The love and grief at the heart of a childless Christmas

A blog of mine from Christmas 2014

my loss is part of me

It’s done. Another Christmas Day is over. Never an easy time for us childless women, even if we are ‘through’ our grief, as I am.

I had a griefy moment in an English country church this morning when the vicar’s adorable children were running around the alter, looking very much like one of them was about to actually get into the manger with the baby Jesus in it! A moment of such cheeky freshness that it took my breath away and I felt the sadness that I never got to enjoy the mischievousness of my own children. My sister outlaw, standing next to me, saw my eyes shining with tears and linked her arm firmly through mine as we dirged our way through yet another Christmas carol celebrating the ultimate miracle baby story; her the mother of teenagers and young adults, me the childless one: ‘I know that no life is free of pain’, I said, looking into her eyes and, in that moment we knew each other’s truth. It was a moment of pure connection, the like of which so many of us childless women rarely get from those around us; an honesty seen in the eyes and felt in the strength of our arms as we sang together.

Although I am no longer the broken childless woman I was, I treasure these moments of grief because they connect me back to the core of loss that every human life has to endure, however ‘perfect’ it may look on the outside. The vulnerability of that moment, my willingness not to hide it and her capacity to meet me in it, was precious. Tears, when met with empathy heal us in a way that nothing else can, and pass often very swiftly.

I am no longer a Christian although I was as a child, and even returned to that faith during my years of babymania, praying fervently and attending services again, desperate for answers, reasons, support, even a miracle. I got none, and found that the simple, eloquent Protestant services of my youth and the opportunity for consolation between the lines of the rich, ripe beauty of the Kings James Bible almost completely absent. Instead I found carpeted naves, large TV screens, ‘modern’ English service sheets and an almost total absence of reverence, ritual and beauty. One of the many additional losses of a childless life is that almost all the remaining rituals of adult life are about family. We also don’t get to experience the many secular family milestones such as ‘first day at school photos’, family holidays, baking your children’s birthday cakes and seeing their joy at Christmas. Losing access to the remembered chilly stone naves and the majestic cadences of the English language at its finest felt like yet another loss to me.

This morning in church, whilst the service was more modern that I would have liked, it also contained resonances from my childhood in the sonorous beauty of the traditional Lord’s Prayer. I felt connected back to that awestruck child I was who used to kneel and repeat it before bed, pushing her mind deeply inside the words in a desire to understand the numinosity I felt around me each day and especially in nature.  Part of me is still that child awed by the immensity of the human spirit, the power of loss and the beauty of grief.  As my sister outlaw said to me, ‘You share your love with the world in so many other ways’, a statement which a few years ago would have felt like cold comfort but which I’m now able to accept as a precious and valid use of this one human life.

unique

We are each a precious, one-off spark of the universe made conscious for our lifetime only. It wasn’t the miracle that I longed for, but coming to realise this has given me a different kind of miracle: I am at peace with my childlessness and the many visible and invisible losses that come with it. It doesn’t mean I won’t be sad ever again – I’m made of flesh not stone – but it does mean that I can take my heart, tenderised by grief, out into the world again.

However today has been for you, know that your sisters in GW around the world share your joy, your pain, your grief, your loneliness, your frustration, your sadness, your hope and your fears. We are a growing tribe of almost one-quarter of adult women and together we have so much love to share. Together we can link arms and learn to sing again.

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How do I connect with other childless women online?

Gateway Women Private Online Community on G+ (Global) To apply for membership of the ‘best online community for childless-by-circumstance women’ (that’s a review, not me!) go to ‘Join Our Community’ to fill in the application form. The first month is free, after which there’s a very modest monthly or annual fee or free memberships for those who need them. All applications are vetted for member security and privacy.

How do I meet other childless women in my area?

