Recently, I've been told by no less than 3 different people that they know someone who is suffering as a result of infertility or baby loss, but that the woman "won't talk to anyone about it." Apparently, each of these women has been living in turmoil for an extended period of time without either opening up to people in their private lives or seeking professional help. The question that hung in the air was why they seem to be choosing to prolong their suffering, rather than doing something about it. My answer? Simply, that it isn't always clear to us that we have a choice between feeling awful or feeling better.
When it hurts so much that you can't see straight - If everything seems too much to bear and you are unable to restore hopefulness, you can feel seriously lonely, despite what a partner, family or friends try to do to console and support you. Life can be thrown seriously out of balance when you let pain get such a strong foothold that there isn't room for anything or anyone else. Negative emotions cause pain that can cloud your mind and interfere with your perspective and your ability to make decisions.
"I don't recognize myself!" - If you are finding it difficult to move forward during or after a painful episode of your life, it does not mean that you are weak. The strongest person can be knocked off balance by a painful diagnosis of infertility or the loss of a baby they were already coming to know and love. Sometimes it's the person with the most orderly, well-planned life, or the most confident, can-do attitude, who finds these situations the most difficult to overcome. It's an unequivocal reminder that there are things in life that are out of our control. It applies to everyone, and is nothing to be embarrassed about.
Letting the pain in, to get it out - Making the choice to begin to feel better usually entails acknowledging and experiencing the painful feelings first. Compartmentalizing is a good technique when it comes to tasks, but doesn't work the same way when it comes to feelings. It may work for a little while to park your grief so you can "get on with things;" for example, shutting off thoughts of conception and pregnancy for the hours needed to fulfil your responsibilities at work. However, compartmentalizing too much can result in denial that there is anything wrong. This will just delay the experience of your anxieties and emotions. Likewise, if you have parked yourself in a place of anger, you may be delaying your acceptance and the healing and clarity that come with it.
It can be really hard to move forward on your own - If you are asking "why don't I feel better yet?", "why can't I fix this?" or "why do I feel so helpless?", you will benefit from someone else's eyes and ears on the situation to bring a fresh perspective to it. If you find the word "should" cropping up, as in "I should be able to handle X on my own," chase it away. There are no rules; just do what works. If you recognize that you need a little help, don't let pride get in the way. In business, or with any team, it's considered a strength to be able to have the best people on board, so adopt that philosophy in your personal life as well.
Create healthy coping mechanisms - I teach my clients how to cope with anxiety, disappointment and grief by:
- identifying and "owning" their feelings and fears;
- finding a good outlet to express those feelings and fears, whether in a coaching session, with their partner or friend, or by writing them in a journal;
- allowing themselves space to feel positive feelings, even if only once a day at first;
- taking one step at at time to restore normal activities; and
- to visualize how they would like to feel at certain points in the future.
They tell me that learning these coping mechanisms make them feel supported, stronger and more in control. They are able to recognize that not everything in their life is awful, even if they are going through a particularly awful time. They are able to see that alternative solutions exist that can bring them the family that they dream of creating. They are able to make the best decisions they can for themselves.
Seeking help - It may seem scary to talk about your most personal thoughts, feelings, needs and desires, but the weight of bearing those thoughts and feelings all by yourself is scary too. Finding the right person, building rapport, empathy and trust is important. Test the waters by talking about an aspect of your situation that isn't the most complex or painful. Then step away from it and consider whether you got an empathetic and helpful response. If so, go back for more. It will become easier in time. It's worth the risk; In doing so, you are making a positive choice to begin to feel better.