What is it?
For many people wanting a family is a natural part of life. Therefore, it can be devastating when you have fertility problems. Not being able to have children can leave a void and be incredibly challenging on an emotional level. Infertility can put a strain on relationships and may feel quite unfair and isolating at times. It is normal to experience a sense of loss, to feel sad, frustrated, stressed and overwhelmed. It is a lot to process and it is normal to experience the stages of grief
What causes it?
People commonly go through the stages of grief when going through infertility as they are experiencing a huge loss. The cycle of grief is a way of processing what has happened which may take some considerable time. Working through the different stages until reaching a point of acceptance helps people to come to terms with what is an incredibly painful experience for many. This process can take years and many may get stuck in the cycle. There is support available if you are struggling with infertility right now.
Signs and symptoms (how to spot it / what does it feel like)
The stages of grief and loss are:
· Denial – It is a common response to go into a state of denial when faced with the news that you may never have children. This news can be overwhelming and you may go into to a state of shock and disbelief. You may think “this can’t be happening to me” and that there must be some kind of mistake. Usually, this stage of grief is short as you come to terms with the news.
· Anger – This is a natural response to the loss of your plans, dreams and how you envisioned your future to be. Losing the role of becoming a biological parent can be tremendously difficult to come to terms with. People often feel angry and disappointed and may consider themselves not to be “normal”. Individuals may act agitated, irrational, jealous and selfish around others and their relationships may be affected.
· Bargaining – This stage of grief refers to a period of time where the person may think things such as “What I wouldn’t give to have a baby”.
· Depression – It is common to feel quite isolated and alone in your grief when experiencing infertility. You may feel despair, overwhelming emotion, depression, helplessness and find it difficult to experience intimacy. You may find it difficult to identify yourself as a true woman or man as you are unable in your eyes to achieve what you feel is the ‘norm’. Some people get stuck in their grief which feeds into their depression.
· Acceptance – At this stage a person accepts their loss and can look ahead once more and move forward. They acknowledge the loss of not being able to have their own biological child. Some may consider a future without children or alternatively some may choose to explore other options such as in vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment with donated ovaries or sperm, adoption or surrogate. Reaching this level of acceptance allows new choices to become available whereas the only focus previous to this was having their own biological child. This allows people to move forward in finding new ways to create their family or to move forward without children.
Talking therapy can offer individuals a warm, safe and confidential space to explore their thoughts and feelings around their infertility. You can work through your loss and grief and reach decisions about how to move forward. It can be a space to talk about how infertility has personally affected you, challenged your identity and the impact it has had on you and those around you. It can be a space for you to access support whilst going through treatment or to process the outcomes of treatment.
By Helen Rutherford