I remember the day I heard about the sudden death of Robin Williams, one of the best actors and comedians of our time. Even more shocking was learning that he had apparently taken his own life. Since then, several beloved musicians and celebrities including Chris Cornell, Chester Bennington, Avicii, Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain have also chosen to take their own lives.
For each of these untimely deaths, we often find ourselves asking the same question. Why? What would drive a successful person who seemingly had it all to end their own life?
People like to say suicide is selfish, others point to mental illness or depression. While all may be true, it is evident grief, anxiety and depression do not discriminate. It doesn’t matter how much money or fame you have, we are all human and we all struggle.
As a result of years of infertility and my miscarriage three years ago, I know what it’s like to struggle with grief.
The last six months have been an incredibly healing time for me as I read, study and work through the emotional scars that infertility and loss has left behind.
All over the world, there are thousands of women and couples who struggle with grief, anxiety, depression, marital issues and even suicidal thoughts as a result of their infertility and childlessness.
Statistics show that women with infertility, who have had a miscarriage or failed IVF treatments experience PTSD symptoms comparable to many other types of trauma.
The years I spent trying to conceive were very isolating. Besides my husband and the online support groups I joined, there weren’t many people I could talk to about what I was experiencing. In a span of six years, I endured dozens of tests, procedures, miscarriage, failed IVF and only once do I recall a medical professional asking about my emotional well-being.
We live in a society where talking about grief and loss is uncomfortable. Often people don’t know how to respond to grief. After hearing one too many unhelpful comments like “don’t give up” and “everything happens for a reason,” many grievers don’t bother bringing up their struggle anymore. Suffering alone often leads to depression and hopelessness.
So what we can we do to spark a conversation around mental health and emotional well-being in the infertility and childless not by choice community?
We can start by sharing our stories. Not just the stories about hope and positivity but by speaking our authentic truth. It takes courage to be vulnerable enough to share the real struggles behind the mask we sometimes wear. The mask hides our pain, we hide our pain out of fear and what we fear most is shame. Most of us just want someone to listen, to validate our grief and not try to fix it.
As I continue to do my grief work, I am encouraged by the stories of others who struggle. This sense of connection motivates to write more. To share more of my authentic truth. The truth that while most days are good, sometimes there are really tough days. Days where emotional triggers seem to be around every corner and I am blindsided by grief.
The pain and grief of infertility and childlessness does not just go away with time. There are many different seasons of grief. For example, women in their 60s and 70s who were unable to have children in their childbearing years, now struggle with secondary grief as most of their friends and family members are becoming grandmothers. For many, the desire and longing for children is lifelong.
Just this week I had the opportunity to share my story as a guest blogger in one of the childless not by choice communities. One of the greatest rewards was reading the comments from other women. Mostly about how encouraging it is that my husband and I continue to work through our grief together and support one another.
Nearly every week I see a heartbreaking post where a couple is separating or divorcing because infertility, miscarriage or childlessness has taken a toll on their marriage. There is so much fear, guilt and shame that surrounds infertility and childlessness. Many couples find it difficult to communicate their true feelings with one another which leads to the breakdown of the relationship.
While taboos and stigmas surrounding grief, depression and infertility may not change overnight, we can each do our part by continuing to show up, speak our truth, and own our stories of struggle. Social media plays an important role in our ability to share and connect with others. The more we talk about grief, the more we can help shape a culture where grief is accepted as a normal emotional response and treated with empathy and compassion.
If you are struggling and wonder if anyone sees you, please know you are not alone. There are many wonderful resources and groups where you will be seen and supported. You can leave a comment below or private message me and I will be happy to share some of the resources that have helped me heal.