The Due Three: Shared Grief, Ceremonies, and Mementos
Shared Grief and Childlessness
There is a way, thanks to the Internet, to not feel so disenfranchised. There's something to sharing your story and having others listening who *really know* where you're coming from. Finding an online or face to face support group opens up a world of validated, shared grieving. These affirming friends are your potential "visiting hour" guests, reception goers and continual comforters on a bad day. (Unfortunately, based on many people's accounts I would consider it uncommon to get much support from blood relatives re:childlessness! Maybe not even from one's spouse!) I think it's especially good to surround yourself with the ones who've been at it a while, and are proven resilient and positive examples you'd like to follow. As per that old line of advice that "you become like the company you keep."
Ceremonies and Childlessness
While there isn't a token ritual or ceremony for childlessness, we can invent one. And I'm not thinking a grim, mock funeral per say. What is crossing my mind is to make it something extraordinary. Like writing a very personal letter to the child that may have been or taking a list of all the baby names kept notes on over the years, and hanging or writing it on a paper sky lantern... imagine it lit and floating up and away at some beautiful location beside the ocean. I think having a ritual on the extremely breathtaking side would be the memory I'd want. If we did have a baby in the end, I'd like to do this yet. I have heard over and over, having a baby doesn't erase what you've gone through. Infertility itself is like a death, however it ends. And after thirteen years of this, I feel like such a ceremony is overdue. I don't know whether or not I'd be jumping the gun to do something like this now, but I might do some version and save the big ceremony for later on. I'm just not sure it would help to do it when I'm still hanging on to hope... but if I try a ceremony for this loss presently, I will follow up on it!
Mementos and Childlessness
I haven't seen many memento-ish mourning rituals with childlessness. Most eventually give any baby stuff they accumulated away, but some keep a hope chest of sorts. I've run into a few women online who have a piece of jewelry or something such that represents the babies that might have been, perhaps a bead for each year of trying to conceive (or each baby lost in some cases). I've heard of women writing a letter or series of letters to the child that might have been and tucking them away. I suppose in a way the painter Frieda's few paintings that reflect her losses were mementos. Perhaps even a blog counts as a memento. If you've gotten or heard of any other mementos for infertility/childless not by choice, I'd love to hear about it in comments below. This was the last of the three, because mementos in our case are so complicated. Childlessness keepsakes are different, if you've never been pregnant they are not representing someone you have vivid memories of. I'm not sure I'd expect many to want a memento around as a constant reminder of what we didn't have. Maybe a good memento route for those who have never even been pregnant is to be surrounded with reminders of what they do have, even what they'd have less of or not at all if they were a parent (first example that pops into mind is displaying photos of from vacations for two).
All of these things ought to be in a resilient "moving forward" direction. (I admit for many that is easier said than done.) There's a way to do all the above in a (yet more) traumatizing, self abusive mode that buries you under heavy emotions and a barrage of inner cuts. There's a tendency to feel like we need to suffer, to pick the scar over and over and that it somehow validates or honors the whole experience. But neither the baby or babies that may have been, yourself deep down (even if you have urges to hurt yourself), your loved ones or God above want you to continuously punish yourself or put your life indefinitely on hold due to childlessness. Not day to day, not on anniversaries, not on Mother's Day... there's a healing, healthy grieving route beckoning you.
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