Join the free, private Gateway Women meetup group in your country and come along to an event. And if there isn’t an event near you, you can suggest one. You need to be a member of meetup.com first, then apply to join one of our free, private country groups:
UK & Ireland www.meetup.com/gateway-women
USA www.meetup.com/gateway-women-usa
CANADA www.meetup.com/gateway-women-canada
AUSTRALIA www.meetup.com/gateway-women-aus
NEW ZEALAND www.meetup.com/gateway-women-nz
SOUTH AFRICA www.meetup.com/gateway-women-sa
INDIA: www.meetup.com/gateway-women-india

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Click here for a list of all currently scheduled Gateway Women workshops

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About Jody 91 Articles
Jody Day is a British author, trainee integrative psychotherapist and the founder of Gateway Women, the global friendship and support network for childless women. She’s a founding member at AWOC.org (Ageing without Children) and a former Fellow in Social Innovation at Cambridge Judge Business School. She's the author of 2016’s 'Living the Life Unexpected: 12 Weeks to Your Plan B for a Meaningful and Fulfilling Future Without Children' (Bluebird/PanMacmillan). Gateway Women hosts online communities, workshops, retreats, courses, social events and private sessions for childless-not-by-choice women. Jody lives alone in London with her cat, a stereotype that she warmly and humorously subverts.
Contact: Website

51 Comments on The love and grief at the heart of a childless Christmas

  1. In my late 20s I shared a flat with a friend who became engaged and I entered into an introspective period that culminated in deciding that I would probably not get married. As a committed Christian, opposed to relationships outwith marriage that also meant no children, but I don’t think my reasoning went that far. I also think that my reasoning at the time was marred by the growing depression, self-hatred and social withdrawal that resulted from my upbringing.

    I have been blessed to be almost always, since coming to active faith at the age of 21, a member of fairly small and tight-knit church communities that emphasise living a Christ-like life that expresses love for those around us – not only, but in this context, caring for the outsider, the unwanted and the unlovable.

    Therefore, thoughout my whole life when I would have been considering hopes and fears about marriage and children, I have been surrounded by encouragement to make my life about something outside my own life and considerations. To such an extent that I think I did a lot of my “Plan B” planning years before recognition that I fiercely wanted children of my own.

    The parents around me in my life tell me that their children love me to bits – one tells me that her children cheer loudly when told that I am to babysit, whilst on another occasion I walked up a front path and heard loud whoops and shouts of “It’s Vicky!”. On another occasion I walked into a church meeting late and found a family I know sharing news at the front, toddler in arms. When she saw me, the toddler started struggling frantically until her mother had to let her go, whereupon she made a beeline for me.

    None of that, of course, actually soothes the grief for the children I never bore. At least, having reached my 50s, well-wishers no longer exclaim that I will make a perfect mother one day! Advantages of growing older ;o)

    But in my experience it is in giving to others that we find our own healing. Jody, you have founded GateWay Women as an expression of your own journey, but I am sure that it is also, and will continue to be, a great encouragement to you in your personal life as well. In bringing childless women together you are providing something that we lacked before – the feeling of no longer being alone. Thank you.

  2. I thought you put that beautifully, how the sadness and loss will always be part of who we are, but also about how we can connect with others through it. Looked at in this way, our own losses enable us to be with others who are also suffering and this enhances us and our life experience rather than diminishes us, even though it can be tough going at times, especially at Christmas.

    • Hi Emily – thanks for your comment. It has definitely been my experience that although childlessness broke my heart, grieving that loss has healed it bigger, and given me a much greater capacity both to bear my own losses and empathise with others who struggle. Which is all of us, mothers or not! There’s no shortage of pain and loss to go around and every human life has its share. Lovely to hear from you again honey and big hug. Jody x

  3. Jody, thank you so much for your heartfelt blog. Being childless can feel so isolating…and reading this was like a balm! Please know that what you have achieved is so amazing and has helped so many of us. I also love that so many hugely articulate ladies have added comments….reading through them curled up with a cup of tea was like spending time with some buddies! Thank you.
    The last few days have been tough….I am so angry with myself for feeling ‘cup half full’ when I do have lots to be ‘grateful for’ but sometimes I am just so bone weary with putting on a brave face and carrying on when I just feel so wretched and wrecked by my quest to parenthood which – like so many of us – has been a long journey filled with loss, heartache, anxiety and alas not the outcome we had dreamt of.

    Onwards and upwards….I have today signed up for your private GW forum and in the new year will dive back into working through your book (It having been winking at me from my bookshelf for a few months now).
    Wishing you all good things in 2015.

