The Invisible Grief of Living with Fertility Challenges

Couples experiencing fertility challenges have quite the task of living their daily lives while managing what feels like invisible grief. Aspiring parents who have dreams, hopes and expectations of growing a family feel traumatized and grief stricken when things don’t go the way they assumed it would. The grief is often misunderstood by others as there are different layers and types of grief associated with fertility challenges. In this post, I’m diving into the invisible grief of living with fertility challenges.

Hidden Losses

Loss of the Reproductive Story
Couples often anticipate building a family and imagine what that would look like for them. They anticipate the fun in trying to conceive, the traditions they will start as a family and even which parent the child may look like. There’s a story in their mind of what the experience will be like. When month after month, this dream is unrealized, it’s a devastating blow for a couple.

Loss of Relationships As You Knew Them
Relationships tend to change when you’re experiencing infertility and it’s normal to grieve these changes. Hearing about the successful pregnancies of others in your social circle and sharing in their joy is hard. Feelings of jealousy, anger or resentment can feel uncomfortable and even foreign to you. The loss of comfort and ease in these social situations is real. It can be difficult to navigate in social situations when your experience is very different from those around you.

Unfortunately, close relationships may break down as you withdraw socially to protect yourself from the pain of insensitive comments, judgment, lack of understanding or empathy or even unsolicited advice. These relationship changes can leave you feeling lonely and isolated. Living with infertility teaches you which relationships to value and which no longer serves you.

Loss of Feeling Healthy
A common myth of pregnancy is that one will be able to do so whenever they’re ready which reinforces the belief that it is totally within a person’s control. Nothing shakes that belief more than receiving an infertility diagnosis. You may find yourself wrestling with the invisible grief of no longer feeling “healthy and normal.” Being thrust into a world of medical providers, numerous tests and procedures may not feel natural or normal. It’s okay to grieve the loss of the expected journey to parenthood.

Loss of Control
Living with infertility is living with the pain of not being able to have a child when and how you hoped. This loss of control over your reproductive journey can serve as a blow to your sense of self.

Loss of Freedom
The ability to freely make choices is impacted when fertility challenges are experienced. The loss of financial freedom is a big one because of the uncertainty of what treatments will be needed. Specialists and medications come at a cost which leads couples to rethink and reprioritize things such as family vacations and other big purchases. Their pain and grief around these major life changes. Another common loss of freedom is of a more intimate nature. Many couple’s lose the freedom and fun in growing a family.

Final Thoughts

Knowing that someone is experiencing infertility and understanding their pain are two different things. Infertility means so much more than the ability to conceive or carry a child to term. Your grief is not wrong. It’s valid and deserves to take up space. Give it the space and care it needs. If you need support with your fertility journey, please reach out and schedule an appointment.

Kerri-Anne Brown

Kerri-Anne Brown

Hi, I'm Kerri-Anne and I'm a licensed mental health counselor in Orlando, FL. I help individuals and couples who are living with fertility challenges, perinatal loss, birth trauma and difficulties with postpartum adjustments. Please feel free to reach out anytime.

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