Grief Can Make Experiencing Other People’s Blessings Difficult

Welcome back to the blog series on Grieving an Unfulfilled Future, during which I will explore 5 different aspects often included in grief for the single and childless by comparing our grief with that of someone who grieves the death of a loved one. The third theme delves into how our grief can make it more difficult for us to rejoice with our friends and family when they have the blessings of marriage and children.

In the first few weeks, months, and years after a loved one has died, having joy for others’ blessings can be complicated. We have the odd experience of being incredibly happy for our friends and family while also feeling profound loss. It’s a bizarre feeling, and can come when least expected.

For several years after my dad died, I had to turn my face away at friends’ weddings when their dads walked them down the aisle. I never expected this, it just hit me like a punch to the gut, out of nowhere on an otherwise happy day.

After miscarriages or the death of a baby, baby showers are a minefield of emotion for those who lost their little loves. These almost-moms-and-dads are still happy for their friend and family to have children, it’s just all mixed up with incredibly strong feelings of loss and heartbreak. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day at church and in culture can be brutal for these grieving ones. Widows and widowers may need to take a break from ministering to young marrieds for a bit.

It doesn’t mean they begrudge these happily married folks anything, it just means they need space to process their own losses.

When we singletons reach the age where we realize this is probably our lot in life, or we childless no longer have the possibility of childbearing in our futures, we often go through this same complicated experience. We love our friends and are truly happy for them when they find their loves, get engaged, marry, have kids – it is one of the things that brings us the most joy in life. But for a season, it can also be one of the most difficult things to experience.

It doesn’t mean we’re any less excited and supportive and thrilled, it just means all of that joy is mixed with the heartrending reminder that we will not have these things ourselves. Ever.

No one begrudges the recent widow for extra tears at a wedding, but we stare confusedly at the never-married for these same tears or judge them as selfish. No one gets angry at the RSVP – NO to the baby shower from the parents who recently lost a child, but for the woman who had a hysterectomy there is less sympathy.

We’re still happy for our friends and family, but we may also be going through messaging in our heads telling us we’re not good enough which is why we don’t have these things, it’s our fault, we’re not as worthy, etc. We’re balancing the joy we have for their bright hopeful future with the picture we have in our head of a future, alone. It can be a lot. We may never tell a soul of these struggles because we don’t want to be seen as jealous when we’re really just grieving.

We know you want us to be 100% happy for your good news, but please don’t judge us if our emotions are a bit more complicated than that. Don’t take it personally. Just let us process it how we need to, let us celebrate how we can at that time.  

Make sure you subscribe or stop by the blog again next Tuesday for Part Four of our series: Grieving an Unfulfilled Future. I’ll get into some of the ways the grief of singleness and childlessness is made more difficult by other people’s pain and expectations.