    • Hi NicolaJane – I’m glad that you found that my blog kept you company and yes, the comments do indeed give a taste of what’s it like to be part of the GW+ Online Community – so I’m really glad it’s tempted you to join us! See you there and much love from London, Jody xx

  4. Thanks for your honesty Jody. I’m glad that so many confirm that there is hope after dealing with the grief but as ever there will always be sucker-punch moments. Mine was yesterday – sitting in my mum and dad’s front room while my niece ran around and her pregnant mother confirmed the due date as being the same as mine would have been had junior made it.

    Ouch! Really difficult to suck up so to my shame I faked illness to get out of there double quick. It’s tough as my mum and dad don’t know about the miscarriage or the infertility, but doubly tougher when my brother does but is very unthinking.

    I’m really hoping that 2015 is a more positive year for all of us that are facing learning to live with being child free.

    • Hi Sarah – nothing wrong with faking illness in such situations – it’s a form of self care and nothing to be ashamed of. Sometimes it’s hard if those close to us know our story and are insensitive, or don’t know our story and presume we’ve chosen not to have kids. There’s no ‘right’ way to do this hard journey, just ‘your’ way. Hugs, Jody x

  5. Hi Jody, thank you for a lovely article. You were brave to go to church but I guess church is for single childless women too. Even so I didn’t go this year. I feel awkward as a single childless women in a congregation full of families – either couples with children or couples without children. The vicar shakes everyone’s hand as people leave the church and I could not face this – a family before me, a family after me and single childless me. I still have some sort of spirituality. I feel that if God wanted me to go to church He would have blessed me with a faithful partner and if I was really blessed, children as well. This is not the case. Church is built around families and is not for single childless women. However single men in the congregation are always being matched up with somebody’s daughter, niece or cousin. It doesn’t matter how old they are. The last time I was at church somebody pointed me in the direction of an 80 something lifelong bachelor – I am in my early 40s. I was told by the well-meaning matron that I shouldn’t be fussy and I wasn’t going to get any more chances as I was getting long in the tooth!

    Anyone who isn’t living the traditional heterosexual lifestyle of coupledom with or without children will feel ill at ease in church.

    Jody, would you consider writing a piece about spirituality and single childless women?

    • Hi Elle – I’m sorry that you feel unable to attend services anymore. I certainly would have felt like that a few years ago, and I’d still be unlikely to go completely on my own – I was with my outlaw family this time. It’s a very rare pastor/vicar/priest who has some understanding of our situation, but they do exist. I know of some GWs who have gone to visit several churches and spoken with them privately to find one that was sympathetic before becoming a member of the congregation – and they found one… I write about spirituality (or ‘source’ as I think of it) in my book but will definitely consider writing an article about it as it’s been very interesting reading everyone’s comments on this one. Glad you’re with your tribe here at GW. Hugs, Jody x

    • Hi Elle,

      I am so sad to hear about your experience of church but I would say that not all churches are like that! I am a single and childless woman and I am really involved with my church. There are hard parts and it does feel that families are catered for more than single people but I guess as they make up the majority of people who are attending that is to be expected. The difficulty comes if catering for any one group is done to the exclusion of all others.

      The vicar of my church is very supportive of me as a single woman – today I am going to spend the day with him and his wife as they have welcomed me into being a part of their family and I spend a day over Christmas with them every year.

      I read an amazing book last year called “Single-Minded” by Kate Wharton about being single in the church, there is a great chapter called “Living a God-obsessed life in a marriage-obsessed church” – I found it really helpful and encouraging.

      I also felt so sad reading your comment that if God had meant you to go to church then he would have given you a partner and possibly children too. My understanding of God is that he desires ALL of us to enter into a meaningful and loving relationship with him, regardless of our life circumstances. I will never know why he hasn’t given you – or me – those things but I do believe that it doesn’t mean that he loves us any less or wants a relationship with us any less. And church should be a family where ALL are accepted – for me one of the best thing about church is that it is about people who are all flawed and all broken living life together the best way that they can. I’m so sorry that this hasn’t been your experience and I hope and pray that you can find a church that will allow you to find this acceptance and love – both from the church members and from God.

    • Elle, I am a member of the GW private forum and Jody posted a general invitation to those of us who are Christians to participate in the conversation on this blog. Please see below for my own comments on spirituality and being a single childless woman.
      Thanks,

      Victoria Edwards.

