardening stayed the same for me, and was a good solace.
Q5: Has your experience of time changed in any way?
Time as it related to my identity was confusing.
On the inside I felt the same as ever, I was me. ... and part of my me-ness was that motherhood was out there someday.
It was the gradual work of years to shift my identity to someone who will never have kids. It's felt like I've had to learn this new identity cell by cell.... and I still don't think I've 100% learned it.
Q6: Has your body felt any different during grief?
My body had disappointed me, hadn't done what it's designed to do.
Q7: Has grief interfered in any way with your ability and motivation to perform various tasks, including paid work?
My grief before this grief did..... my grief after our failed #3 IUI was very rough. I still had my job as managing partner of a small shop and it was excruciating to have to deal with the public in a friendly manner. I am ever grateful that I had resigned before the big final grief hit me.
Q8: Is your experience of grief changing over time? If so, how?
My identity has shifted gradually.... which brings ease.
I found Gateway Women, a support network for childless not by choice women, and those connections have been game changing. I signed up for a 12 month program through GW where we actively did 'grief work' to really tackle some of the emotions and learn tools for coping and adapting.

I will always have my grief, but now it is usually a quiet thing there, not a monster. It is a scar, not an open wound.
Q9: Have you ever found yourself looking for the person who died or expecting that person to appear?
Not as much as I used to, but I do sometimes still have a very clear vision of my imagined little daughter.
Q10: Are there times, places, and occasions that have made you especially aware of the person’s absence?
Out in public, seeing daddies with small children is painful/poignant for me.

Thanksgiving and Christmas are challenging. The whole Christmas season.

Social media is always a mine field.
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?
Every now and then I'll dream of having had a baby, but I don't think it's ever been the little 2-3 year old girl of my waking imagination.
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?
In some energetic realm that we don't understand, she and her little brother exist.
Q13: Since the person died, is there anything that you have been doing in order to feel close to them?
Not particularly.
Q14: Is there anything that you do in order to avoid being reminded of the person or of their death?
Simply wrapping my head around my childless identity and creating a happy Plan B life for myself.
Q15: Has anything in particular helped you to cope with grief? Has anything made you feel better or worse?
Finding a community focused on our similar grief. Talking... the more I talk about it, the less stabbing it becomes.
Q16: How understanding have other people been? Have others said or done anything that you've found especially helpful or unhelpful?
Other than to 3 close girlfriends, I talked about my grief very little until finding Gateway Women in 2018.

People have been across the board from beautifully empathetic to stupidly unhelpful. With plenty of oblivious hurtful comments in between.
Q17: How, if at all, has your experience of bereavement changed you as a person?
I am more empathetic to others' pain, of all sorts.

I am becoming a stronger, more independent, sassier woman. I will be a badass crone much sooner that I might've been otherwise.

I am learning to prioritize my own self-care.
Q18: How, if at all, does grief over the death of a person differ from other forms of loss that you have experienced?
There are no do-overs fertility.
I have transferred universities, dramatically changed travel plans, gotten out of a marriage... but you can't change fertility once it's over.
Q19: Are there any aspects of grief that you find particularly puzzling or difficult to put into words?
It's taken me a long time to begin to articulate the mind-trip that the change in identity encompasses.
Q20: Are there any important aspects of your experience that we have not addressed?