Do any of the following sound like you?
- You find yourself hiding out in the bathroom at the office because of your colleagues’ endless babytalk…
- You walk home alone across town, in the freezing rain, just to get away from your ‘last’ childless friend’s announcement of her ‘miracle’ pregnancy…
- You avoid family events and spend most of your cash on holidays and retreats abroad during the Christmas season…
- You snap and bitch at your partner so much that you wouldn’t be surprised if they left you…
- You’ve given up dating all together…
- You couldn’t give a shit what you look like anymore…
- You have these gruesome fantasies about friends or family dying and you ending up taking care of their children..
- You’re unreliable, sloppy and cranky at work – or you’ve become a workaholic…
- You’ve had a terrible haircut and don’t care…
- You can’t cope with socialising anymore…
- You’ve stopped opening your post or keeping up with your bills…
- You’ve turned off so many people’s feed on Facebook there’s nothing left to look at…
- You hate Facebook, but somehow still like to torture yourself by checking up on ‘what’s become of so-and-so’ just to see if there’s anyone left in the whole damn world who doesn’t have kids. You decide there isn’t…
- You’re overeating, drinking too much, spending too much time online or watching box-sets that you don’t even like very much…
- You can’t read books anymore…
- All of the things you used to enjoy feel as much fun as a root canal…
- You do all your shopping online so as to avoid spending time around mothers and children in public…
- You’ve fallen out with your siblings after yet another awful gathering and so don’t even get to see your nephews and nieces anymore…
- You’ve been depressed, listless and angry for so long now you reckon it’s probably the ‘new normal’ for you…
- You find yourself developing a deep and hostile loathing of ‘happy families’ and worry that you are becoming a bitter bitch…
- You don’t want to end your life, but staying alive seems a real drag some days..
You’re not crazy. You’re grieving.
Being childless is bewildering for so many reasons. It’s a chronic shock to our identity as women. We grieve not just the children we might not or never will know, but also the loss of that part of our female identity that is tied up with motherhood.
Yet, because our loss is conceptual, invisible and unmentionable, many of us don’t even know that what we are experiencing is grief. And that grief is good.
Grief is not the problem. Not grieving is the problem.
But no-one can grieve alone, inside their head, because that’s not how grief works. Grief is a form of love, and it requires company – it needs to see its reality reflected back to itself from the heart and soul of another human being. Just as love does.
Unrequited grief is as crippling as unrequited love, and it can last a lifetime, because grief is patient. It will wait until you seek out that supportive ‘other’, that mirror – like other childless women. (Yes, there are other ways too, but this has got to be the fastest I’ve found).
I have grieved my childlessness. What was an open wound in my heart is now a scar. And I can live with a scar, risk with a scar, laugh with a scar, dance with a scar, love with a scar. My healing occurred because in April 2011 I started writing about my pain, and women like you from all over the world wrote back, and a dialogue began here on the blog. And I’ve learned that grief is a dialogue, not a monologue.
Grief heals us so that we can fall in love with life again, but we can’t do it alone. It’s a poisonous myth of our individualistic culture.
I visit Gateway when I need a fix of other womens’ stories. To know I am not the only one. I am 50 and childless. I am also single, never been married. I have been dating forever it seems, often with long breaks in between. I never ruled out the idea of children, but it was only going to be with someone I loved completely and hopefully had married happily.
I lived with someone in my late 20s, ended badly as he was cheating and I more or less had a breakdown over it, and after recovering I slowly got back into dating again. On and off for 20 years … fast forward – I ended an on-off relationship last year, with a widower who had children. I thought I could form a sort of family, with this man and his adult sons.
There were problems and he turned out to have his own issues, and was often emotionally and verbally abusive. It crept in slowly … He could not understand how I could have gotten to my point in life without commitment and thought I had a “single wall” ! He could not understand that I didn’t get to meet ” a suitable partner” and be married by my mid-late twenties, as he was. (His wife was his second serious partner!) His grief of losing his wife was easy to understand for everyone. It was hard feeling second best sometimes.
The cruncher came after problems in the relationship and we got together for the third time, the old issues and his volcanic temper were still there. We were discussing moving in and I was considering it seriously – after all, I wasn’t getting any younger and had been living alone for considerable years.
After an argument about something he’d done to annoy me, his response was “you wouldn’t be so selfish if you’d had children”. WTF?
I terminated the relationship a week later. To use my grief about being childless, knowing I was having counselling was the most cruel thing he could have done to me. I am still in recovery.
