Initially I balked at the idea of grieving. Remember we’re talking about infertility here and RJ and I had apparently ordered up the complicated barren variety. Having witnessed the losses of beautiful lives, both before and after birth, it felt wrong to grieve something that was only an idea. Those losses that I’d seen were so painfully legitimate; there was someone there and then he/she was gone. It felt selfish to claim a nebulous feeling of loss in the face of such awful longing. My inclination was to say “Yes, I am hurting, but I’m not hurting that much.” Or, “Losing nothing isn’t even worth mentioning in the face of losing a life that had barely begun.” But loss there was and as I sat on that familiar therapist’s couch and set out to increase my self-awareness, a veritable cavern of intangible losses opened wide to greet me.
Perhaps the discriminating discomfort of grief relegates her to last-resort status on the emotional awareness menu, but because grief has found a permanent place in my soul, I’m learning to read her cues and speak her language. She has become a surprisingly valued ally in my journey through life. Grief’s teachings, far from welcomed, eventually forced a certain self-awareness that opened the door to light and insight. As I first made her acquaintance, I realized that my grief was different and unique to me, which is something that could be said of all of us. Once I claimed sadness as my own and made grief my companion, I realized there was ever so much relating that could be done. In terms of children, I was shedding tears about an unknown quantity alongside dear friends who missed their babes with a different kind of knowing. I think the most poignant tears were (and sometimes are) shed over a life turning out vastly different than what was expected. I grieved a loss of control, feeling helpless in a situation that affected so many facets of my life. There was relational loss, the inability to take on a role I’d always relished. Marital naivete was yanked out from under us and after only a few short years together, our abilities to relate and cope would be refined in intimidating fires. As I endured the pain of grief, I eventually developed a vocabulary to talk about it in ways that respectfully connected me to the grief of others and helped me realize how universal many of those aforementioned losses are.
As RJ and I slogged through the icy, isolating waters of our infertility, we met some specific losses that we learned to claim as our own; the possibility that we may never know each other as a father and mother, the loss of social connection as years went by and babies were born to others, but never to us. It is hard to know that you don’t understand how most of the world operates. It’s hard not to be able to relate to your sisters and brothers and friends and cousins as they plan families and immerse themselves in the business of creating and cultivating children. It’s hard to admit that opening a baby shower invitation is akin to getting the wind knocked out of you. It’s hard to feel jealous and angry and anxious when you want to feel excited and happy and peaceful. It can be a lonely, all-encompassing and very misunderstood place.