Grief and Infertility
by Meredith Nathan, LMT
A colleague of mine heard this stat at a recent fertility conference: ‘One in ten people experiencing infertility is actively suicidal.’ Did she hear that right? One in ten? Not depressed…not has suicidal ideation. But is ACTIVELY suicidal?
I remember reading early on in my career at Pulling Down the Moon that fertility patients have grief levels rivaling those of cancer patients. Should this surprise us? The drive to reproduce is wired into our biology. Many of us have fantasized about the joy of having children since we were children ourselves, and to be told we may not be able to fulfill this can threaten everything we thought we knew about our future. Add to this the pain of loss, for those who have had miscarriages or stillbirths, or those who are ‘circumstantially infertile’, due to divorce or not finding a partner to embark on this journey with…all of these people have had paradigms threatened and dreams shattered.
But unlike cancer patients, people struggling with infertility tend to be very private with their grief. They typically don’t broadcast their struggle to the world, and as such bear the burden of it largely alone. And since men and women tend to experience grief very differently, even a loving partner doesn’t always provide the support you need.
Grief can manifest in different ways, whether in the form of anger, guilt, insomnia, depression, loss of appetite, apathy, or over-achievement. Grief goes through many stages as it’s processed. And grief, when left unchecked, can create stress and disruption in the body as emotions are stored in the tissue, leading to imbalance, disease, and (ironically) even infertility.
Having tools to address grief is vitally important. We live in a society that doesn’t often place a high premium on self-nurturing, but we need to. Taking time to show ourselves kindness, whether in the form of a walk through nature, a massage, or a bubblebath should be an absolute priority for someone dealing with infertility. Finding a place to communicate and share your struggles, losses, and dreams also makes a huge impact on your well-being. That’s why community is at the heart of Pulling Down the Moon. Whether through yoga classes, workshops, or working one on one with a practitioner, it is our mission to let our patients know that they aren’t alone. Our heart is to give them not to address their physical wellbeing, but to give them mental and emotional support throughout their journey.