  6. Thank you for your lovely post, Jody. I went to mass with my mother yesterday (my father died (grandchildless) this past year adding extra knots in my gut). I girded myself for the usual homily, and sure enough we started off with the miracle blessing and “all parents know that a child changes everything.” Your life is never the same, where there was quiet there is now the pitter-patter of feet and battery-operated toys, where there was darkness they bring light, we cherish them, a child reaches its arms to you and your heart melts with love, and all the sleepless nights caring for them are worth it, especially in your old age when they thank you with the same kind of loving care. So that annual speech I was ready for. But then he launched a new chapter I hadn’t heard from a priest (and found rather daring given their life-choices)—there are so many selfish people who will not have children, our society is full of self-centered “screen-centered” people who do not have children because they will not make room in their lives, and oh, btw, there’s a French book called “No Child” and its selling tons of copies because the French are even more selfish than Americans, and…
    You get the picture. I just stared out the window and tried not to watch my mother eyeing (talk about coveting) somebody else’s row of grandchildren in front of us.

    • Hi Jen – thanks for your comment. Oh dear, that ‘chapter’ from the Priest sounds not only painful, but deeply insulting and excruciating – not to mention plain INCORRECT! France has one of the highest birthrates in Europe because of their incredibly supportive state benefits for mothers and families. The childlessness rate is 12% compared to the almost 25% in the UK! When one consider that in a pre-birth control population childlessness was fairly consistent at 10%, you can really see that very few French women are ‘selfishly choosing childlessness’ over ‘screentime’! Why does he presume that (a) they have ‘chosen’ it and (b) even if they have, that they have chosen it for ‘selfish’ reasons? His reasons were not, theoretically ‘selfish’?! Also, recent data out of the Netherlands shows that 10% of childless women are ‘childfree’ (they chose not to have children), 10% are infertile for medical reasons and 80% are childless by circumstance. Perhaps you might like to let him know a few facts in a letter before he continues to preach on the subject!
      And your mother taking it all in and eyeing up other people’s grandchildren. I admire you for sitting through this service – I think I would have had to walk out in a rage!
      Hugs, Jody x
      And

    • I think your priest is missing the point of the Christian faith somewhat – the Church was never meant to be an exclusive private club only for those who are lucky enough to be able to reproduce. Jesus preached inclusion of the lonely, heartbroken, etc. Being judgemental about people who feel they are not able to be good parents for whatever reason is not helpful either.

      • Jen, I’m outraged on your behalf – how incredibly insensitive and wrong he is. Aren’t priests celibate and therefore childless? I don’t know how you sat through it, you are a stronger and more forgiving person than me to not have walked out.

        • I completely agree that this Priest was out of order – and completely wrong! That is NOT the Christian perspective – that is to love people in their pain and brokenness. I’m sorry you had to hear that and hope it has only put you off that Priest and not off God!

  7. Jody, I was so delighted to see your post in my inbox when I woke up this morning. Your writing always moves me and makes me think. The work you are doing is making the world a better place for so many women and the fact that you are still able to say so openly and honestly that the pain of childlessness never goes away is such an inspiration. It reminds me that the answer is never ‘to get over it’ but to live through it and beyond it. Thank you. And thanks also for your lovely and so very thoughtful Christmas card. See you early in 2015 I hope for drinks and further chewing of the cud over the manger. Jessica x

    • Hi Jessica – lovely to hear from you and I’m touched to hear that my writing moves you. I no longer see my childlessness as something I will ever ‘get over’ although I am now very happy and content in my life again. I see the griefy moments as normal and healthy and they no longer alarm me. I used to have griefy days and even griefy months and years – I’m fine with a griefy moment!! I am reminded in your comment of a quote that helped me so much when I was living with the nightmare of my then-husband’s addictions and getting a divorce from a man I loved but could no longer live with – Robert Frost’s “The best way out is through”. I didn’t realise it, but it was about coming out of denial and living in the grief and through the grief. It has become a way of life for me now, to lean towards the feeling rather than away, and to embrace it rather than endure it. It’s not an easy practice, but then pain is never a pleasant teacher… However, it definitely shortens the cycle of anguish. Looking forward to seeing you next year – it’s been too long! Hugs, Jody xx

