Have you ever found yourself getting hooked on a feeling, without understanding how or why it keeps happening?
When we go through fertility challenges, there is a rollercoaster of emotions that comes with it. The natural process of grief, which allows us to mourn the loss of what we never had and learn to live with it, has 5 stages:
The first step, denial and isolation, is often accompanied by the thought “This isn’t happening, this can’t be happening”. It is a normal reaction to rationalise emotions, to tone down the immediate shock of the loss.
After a while, reality and pain resurface, and expresses itself as anger. Sometimes anger towards society, family, friends, complete strangers. This anger is irrational, we know those people are not to blame. But emotionally there is resentment, which causes guilt for being angry and causes us to be even more angry.
The third stage, bargaining, comes about as a result of feelings of helplessness and vulnerability, and by trying to regain control. It’s accompanied by thoughts of “If only I had looked for medical help sooner”, “If only I had been careful with my life choices”, “If only I had started trying for a baby sooner”, “If only…”. We might even make a deal with God, the Universe or a higher power. This is a way to postpone the painful and inevitable reality.
The next stage is depression, the confrontation with reality that brings sadness and regret. People may feel loss of faith, of power, of dreams in the future, loss of sexuality and intimacy, loss of self-image (womanhood/manhood). A lot of people get stuck in this phase, and feel they are entitled to being depressed because of the struggle they are in. They resist the inevitable and deny themselves the opportunity to make peace.
The final stage is acceptance, when the person has accepted the reality of the loss and is able to put energy into the present and to start to plan for the future. It may mean acceptance of a life without children or acceptance of not having a child as initially thought and be ready to incorporate a different way of creating a family. The person has renewed energy and might consider treatments that were previously unacceptable to them.
However, the natural process of grief may not be linear, and more often than not, people facing fertility challenges get stuck in the middle and have ongoing feelings of anger, anxiety, fear, worry, frustration, depression, and despair… never being able to come to terms with it and peacefully accept. It can last a lifetime, affecting their relationship with themselves, with partners, family, friends, society.
A lot of people go through fertility treatments or adoption without reaching this acceptance stage, meaning their chances of success will be impaired by the rollercoaster of emotions (there is a lot of evidence that shows how stress reduces fertility success). Not having reached the acceptance phase also means they are not ready for whatever the result might be of those treatments or adoption. If not successful, they might feel the rollercoaster of emotions of the grieving process intensify and make it more difficult to deal with and peacefully accept. If successful, they might have unresolved feelings towards a child that came into their lives differently to what initially thought.
As we go through the rollercoaster, we never know how we’ll react. The phases are not linear, and different circumstances can take us back to denial, anger, or depression. That’s why it is so important to have peacefully accepted before we undergo fertility treatments or adoption. Letting go of the past, and embracing the new reality, will give us the energy to plan the brilliant and happy future we desire, and increase our chances of achieving it.
This is why coaching with neurolinguistic programming and logotherapy is crucial in your fertility journey. It will help you go through the phases of grief quicker so you can peacefully accept and live a meaningful life with everything you are dreaming of.
Andreia Trigo | www.infertile-life.com