How to Survive the Holidays During Infertility
It’s not easy, but it is possible to find a little peace
When you are experiencing the intense challenges of infertility, the holidays can seem more like a burden to you than a time of joy. If that's how you feel this time of year, know that you are not alone. In my psychotherapy practice, I work with many patients dealing with infertility who find that the holidays lose their meaning after the repeated losses of failed fertility treatment.
Experiencing loss can make you question whether you will ever overcome the pain of its paralyzing grief. It can feel as if you won't survive or ever feel happy again. And so giving thanks at a time when all you feel like doing is crying can seem counterintuitive at best and cruel at worst. But sometimes giving thanks can help you go on. It is not easy, but here are a few suggestions for trying it.
• Make a conscious decision to move forward. Winston Churchill once said, "If you're going through hell, keep going." That means you still have to get out of bed every day, put your feet down on the floor, and say, "Thank you for my feet." Even if they don't feel like walking.
• Allow yourself private time and space to feel sad. Listen to songs that are important to you or that allow you to get in touch with your deep feelings and cry. Then cry some more and sigh some more, but at some point switch to a different kind of music to distract yourself.
• Do something active such as taking a walk and meditating on your specific pain. Have a little talk with yourself about your losses, your disappointments, and fears. Allow your tears to flow; they are healing you.
• Write down your longing for the family you hope for. Expressing your feelings is crucial to your journey through grief and sorrow.
• Go to an "adults-only" gathering this year. Or go to a movie instead of doing what you usually do for the holidays – it's OK to redefine normal. You have a right to take care of yourself.
• Turn to people who understand you for consolation. Do not turn against them. Even support from one or two people will help you feel less isolated. Remember that your friends and family might not fully understand what you are going through, but they do want to keep you company. Take your friend up on that invitation to yoga class on Thanksgiving morning, and while in class give thanks for that close relationship.
• "Fake it till you make it." I am a great believer in this philosophy. Consciously reflect more on your present blessings and less on your sorrow and losses. At the beginning it might seem fake – even hard to do – but the more you do it the more you will see that there are some things to be thankful for even in the face of adversity. Or as Waldo Emerson put it, "When it is dark enough, you can see the stars."
• Take time out to help someone in need. There is something transforming about helping someone, because the smallest gesture can mean so much to someone who has no friends, family, or means to provide for their loved ones. It is a reminder that on some level we are all connected. So give to your favorite charity on Thanksgiving Day, volunteer to serve dinner at a shelter, or distribute food baskets at a senior living facility.
Experiencing infertility can bring you to very dark places, but with a little planning and some positive thinking (even if it's forced), you can find a little light and peace during the holidays.
A version of this article was originally published on the AttainFertility website and is reprinted here with permission from the author.