Realising that you are never going to be a mother or father is utterly heart-breaking. For many, where childlessness has not been a choice, the prospect of facing life without children is all-consuming and devastating. From wondering what to do with your life now, dealing with social exclusion to healing the deep sadness which lies within your soul, childlessness is anything but a straight forward process.
Facing up to childlessness is a complex, unique and a deeply individual process. There is no 'just getting over it' like we have a common cold or sore throat. For some, even the thought of having to deal with the prospect of a future without children is too painful. They choose to keep themselves busy with work, engaging in a various social activities and other distractions so they are too tired to even think about what childlessness may mean for them in the future.
Recognising these painful feelings and experiences as 'grief' is vital. Whilst we don't appear to have lost anything in a physical sense, many people facing involuntary childlessness suffer a deep sense of 'loss and grief' that is invisible to most people around us. There was no funeral for the loss of the babies they'd always imagined or lost as a result of miscarriage. So realising that you are not going to have the family you've always hoped and dreamed of can feel very isolating, many feel like they quite fit into society.
"Since I was a child I played with dolls and was the Mummy...you can't 'just face up' to a dream you have had since childhood, one that is supposed to be normal, you go through grief, loneliness, emptiness." (Nita, 61)
As with any other significant loss, those dealing with childlessness go through many stages of grief. It's a process which has to be taken one step at a time, one day at a time...
For some, learning to adjust their sails on a daily basis when dealing with this adversity is the only way forward. They change their lifestyle, making the most of the 'freedom' their friends with children would love to have. But in all honestly they'd swap all these things in a heartbeat for the chance to have their very own family.
Childlessness isn't something that just goes away, there are many triggers. From dealing with family, work colleague's pregnancy announcements, baby on board stickers, family parties, Facebook photos of children at Halloween events, quiet Christmas day mornings and silent tea times... life often feels like it is moving on without us. We learn to live with it and accept it in the best way we can. Some feel it's possible to find peace and acceptance with their situation or circumstances whilst others say they never will and the ache and longing is permanent. The deep sadness is consuming and trying to make sense of the lonely, empty feelings can be challenging.
Channelling energy into an alternative passions, hobby, voluntary activities, exercise, crafts, sport, good cause, pets or concentrating on your work are ways of gaining a new focus. After spending years trying for a baby or thinking it might happen one day we forget to do the things that make us happy and give us purpose. Looking at the different areas of our lives and being able to filling them with other passions can make the loss easier to live with.
"I look back at my younger years, yes I would have spent less time crying & more time enjoying each other. I am tired of being Bitter and am making the rest of my life Better, children or not." (Nita, 61)
So facing up to childlessness is far from straightforward, there are complexities across so many levels and aspects of our lives. For me, the psychological loss of 'a life I thought I was going to have' was the most significant 'invisible loss' associated with coming to terms with involuntary childlessness. We have to find a way to channel our love in our heart, move forward each day and accept that where grief is concerned, our journey is unique, there are no rules.
Kelly Da Silva
Founder of The Dovecote.Org