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Mourning the Invisible Loss

Grief and loss attacehd to infertility

Many people assume that becoming pregnant is a choice. It is a choice exercised a great deal in our modern society. For some people, it can become apparent that conceiving a child is more complicated than they anticipated. For some the realisation that they may never conceive comes because of tests, for others, it may be the breakdown of a romantic relationship, or, deciding not to partner.

Infertility brings many diverse experiences and often, stigma with it. As a woman who is ‘childless not by choice’ I am offering this as an acknowledgement of the deeply personal and emotional journey that infertility takes us on.  My wish is that it gives some insight and comfort to both the pain of the unknown and of the alternative lifestyles that come with childlessness.

16% of Australians are experiencing ‘infertility’. Infertility is defined as unsuccessful attempts to become pregnant for a period of 12 months or more (  Infertility comes with grief as our assumed futures start to look very different to what we had anticipated.

When the realisation that one who wants to become pregnant may not, a slow sense of shock sets in. Shock leads us to feel numb, overwhelmed, confused. The future family life we assumed we would have seems to disappear from view.

Each month there is despair when a period arrives, this often is not given space to be grieved as we quickly move on to our interventions for this upcoming ovulation. Then 2 weeks of daring to hope. This hope is often extremely painful – what if it is futile hope? And so, this cruel cycle continues: Hope followed by despair on an ongoing basis. Often this is an invisible grief going unseen and unacknowledged by the community. It is difficult to express the loss of an intangible dream.

Travelling through these uncharted territories can be a lonely and painful experience. Greif is one of life’s most painful experiences, there are many rituals that are carried out in most communities that are designed to support the grieving family. Unfortunately, it is rare to come across community rituals that support the loss of an unconceived family. Extended family can sometimes feel redundant as they are unsure how to support you.

It is important to acknowledge this for yourself, your partner and other family members. Perhaps you, or family member can create a monthly ritual to acknowledge the loss. This can be as simple as lighting a candle or a shared meal.

Take things slowly and work self-care into your routines. Express yourself through art or talking to an understanding loved one. Consider nurturing your mind and body with therapies such as reflexology, aromatherapy, massage, reiki and so on.

As a professional psychotherapist, I offer counselling to those experiencing infertility and their family members. Counselling creates a safe non-judgemental space to explore and express complicated emotions. It can help us to step back and evaluate our circumstances so that we can plan our path ahead and regain some sense of control.

As I sit and reflect on how to sign off on this piece it occurs to me that there is no sign off. Infertility comes with an ongoing hope of one version of our dreams coming true. In the meantime I wish you peace, love and a big dose of self compassion.

Useful resource: - Charity that offers support and resources.

To book a call with Ciara to discuss your need please follow this link:

Conception Loss Counsellign is offered by Ciara Merrifield at Lumah. This can be accessed as one to one sessions or in the group program 'Empty Arms'

Medicare Rebates apply.

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