When facing the devastation of an infertility diagnosis, it is important to remember you are not alone. Often this can feel isolating, confusing, frustrating, and be anxiety provoking. Fears stretch wide around your purpose and meaning of life, family, and connection to others. Stages of this grief include denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. The hope is that as individuals and couples move through these stages, they will be able to be stronger and more resilient on the other side and find a new purpose for their lives.
The first of the grief stages is denial, which often occurs after finding out from a medical provider that there is no viability for a pregnancy. This can set individuals and couples into shock and disbelief of this outcome. An example would be for someone to receive this diagnosis and say, “NO. This is not happening to me.” For most, denial is a stage that is shorter than other stages.
The second stage is moving into feelings of anger. This occurs when there is an acknowledgement of a loss. It could be a loss of a dream for a family or a hope to be a grandparent someday. This stage can be met with blaming others, including medical providers, of incompetence or lack of follow-through with tests, biological history, etc. Underneath the anger often lies feelings of sadness and hurt.
The third stage is bargaining. This is where individuals and couples explore give and take situations in their minds. As an example, they might say to themselves, “We will be the greatest parents ever if we could just have one child”. Generally, this does not help move this situation forward in a healthy way. Instead, this can return to the anger stage quite quickly.
The forth stage of grief related to infertility is depression. Continuing to process infertility diagnosis can cause some to feel depressed and have a low self-esteem. This is not to be confused with the general sadness that is normal and healthy during this kind of diagnosis. Depression often needs to be managed for a duration of time long after the initial news of infertility. They might find themselves questioning, “Why me?” or “What is wrong with me that I cannot conceive a child?” In extreme cases, depression can develop thoughts of self-harm and/or suicide. Please reach out if this is ever the case. There is help waiting for you.
The final stage of grief is acceptance. Although this news is unwanted and saddening, there can be light at the end of the tunnel. You can recreate what it means to share your life with others. There could be other options for these families, such as sperm or egg donation, adoption, fostering, or deciding to move forward with their lives without children.
The bottom line: Don’t be afraid to reach out to a therapist, clergy, family, friends, co-workers, etc. to assist you during this difficult time. Bereavement is a normal part of an infertility diagnosis, so it is imperative for individuals and couples to be patient with themselves and each other to move through infertility in a healthy way. Be open to exploring your options, then redefine what you want for your life, and everyday choose to be kind to yourself.