  8. This time last year, weeks away from my 42nd birthday, I felt optimistic and thought I had come to terms with the childlessness. How wrong I was. My lovely new doctor arranged for some super quick fertility tests this Spring. I went along thinking they would tell me I still had time. Instead the brutally honest consultant told me that I had very little chance of conceiving, even if I could afford IVF (which I cant’t). What followed has been a year of overwhelming grief when I often questioned if there was any point continuing with my life. It was also the year in which my mother announced that my one cousin (in an extended family of extremely fertile women) who I presumed would be my comrade in childlessness, was pregnant with twins at the age of 41. I am not sure I would have climbed out of this despair if I hadn’t started a new job where I support young people with all kinds of disabilities, and also met many other childless people through my meet up groups. I have re-found some hope these last few weeks, but am extremely disappointed by the lack of ‘likes’ when I posted your meme at the top of the page on my FB page on Christmas Eve. It does very much feel like a taboo, something which people fear and treat with shame, however I no longer care about embarrassing or making those who haven’t gone through infertility uncomfortable. I also went to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve and celebrating the divine birth in a church packed with kids was a little poignant. Anyway, thanks for this post and for continuing to ensure we are not invisible or insignificant. All the best to Jody and everyone in 2015.

    • Hi and thanks for commenting. I’m so sorry to hear what a very tough year of grief you’ve been having and the extra blows of losing your last childless ‘comrade’ to motherhood. You are right – childlessness and infertility are indeed MAJOR taboos – I meet many GWs who tell me that they read the Gateway Women Facebook page but don’t ‘like’ the page or any of the posts because they don’t want anyone else to know that this is an issue for them. So, please know that posting that article will have helped more people than you know, or are able to let you know. I’m so glad you’ve found GW and that you are finding meaning through your work and well done for Midnight Mass – that poignancy is something I recognise and I’m sure others will too. Best to you for 2015. Hugs, Jody x

      • 3 likes to that Meme, all from mothers…even now I feel a sense of shame for what seems like “indulging” my childlessness…my dad would’ve seen it, but has chosen not to “like”, my sister who unintentionally didn’t have a child until she was 40 would be mortified by it…but I am glad I put it up, and also added thanks to those who liked it today and said why it was so important I had their acknowledgment…(Midnight mass? Once a catholic…!) anyway, thank you Jody, hope 2015 brings lots of special things back to you. Clarabx

    • Hi lambethgal09 – just wanted to say that I also experienced a horrible NHS appointment this year with a brutally honest male consultant who told me that I had less than 1% chance of conceiving at my age, and that NHS would not support me if I chose to go down the route of IVF. I was also told very clearly that if I did decide to pay for IVF treatment,I had little to no chance of finding an egg donor. I remember asking if I had any options at all, to which the answer was a very firm “No”. I was absolutely devastated.

      In desperation, I sent out an email asking if there were any GW Meetups in my area, and now I find myself organising one on a monthly basis. Although it’s a very small group, it has been brilliant, and has honestly helped me so much. When we meet, we share experiences, we discuss our fears, the things we find difficult, and more. It has been something I would describe as an ‘awakener’ – I feel so much stronger and more accepting of my situation now that I know I have an outlet where I can talk freely about it with those who understand.

      If you’re not already going to a Meetup group, then I heartily recommend it. Take the plunge – it’s SO worth it!!

      Susie

  9. Jody, this has brought tears to my eyes. I have to thank you from the bottom of my heart for Gateway Women. This year has been immensely hard for me as I have gone through major surgery and realised the end of my fertility but, along with my Christian faith, Gateway has given me the strength to get through it – sometimes smiling, sometimes crying, sometimes afraid, sometimes hopeful.

    I had a Christmas that I chose this year. My best friend arrived on Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day we went to church, went for a walk, came back and put pjs on and spent the afternoon reading, eating good food, watching tv, chatting. Today we got up late and made brunch and are now sitting together doing our own thing. It has been beautiful and relaxed and I have appreciated it so much. We got through a very family-focussed service at church together and managed to enjoy most of it. It has felt a real step forward. And my birth family have also realised that, just because I am single and childless, I have a family that I have created and who are real and valid and that it is okay for me to spend time at Christmas with both sets of people.