Hi Lynne – that’s so cruel, I’m really glad (and sad) for you that you are out of it. It sounds as though you have been dealing with a narcissist – you might want to check out the work of Richard Dalkeith to help you understand and process the abuse (and make sure that you don’t end up believing any of it!) Hugs, Jody x
I just found this site today, and I am so grateful to read your blog. Today I did this very thing; I locked myself in the toilet at work after a former colleague (that I didn’t know personally) came into work with the most beautiful baby I have ever seen, and everyone stopped to admire it and adore it, and I felt my heart break for a child I so desperately want but fear I won’t have. I also felt angry that they had felt like showing their baby off, and come into an adult space with a child, without any thought about how it might affect other people. Some days I am so consumed with rage and jealousy, that I see a pregnant woman in the street and I want to punch her. I feel so mad with pent up rage that I don’t have the possibility to get pregnant. I feel angry when friends ten years younger than me, and in couples, talk blithely about their intentions to have children in the next few years. I am appalled when well meaning friends say ‘If you want to get pregnant- just do it- go and have a one night stand without a condom’ as if that’s not a risky business, let alone that I think it is unfair to the guy, and not the ideal circumstances I would choose to bring a life into the world with.It seems that there isn’t a day that I can go through where the pain does not come up, or something doesn’t remind me that I am single, and childless at 39. As I approach my 40th birthday, the pain is just becoming more and more acute, and I feel like I can’t bear it. And yet I have to bear it, because I can’t change it, and that is the most excruciating thing of all. Thank you for being honest about your experiences, and making me feel that I am not alone.
The rage and anger are a scary (but normal) part of grief…although society still doesn’t recognise that we have ‘a right’ to grieve! I’m so glad you found us – perhaps you’d find our private online community a really supportive and uplifting place? The last few years of being ‘still hopeful’ as a single & childless woman can be hell – I remember it well… Hugs, Jody x
i just found this site. It certainly helps to read other childless women’s comments; I have been to hell and back many times because of my pain at not being a mum. I have been in a psychiatric ward twice because I just lost my ability to function normally. I am an older women now, but though the pain is easier it never completely goes away. I am very bitter. When people ask, do you have children I lie and say “Yes”, as I can no longer stand the pain of having to say no. My partner has two grown up sons, so I pretend to people that don’t know me that they are mine. I feel as though I don’t like pregnant women, I will never know the joys they must feel. I need help, no one understands me – they just say “be grateful for what you have”. I have nothing without children – well, that’s how I feel.
I was where you are about a month ago. I finally acknowledged that what I am feeling is grief, plain and simple. Let yourself grieve, cry, scream and curse the fates that you did not have a child, because until you do it is hard to move on.
Just know (and I hope take comfort from) there are others of us out there that have and, will feel, the same way, and although we may never meet we are “sisters”.
Take care of yourself because you may not realize it, but the world needs you!
Hello Heather,thank you for your email. I found comfort from reading that yes, there are other women out there in the same situation, it’s just that we don’t get to meet them. Believe me i have cried and screamed over the years. I had IVF once but, because I was with the wrong man at the time I chose not to go through it again. I was willing to try adoption or fostering, but he wasn’t – I’m no longer with him and am much happier. I still stare at baby clothes when out shopping even though I know I will never need to buy them. Sounds silly but I have even been tempted to buy one of those baby like dolls but havn’t yet. I give all my love to my lovely dog Ben. He has helped me a lot. I hope to hear from you and others like us again. Thankyou. Julie.
Thank you, thank you, thank you so much for your site. I’m so glad that google found your site for me. I’m struggling through another Christmas/New Year period where once again, I’m childless and partnerless. A lot of the points in your article above rang so true for me. I was feeling so alone in this struggle, but, realising that there are other people feeling exactly like me has given me a bit of hope to cling on to. Thanks again.
I just learned that I need to have a hysterectomy. At 46 it would appear I am past having a child of my own… it’s Christmas and I cannot stop crying. I don’t want to see anyone or talk about it. Why am I so devastated? I never NOT wanted to be a mother, but now it’s final and something I will never experience.
I just need to find a way to let it go.
Thanks for helping me and others understand that this is real grief I am experiencing.
Thank you Jody for articulating this difficult subject! I would also like to add, I find myself avoiding all of my childfree by choice friends in addition because of their lack of empathy. They think it’s great to not have kids and don’t understand my grief at all. Plus, I get attacked by a lot of well meaning married with chldren friends who just think I must be having the time of my life with all the free-time and money I have. As a result, I talk to no one; I spend time with no one. It’s been very isolating few years for me and this page has really let me see I’m not alone.
