Answer from: Karenna Wood
Infertility itself is almost like a loss. There’s so much grief there as you go through your cycle and you get your period there’s grief. If you go through an IVF cycle and get a negative, there’s grief, and there’s also loss of a pregnancy at any stage is a loss. I think sometimes it’s hard because we can’t mark a miscarriage or a loss, or a chemical pregnancy or loss at a really early stage but it is a loss, it is a loss to you of hope, and a dream, and due date, and those milestones that you were counting on when you saw those two pink lines or knew that you were pregnant finally.
It’s really important to actually find ways to mark this loss, to commemorate the life, and there’s lots of support out there and help for you to do this but maybe it’s all about finding your own way to mark this loss, so it may be that you find a little space in your home, and have a picture frame, a candle that you light, anything like that finding like almost like a little sacred space in your home where to house that grief where you can return to when you need to connect with those feelings.
You may also want to mark this with some sort of ceremony like tree planting, or having a bench in your garden, or something like that. Another thing you can do is actually write a letter to your child and it would be a very emotional experience because yourself and your partner can do this as well and this can actually be incredibly cathartic in getting through some of those emotions and channeling them through this letter. Some people like to keep their letters, other people like to burn them in a fire or make the letters part of the ceremony part of the tree planting. so marking and commemorating loss is very much part of our society but we need to bring that into loss during infertility as well and that can be a really key way to cope.
Another way to cope is to find your tribe. Who else is out there who has gone through this? Find the support groups near you, online support groups, and organizations, there are some wonderful ones out there able to support you.
Lastly, being specific with those around you, if you can be really clear with those around you what you need as you go through this. Often when it becomes a loss and infertility people don’t know what to say and often cause more problems by fumbling through and saying the wrong things. If you can be specific about what you want people to say, when, and what you need particularly straight after a loss, be very specific about what you need, for example, “bring meals around and drop them on my doorstep”, “can you take this somewhere else”, just be really specific and clear and that can really help in those early days over that loss.
Answer from: Sarah Banks
One thing that often gets said to me when I’m talking to people in my support group going through treatment is that there are so many different levels of grief and at different points. It might be grief for a life that you’ve planned out for yourself that you feel like you are struggling to get to. It could be grieving for lost embryos if you’ve had a failed cycle. It could be grief for falling pregnant naturally, grieving that you have to have fertility treatment, through to grieving that you have to stop fertility treatment. You feel that it’s the right point for you to stop treatment for your own emotional or physical wellbeing. Or grief due to a loss. There are so many different levels, so I want to talk about a couple of those things.
Firstly, and most importantly, seek support if you are really struggling. It’s really important to speak to somebody. Whether that is a family member or friend if you feel more comfortable with that. I would also strongly recommend speaking to a fertility counsellor who can help you if you struggle with these feelings and struggling to move past the grief you’ve got. They can really help you process some of that. It might be grieving a loss of a failed cycle, worrying about how you’ll get into the next cycle and how you’ll cope with that. Fertility counsellors are really important in helping you deal with some of those emotions.
Most importantly, get support from somebody who can help you, and as I say, that might just be speaking to a family friend; they may not understand the same way. A fertility counsellor is perfect for helping with that. Allow yourself to grieve. Don’t feel that you have to hide it. Don’t minimise your grief and think that you shouldn’t grieve or that somebody else has had it worse because it’s such and such, or I don’t know why I’m grieving for a lost embryo. You have the right to grieve. After my failed cycle, I really struggled to get going with the next one because I was grieving for the opportunity and the hope I’d had for that embryo. It’s perfectly normal; allow yourself to grieve, give yourself the time you need, and again that will be different for everybody. Put yourself first. Allow yourself to do whatever you need to do to cope with that grief, and don’t feel ashamed about it. Don’t feel guilty about it. Do what you need to do to get through it.
Focus on self-care and looking after yourself, whatever format that is. Self-care is such a varied spectrum of things. It could be having time out to read, having time out to walk. It could be medicating. It could be journaling. It could be taking time out to go and have a facial because you know that relaxes you, or going for acupuncture. But make time for that and focus on yourself emotionally and doing what you need to do to get through it. Acknowledge the loss; this is completely personal, and some people like to do little rituals to acknowledge that loss. Some people like to talk about it a lot to acknowledge that something has happened and it’s not something that can be forgotten.
Acknowledge that loss in whatever way is right for you. You could write a letter to that child, I know that’s been helpful to some people, or planted trees or flowers. Think about what you want to do to recognise that loss. Know that it’s ok and there is nothing to be ashamed of or feel guilty about with that. Reach out to family and friends and let them know how you feel and how you would like them to support you. People tend to wait for 12 weeks before they tell anybody about the pregnancy. Then if you sadly suffer a loss, you don’t necessarily have the support around you. Don’t feel you have to do that, do what’s right for you. Tell people how you would like them to support you because they often don’t know and would appreciate knowing the best way to support you. Journaling is another great way of getting down those feelings. You don’t have to show anybody. If you want to write, free write, put down whatever you are feeling; you don’t need to show it to anybody. Write without fear of being judged over whatever you are doing. Spend time as a couple. Think about why you are a couple, to start with and do things together as a couple. Cope together, grieve together and support one another in a way that you both need support. As I said, most importantly if you are really struggling, reach out to somebody. Reach out to a counsellor if you are really struggling with your grief and moving past that.
How to deal with loss and grief after unsuccessful infertility treatment?
Unsuccessful infertility treatment is a true loss. Grief is a completely normal feeling at such time. Watch the video answers and learn how to cope with these overwhelming emotions.