    So, thank you. Much love for 2015.

    • Hi Kerry – I’m so moved by your comment. I know it’s been such a tough year for you and I’m so pleased that you found GW. I think it’s fantastic that you did YOUR Christmas YOUR way – that’s what I call Reclaiming Christmas. I’m so glad that your birth family have been able to accept your need to spend time with your ‘chosen family’ too – it’s often not the case… I really hope to see you in February and I wish you a full recovery from the surgery very soon. Hugs, Jody x

  10. Hi Jody,
    that is a lovely story. Thanks for all your work with GW, it is really a great place you’ve created! My Christmas was good, relaxed and I actually had a good time with my little nephew (one year) and my brothers and their partners. All somehow know that I would love to have kids, but as a single woman it’s just not a possibility for me at the moment.
    There was no stupid talk but reassurance that the things that I find important in my life are great and that they’ll be there for me.
    Bug hug to all of us out there.

    • Hi Theatersachen and thanks for letting me know how your Christmas was for you – great to hear that you were able to enjoy your little nephew – that can be really hard for us sometimes… It’s good that those around you know that you would like to be a mother but refrain from giving you stupid advice… what a gift at Christmas!! I’m glad you’re part of GW and I wish you a lovely NY and I’ll see you in the GW+ Online Community! Hugs, Jody x

  11. My cousin yesterday brought up kids: ‘So, when are you going to be a mommy? Your time is running out.’ My family doesn’t mean to, but every time they say something like that it breaks me. I can’t help but think ‘What if I had done things different?’ It is what it is. I feel bad saying this but I’m jealous of my husband. He has a child and never wanted to be a parent. Yet I would do anything to be a mother to have that joy.

    • Hi Jacki – it’s so surprising that people still think that this is an open topic for conversation, isn’t it?! As if you didn’t know the facts of life and needed her to tell you?! I’m sorry you had to deal with this on Christmas day, or any day of the year. Try not to beat yourself up too much about your jealousy… it’s only natural and doesn’t make you a bad person, honest! You might want to check out the work of Karla McLaren on emotions – you can read her take on jealousy here – it’s a real eye-opener! Hugs, Jody x
      http://karlamclaren.com/the-social-genius-of-jealousy-and-envy/

  12. Hi Jody,
    Thank you for the real and honest way you have talked about your Christmas – you made it yours and then you told it how it is.
    There are as many church styles as there are Christians – I relate to God through modern Christian music most easily – but there are a lot of traditional churches out there for those looking for that. I’m sorry you didn’t find it when you needed it.
    I had to run the technology for the crib service at my church this year. Afterwards, nobody spoke to me. Standing there, child-less, at a service for children was heartbreaking. Thank you for the connection that your writing brings – I knew I had access to the thinking that you bring even in that moment.

    • Hi Sarah – thanks for your comment. Your experience of standing at the crib and being left there sounds really painful. I still cannot fathom the blindness of others to our situation – or even the common courtesies that often pass us by if we are both single AND childless! I’m glad that you have found a way to relate to modern Christian music – in fact I’m really glad to meet someone who actually likes it – I was wondering what the point of it was!! I think I have found what works for me, which is to be open to a sense of the divine in everything (including the church at times) but not to define myself as an ‘anything’ any more. That way I remain open to the mystery, wherever it finds me…. Hugs, Jody x

      • Jody, I love your comment about modern Christian music above – having become a Christian at age 21, into a “modern” “evangelical” church, I was, in faith terms, brought up on modern worship songs with a smattering of older hymns. The hymns contain some magnificent words and I enjoy using them for worship when I am free to concentrate on those. I often find myself running a critical mind over newer songs to critique excessive emphasis on us and our experience of God, rather than on him and his magnificence – not a helpful thing to do in the middle of a worship time!
        I have met with, encountered, felt the presence of (choose your preferred term) God in both traditional and modern church services, but I think that each type has something to offer. Traditional services emphasise God’s holiness and approach him in respectful awe but without much intimacy, it seems to me. The sort of service I am more used to emphasises our relationship with God as one of intimacy and awe and I sometimes feel that awe can take too much of a second place.