I just thought I would comment on your comment kitsune. I really felt for you when I read your comment. I know what you are going through. It can be very lonely as there is indeed a true lack of empathy out there. I dont know if I have started grieving properly really. I’m sure I have in some ways, but have been stuck in depression for the past year. I am going to go online and see if I can find some support and understanding there. I am also going to find a grief counsellor to work with. I wish you well and know that you are not alone.
This article is great! So, I’m not crazy after all. Thanks for posting it.
I’d just like to say, that part of the reason its so difficult to grieve and heal properly is because our grief is disenfranchised, (If it isnt recognised or understood, diminished by society) its very hard to heal.
Reblogged this on gottopickapocketortwo and commented:
Great post on blog about the effects of infertility.
Great piece, Jody! I’ve shared your sentiments and some other observations in my last blog post.
Thank you, thank you, thank you! I just lost my baby after 5 weeks after our final IVF. This has been unbearable and the worst part is that I feel so alone. My mother-in-law just lost her husband and she had friends, mourners, a funeral. I have had to keep on keeping on with a smile on my face. I’m so glad I found this. Thank you!
Thank you, Jody, for making this crystal-clear–the distinction between grief and grieving. Until the online workshop last Saturday, I would not have named any of my jumbled-up feelings as “grief,” but now, having begun the healing process–having begun TO GRIEVE, that is–I recognize that beginning to engage in dialogue, both in the online community and in the workshop, is the way up, out, and forward. I spend way too much time inside my own head, and being part of GW is helping me open up and get out of there for a little while. Such comfort in the sisterhood!
Thanks for commenting and I’m so glad that the online workshop is helping you – roll on the next 3 Modules! And yes, beginning to realise that only dialogue (of some meaningful form) can begin to shift this is a key realisation – and the beginning of the healing and fun to come!
Love, Jody x
Holy cow is this subject EVER important…I just love how you’ve laid it out. Will be passing this around for sure.
Thank you! It’s such a funny thing to grieve – a loss that hasn’t quite materialized into a something first. You really make me seem not so crazy for wanting to grieve.
Grief is a form of love. Grieving love is never crazy. In fact, it’s the only thing that frees us to love again. With a big hug to you xxx
Jody you truly speak to childless women and share the feelings we are not quite ready to say out loud. It is so convoluted to be childless. I feared grieving would be even more grueling than the pain of not being a mother. It meant letting go of the hope, the dream, the experience, the joy, the journey and the feeling of being called mom. When I realized how lost I was from my self and I did not even recognize who I had become then I decided to quit drinking the pain away. I am now celebrating a year free of alcohol and a full year of grieving. I feel better about being me but the pain has not subsided. I look forward to the day when the anger, disappointment, and sadness no longer feel like an emotional handicap to future happiness.
Thank you for your comment and congratulations on a year without drinking. It’s so easy for our coping mechanisms to ramp up in view of the pain we’re in, and it takes courage to address them. Real courage.
“The more you feel, the more you heal’ is a good motto…as long you couple it with ‘the more you share, the more you heal’! Doing it alone just doesn’t work… otherwise we’d all be FINE by now, wouldn’t we?!
Love, Jody x
I spent 25 years running from grief. It waited. I denied. It waited some more. Finally I began the process prompted by Jody Day and by then it was a ****ing TSUNAMI of grief crashing right over me. A year later, here I am. Still soaking wet but… alive. Not numb. Grieving with my Gateway sisters is giving me my life back… (Jo Foulkes)
Thanks Jody and my GW friends.
Thanks for commenting. Yes, grieving hurts, but it also heals.
I’m so happy you found us – you’re such a brilliant member of GW and as well as being smart, compassionate and a real support, you also crack me up regularly!
Love you sister
Once again you’ve hit the nail on the head, Jody. Especially the one about the ‘new normal’ — the new bitter woman — and how awful it is to realize how awful you’ve become to be around. Thank you for reminding us that we need to grieve — that’s a message society doesn’t tell us.
Hi Katie Beth
Thanks for commenting. Yes, it can be an additional layer of sadness when we realise that we hardly recognise who we’ve become… for many of us, it’s the moment when we realise that however it is we think we’re ‘handling’ our situation is causing us (and the people around us!) more harm than good!
Thanks for reaching out – that’s how the healing begins.
Hugs, Jody x