Grief is a natural response to loss. It is the emotional suffering one feels when something or someone the individual loves, is taken away. The grief associated with death is familiar to most people, but individuals grieve in connection with a variety of losses throughout their lives, such as infertility or the end of a relationship.
Couples undergoing IVF treatment have are tethering on a small ray of hope that they might be able to have children. This hope becomes the foundation of their dream of having a family in future. When a cycle fails, this hope and this dream breaks for them. They grieve for that family they have been dreaming about, that child that may have been. Since IVF treatment is protracted and may involve repeated IVF failures before the result is positive, couples need a strategy to cope with this grief of a loss that cannot be defined in conventional terms.
Another way to say that you are grieving is that a part of you is remain frozen in a moment in time, even when everything else has moved on. Sometimes the cause of this feeling of isn’t the grief itself, but the fact that you don’t even recognize that you’ve lost something and that you need to grieve. Grief is a word that is used interchangeably with bereavement, but grief is not exclusively about the physical death of a person. Still, grief isn’t necessarily a depression. People can be grieving and heartbroken about something and not even know it.
The typical route for grieving begins with denial, and that’s actually a good thing. Ultimately, your defense mechanisms are there to protect you. Denial kicks in when it would otherwise be too overwhelming to feel it all at once. Ideally, denial slowly fades away and the grief is felt. (Ideally.) More typically, you swallow your grief. It comes up in small spurts when you’re not paying attention, then you numb yourself to it somehow, then it jumps up more forcefully, then you numb yourself more heavily. That is the path of staying stuck in grief. The path loops. People lose themselves on that path. Is there a better path? The answer is yes. But you don’t have to walk it unless you choose to.
Some losses are so exquisitely painful, in a way that no one else could ever fully understand, that no one would fault you for staying in the loop. If you do choose to get out of the disorienting, dizzying loop of grief, here are 4 ways to begin:
- UNDERSTAND - That your heart is broken, even if it’s not visible to others. Keep in mind that there's no ‘right way’ to grieve and that grieving is not a linear process. Just because it’s been 6 months, 4 years, 15 years, whatever – none of that means anything to your grief. The clock starts when you begin to recognize your grief. In other words, when you genuinely begin to address what happened (or perhaps what never happened).
- RECOGNIZE - Before you can grieve, you have to recognize that you need to grieve. Something happened or didn’t happen, that burdened you. Ironically, when you’re burdened, something is given to you and taken away from you at the same time. What do you feel was taken from you? What do you feel you are burdened with? The answers to those questions help you recognize what you need to grieve.
- TOUCH - You have to touch the loss (as well as all the anger, sadness, bitterness, resilience, compassion and any other feelings you encountered during your loss). You're in touch with your grief when you make space for the feelings your loss brought into your life. It may feel counter-intuitive to go back to the feelings that you want so desperately to let go of, but there's simply no way to move through grief without making contact with it, without fully touching it, without fully feeling it. You have to pick it up, hold it, and feel the weight of it in your hands, on your heart, and within your life. You have to feel the whole loss. Grief demands to be felt with an insistence that needs no sleep. You either allow yourself to encounter the feelings or you remain encased in a shell of yourself under a misguided sense of self-protection.
- MOVE ON- The feeling of grief can linger for so long that you almost befriend the grief. The grief becomes oddly soothing in its familiarity and its predictability. Dealing with the grief means letting go of this familiarity and moving towards something less predictable and less familiar, which is scary. Still, if you want to genuinely address the grief, you have to continue to move through the peripheral, familiar parts of your grief and go right into the epicenter of your grief. As the classic hero's journey goes, you have to get inside the belly of the whale. There (and only there) you will find the door to the unpredictable pieces of life that are patiently waiting for you on the other side of your pain. So...Understand your heart is broken. Recognize why it’s broken. Touch the grief. Move towards the epicenter of your grief, as it's the only path to another side of your pain. Please remember, the grief you're experiencing is yours, and you can carry it with you for as long as you like. Let go of it only when you feel ready-enough, and if you never feel ready, that’s okay. If you do feel ready to move through it, recruit professional support. Navigating through grief is unpredictable, dangerous terrain. You don’t have to do it alone.