Grief Is Made More Difficult by Other People’s Pain and Expectations

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. For the fourth theme, I will explore how the single/childless person’s grief can be made even more difficult by other people’s pain and their expectations. We do not grieve in a vacuum, so our depression and anxiety over our loss can be exacerbated by the response of others to our situations.

When our loved ones die, part of the pain we experience comes from knowing that others are also in pain because they are gone. When we read about a car accident in which a couple are killed, we feel even more pain when it goes on to say they are survived by their 3 young children. When my first friend died as a teenager, I was sad for myself but ached even more for his parents and sister. When a woman has a miscarriage, she goes through her own grief but also feels the burden of her partner’s, parents’, and the rest of the family’s. She also has to figure out how to process new pressures to try again so she can give them all the child, grandchild, niece, nephew they want.

I once heard a young pastor loudly express his frustration about a young widow in the church because she still had photos of her dead husband up in her house and she hadn’t started dating again. It had been 2 years, after all, and she had kids to consider. This widow had her own grief to deal with, as well as the added pressure of her pastor to “move on.” 

Sometimes, other people make the grieving process much more difficult.

For the single person or the childless, the grief over not being able to fulfill our own dreams and goals is compounded by the expectations of those around us to get married and have kids. It is hard enough coming to terms with the new knowledge that we most likely will never marry, but this is heightened when all the lovely old ladies at church keep saying there’s still hope, and God has someone for everyone, and it’ll come just when you least expect it. Ugh.

It’s hard to process heartbreak and move toward a true contentment in one’s singleness when parents, grandparents, and others can pressure and even shame you about getting married. When society automatically thinks something must be wrong with you if you’re still single. When the church constantly preaches the holiness and superiority of married life. When friends never stop pressuring you to “try online dating!” (as if you haven’t already done that, come on people!).

For the childless, this pressure can also be extreme. Parents who keep asking when you’re going to make them grandparents, those same lovely little old ladies at church that keep asking the couple when they’re going to have a baby, the pope saying that couples who don’t want to have kids are being selfish. All of this messaging makes grieving the fact that you can’t have the kids you want hurt even more.

We need the support and comfort of our friends, families, and churches – not added pressure.

Friday morning I will present the fifth and final theme of the series: Grieving an Unfulfilled Future, so make you are subscribed or check back then. I’ll look into how grieving is incredibly difficult in a society that worships happiness, especially for those of us who don’t fit the model of “happily ever after.”