        More generally, I was very low between August and Christmas just gone and because I live with clinical depression did not immediately identify my feelings as grief at childlessness, though I now think that this was the largest part of it. In a sense, I think it was finding the GateWay women forum that precipitated that. During that time my feeling strengthened that the church I am in, whilst a family, focuses on the nuclear family and that when the chips are down and e.g. summer holidays or Christmas come around, that family structure takes precedence.

        I was, therefore, all the more moved to be recounting my feelings to a friend recently who is the wife of the church’s leading elder, and to find her responding with perception and empathy about my grief. There are, indeed, still people out there who have children and yet “get it”. I have yet to tell her how much her comments meant to me.

  13. So this year, I spent Christmas on my own. I ran away to ‘escape’ the grief of a very recent divorce. Of course, I have escaped nothing, and deep down I also knew I wouldn’t. My own challenges with religion and faith are also thrown into sharp focus at this time of year, adding more layers of inner turbulence.

    Reading posts like this from you, and also the women who are part of the GW community who share their experiences, insights, understanding, compassion, hearts and wisdom has become valuable to me in a way I never really understood it would when I first joined the community.

    It is very helpful to be in such good, honest, open, thoughtful, intelligent and and also humourful company while navigating this life which is so set-up for families and children, and so misunderstanding of the people who don’t have them for so many reasons.

    • Hi Abigail – thank you so much for your comment. Whether alone or with others, Christmas is a challenging time for childless women, particularly if we are still processing our grief over that and, so many other things. I remember the first few Christmases after my divorce as very challenging indeed and I was still in denial about my childlessness at that point (or still hopeful, they can be much the same thing sometimes…) I’m so glad you found GW and that with your sister GWs, you have a tribe who can help you navigate this time in your life. Thank you for being part of this and for adding your own wisdom and compassion to the mix. Hugs, Jody x

  14. Hi Jody, just wanted to say thank you for creating Gateway Women. Before I found GWW I was out in the world feeling unhappy, disenfranchised and isolated. I have had such an opportunity to grow, heal and make wonderful, happy and meaningful friendships through Gateway women. Now I have people to laugh with me at the fun stuff but who don’t turn away if I’m experiencing grief (luckily less and less these days). GWW has allowed me to be accepted for my authentic self. It is such a gift.

    • Hi M-Elza – thanks for taking the time to comment and share your experience. I absolutely agree – having others around us who ‘get us’ means that, in reality, we don’t actually have to talk about our childlessness all the time (which is what some women who haven’t yet had the pleasure of a GW meetup often think). But it does mean that there is a background similarity in our emotional experience of life that makes connecting and enjoying the diversity of GWs is such a pleasure, and so ‘safe’. One GW coming to one of my workshops once said that she automatically does a ‘bump scan’ to every room she walks into, and did as she came into the workshop, and then realised with huge relief that this was one day when she wasn’t going to have to be ‘thrilled’ for someone else’s ‘news’! Hugs, Jody x

  15. Thank you for another beautiful post, Jody. I remember reading your blog for the first time, 2,5 years ago and it touched my heart. It was so incredibly good to see another woman who had gone through the same grief I was going through and who came out healed. You made me believe that it was possible.

    And then, two years ago, just before Christmas, I joined the GW community. It was exactly what I needed. The sense of sisterhood and the feeling of being understood helped me tremendously on my journey.

    I just spent Christmas exactly the way I like it, and I probably wouldn’t have had the strength to do so had I not met you. You do spread your love in so many other ways, and I am grateful for that. You’re helping me do the same. You rock!

    • Hello dearest Marjon and Happy Christmas! I’m so glad that you have been able to have your Christmas the way YOU want it this year – that is such an achievement for us as we are expected to fit around everyone else as ‘the childless one’ and reclaiming Christmas for us if often seen as yet another sign of our ‘selfishness’ and ‘self indulgence’ as if somehow not having children robbed us of our adult independence as well as so much else! With hugs, Jody xx

  16. Thank you. Your writing always comforts me when I am down. I know lots of other childless women but not well enough to broach the subject regarding the pain of it all. Perhaps we too need to come out of the closet! I also find it difficult having suffered so many years of infertility to hold on to any sort of faith, especially in the Catholic Church, where large families are venerated.

