By: Laura LaCascia-Ehlert
I have been silently grieving for ten months. It started when IVF did not work out in our favor. That was the day my grief started, but it wasn’t until months later that I became aware I was grieving. I wondered during those months why do I struggle with concentration, why can I not find my oomph for life, where did my passion go, why do I cry unexplainably? It was during a bereavement group I facilitate when I realized that I, myself, was grieving. Dumbfounded, I pondered “How can one grieve something you haven’t lost, or never even had?” I went in search of support, and to my dismay, found little. This lack of information on people grieving biological children they want, but cannot have has supported the bewilderment of my grief. In lieu of information on this topic, alternatives are presented such as adoption or being a foster parent. I have often found myself speechless when people offer solutions to our infertility or ask why we don’t adopt. I now understand my unexplainable reaction because their unsolicited quick solution has been offered without pausing to acknowledge our loss. In any type of loss, such as death, divorce, or miscarriage, respects are paid and space is given to grieve. Yet with this particular loss, solutions are given without acknowledgement or an expectation to grieve. It is not yet known that people grieve over this. Hence, why I was so shocked to find myself in grief.
Realizing I am not having my own children is shocking and devastating. As is the case with any loss, if one doesn’t grieve they do not heal. They remain stuck in grief and pain. The loss of not having biological children is not any different. I am choosing to honor and connect with my grief so that I can heal, and then decide what to do.
According to various sources the grieving process has numerous stages which consist of shock, denial, depression, anger, and acceptance. I find myself vacillating between the stages of denial and depression. The denial stage is utter torture while the depression stage is the deepest of sadness. Without awareness of being in the stage of denial I fantasize about a surprise pregnancy. I think, “I am still menstruating, never mind all of the perimenopause symptoms, wouldn’t it be wonderful if it just happened without even trying.” (“Without even trying”, a hated phrase). There is such a similarity between perimenopause and pregnancy symptoms it makes me wonder what kind of cruel, cruel joke is being played. I remind myself that it can happen, maybe next month. (“Maybe next month”, another hated phrase). While in the depths of the depression stage I bask in the dark abyss of what the next 20 to 40 years will be without children. What will we do with our time, how will I fill my days, what will be my purpose, and will it be enough? Then every once in a while somehow I get reminded that I am grieving and acknowledge the stages I am in with compassion, kindness, and tenderness. During that glimpse of awareness, I quickly begin to beg and plead whatever is responsible for this to move me beyond these stages, “I can take no more!” only to feel looming the stage of rage that is patiently waiting. I fear the rage as I do not know to whom it will be directed, nor how it will seep out of me.
Prior to my biological clock ticking, I recall being at a coffee shop overhearing a group of women share that they will stop at nothing to have children. With their forceful will, ‘can do’ attitude, and ‘conquer all obstacles’ outlook, I quietly questioned why they are forcing their path forward instead of turning around to see what opportunities are waiting for them or issues waiting to be resolved. Years later as I step in their shoes I find myself just as forceful and controlling. When I realize this, I choose to turn around to see what it is that is waiting for me: opportunities or issues. It is issues. Staring me in the face is my loneliness. Such an old, old wound that I thought I had dealt with and put away carefully. Could it be that I want children to distract me from my loneliness? Do I want children to ease the uneventful years to come now only to be filled with the monotonous activities of the last twenty?
I continue to be deep in the process of grieving, knowing that my life has changed forever. For, now, I have regret. Something I have desperately feared and escaped for more than 40 years. Regret. I was overly cautious with making any committed decisions fearing the longevity of regret. I married late in life to ensure I was mature enough to make a lifelong decision. I carefully chose a career that I was fully passionate about. I thoughtfully made difficult decisions in my twenties and thirties contemplating all outcomes including regret. Now, as regret taps me on the shoulder, I slowly peak around to see it alongside my loneliness, smirking at me thinking I could outsmart it.
Though I am still in the process of grieving and exploring my loneliness, knowing that regret has caught up with me, I am confident that one day I will have acceptance. For I know that during the depths of despair when rock bottom hits and all loss is felt are when amazing ideas are conceived.
Laura LaCascia-Ehlert resides in Connecticut with her loving and supportive husband. In addition to owning her own business as a Human Resources Consultant, she facilitates bereavement groups and has a private practice coaching individuals in their personal and professional lives.