There’s something oppressive about New Year, and all these exhortations to become some new version of ourself. I mean, if I had free choice to select which time of the year to mark as ‘New Year’, one that felt like a promising time for us all to ‘start afresh’ it wouldn’t be NOW for goodness sake!
For many of us who are childless not by choice, we’ve just survived the longest and trickiest holiday season there is. It started on 31st October with Halloween and has been careering downhill, picking up speed as it’s snowballed through Bonfire Night, Thanksgiving, Sinterklass and whatever other fresh hell your culture has cooked up for your delectation, before landing SPLAT in our faces at Christmas… Followed shortly by the ‘hurrah! another year I don’t have children‘ celebrations of New Year’s Eve. Sheesh.
Personally, when I look back to those years when I was in the depths of my childless grief, I think having survived the previous year was something worth celebrating: another year of ‘helpful advice’ from my friends, family (and complete strangers); another year of zero invitations to anything other than a dental check up; another year of wondering how the hell I was going to live out the rest of my life with absolutely no enthusiasm for anything other than cake.
It would have helped if I’d known the door to hell’s basement had a name: ‘grief’. I had no idea, and neither did Dr Google, Dr Amazon, therapists or doctors. It wasn’t until my second year post my ‘OK, I’m childless’ moment that I realised at a weekend seminar on bereavement for my psychotherapy training that I was grieving. Finding this out was a huge relief as it meant two things to me immediately:
- I’m not going mad.
- One day, this will be over. Grief ends. I have no idea how, but apparently it does. I hope I last that long.
Dear Reader – you’ve been with me since then and it does end, sort of. But ‘end’ is too neat a word for it, because really it’s not that grief ends but that we are changed by grief. I guess if anything, part of us ‘ends’. The old us. The one that had pinned her hopes, dreams, fantasies, bank balance, health, sanity and lord knows what else on the alter of motherhood. She ends, but she doesn’t go quietly or elegantly, oh no, and certainly for me it felt like my grief had to burn my life down in order for me to become this new version of myself; the Jody for whom childlessness is another part of the story of who I am – not THE story of who I am.
Our culture tells us that grief is shameful and that we need to put a brave face on things and ‘move on’. I know that we’d all do that in a heartbeat if it were possible! It isn’t.
So this January, take a moment to give yourself the credit you’re due for getting through last year. And if you don’t have enough people in your life who get that (or no one, as is so often the case, as it was for me), maybe the only resolution you might need is perhaps to have the courage to connect with some others who do. Come out of the cold and share your stories with us in the Gateway Women private online community. It’s not on Facebook. And we have cake.