    • Hi Debbie – thanks for commenting. I’m so glad that my writing brings you comfort. It’s interesting how sometimes it’s hard to discuss our situation even with other childless women isn’t it? We can never be totally sure where they might be at in their own process – some in denial, some quite happy, others in pain but not wanting to show it, etc. One possible suggestion might be to share an article of mine with them and say, what do you think of this? It’s often a less pressured way to open up a dialogue. Some will ignore it, some might be puzzled why you’ve shared it but there may very well be one who says, “ah, you too?” And that makes all the difference, as you know from the GW Community! With hugs, Jody x

  17. It’s so valuable to know that even when you’ve worked through the grief and loss that there are moments when it returns, and sometimes (or often) unexpectedly. To know that those moments will come and go, and that it’s okay…. is very comforting.

    I particularly related to your comment that in all our lives we experience pain, and you explain the interaction so well and with such clarity:
    “‘I know that no life is free of pain’, I said, looking into her eyes and, in that moment we knew each other’s truth.”

    Thanks Jody.

    • Hi Neens – thanks for taking the time to comment. Yes, I think there will always be ‘griefy moments’ around my childlessness as the losses from it will last a lifetime. However, I’m glad that you found it comforting rather than alarming. I find them moments of deep connection to the truth of my experience and also an hounouring of the memory of the children I never met. I no longer fear them and, embraced as such, they pass quickly, and leave more healing behind. As a culture, we are so shamed by our pain – each one of us that realises how much this holds us back is a pioneer. We never know how our pain touches others, but it often helps rather than hinders them process the many ungrieved losses they may be carrying too… Hugs, Jody x

  18. i sat with two boys who love me they are my cousins daughters boyfriends children .

    And I feel it is progress for me they like me more than any other of the adults because I never do the things like feed them or clothe them or tell them how to behave .

    I am 57 they are 10 and 12 – I treasure the fact that my cousin knew to sit me at the table with them it was so thoughtful

    I could have been left with a boring deaf aunt either side of me or an ailing husband
    the children had the enthusiasm that I need in my life

    I do not even feel sad anymore that I cannot have more as I know the agony of what mothers go through to please their children and end up inevitably on edge

    thanks for this great website as I am feeling in need of connection to people who face similar issues to me.

    I plan to take myself to the fair as I do not have any children to take

    thank you
    krysia

    • Hi Krysia and thanks for commenting. I’m glad that you were able to enjoy the company of the young people at your table. As a childless aunt, I find that I have a different relationship with my nieces and nephews than do their other Aunts (all whom are the mothers of their cousins). They see me a rather special and unusual kind of grown-up and I hope that that unique relationship will continue when/if some of them have children of their own one day. All of my nieces and nephews are by love not blood (through my ex-husband) so it feels like a very ‘chosen’ love. I agree that it’s nice to be able to have the enthusiasm of children around us – although it’s not something we can often do until we are in a ‘good’ place ourselves about our childlessness, which it seems that you are. The worst of the sadness has passed and also the envy of mothers – their life is a different life to ours, and not always a better one… I hope you had a lovely time at the fair! Do come and join us in our online community – you will find many other women like us to become friends and sisters with! Hugs, Jody x

  19. Reading your article on holiday in Vietnam and it brought tears to my eyes. Even being thousands of miles away from it all dosn’t stop the pain and loss. Is was so good that you were with another person who showed such caring support and empathy. Well done for a great article and for all your support and kindness. Perhaps 2015 will be a year of moving forward for myself and others.

    • Hi Debbie – I remember being away from the UK at Christmas and how the triggers still find us, wherever we are, as we carry them inside us. I have had many, many experiences of my pain NOT being met and held, and I know how incredibly doubly painful it is, so I feel very blessed by that moment yesterday. My wish for 2015 is that we manage to get the message out into society that our pain is as real and disabling as any other loss and not the awkward self-indulgence that it’s often portrayed as. Hugs from London, Jody xxx

    • Hi Maria – thanks for commenting. It’s so raw sometimes putting our truth out into the world, whether in the day to day context of our lives, or in a blog like this. Knowing that you’ve read it and, as always, ‘get’ me, is a great comfort. I am so blessed that GW has brought you into my life and I wish you peace this day. Hugs, Jody x

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