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 first theme gets to the root of why prolonged or permanent singleness and childlessness for those who wish to be married and/or have children can be such a devastating loss. We are not only saddened by the lack of a partner or children, we have to face the idea of a future in which they may never exist. Even though The Doctor tells us the future is not fixed, there are moments in our lives where certain options for future dreams and goals close forever. This realization can be jarring.
One of the hardest parts of losing a loved one is the knowledge that the future you dreamt of with them is now gone. My father will never see his grandkids grow up. My mother didn’t get to celebrate her 50th anniversary with him. My friends who have had miscarriages will never get to hold their babies, see them take their first steps, or teach them to read. This is one of the reasons why it’s so much harder to grasp when younger people die – the future was supposed to be long for them, and filled with so many things.
When they die, all of the hopes and dreams we had involving that person die too. And our life changes forever because of this – we have to rethink what our own futures will look like with this person gone. This is terrifying and horribly sad. It can take years to figure out. Who we are without that person, those people, means a whole new way of looking at our housing, finances, plans, education, jobs, families, friends, churches, retirements, hobbies, etc. When someone very close to us dies, we have to restructure our whole lives around the gaping hole they leave behind. We have to say goodbye to our dreams with them.
Now consider the person who has planned and dreamt of a pretty normal life – husband, wife, kids, dog, house, etc. So they are wise with their finances, trying not to get into too much debt. They get a great education hoping they’ll be able to better provide for a family someday. They learn about how to be godly wives, husbands, and parents so they’ll be ready. They balance living contentedly in each day for the Lord while trying to be wise with future plans. They try to have measured, reasonable, godly expectations in dating and friendships and careers. They grow spiritually, are wonderful friends and family members, serve in the church, and enjoy life. But the husband, wife, kids don’t come. For many different reasons, God chooses not to give the average life to this specific person. God has a different path for them. A good path, but a hard one, with less understanding and support, without the life partner, without the kids, without. Still good. Just less understood and less prepared for.
When we are young, we can still hope that God will bring these things into our lives, just a little later than most. But there comes a point when we realize it’s not going to happen. Either our bodies will not allow us to have children, or it is best for our mental/spiritual wellbeing for us to commit to a single, celibate or childless life, or God makes it very clear in some other way that we are to be unmarried and/or childless. How is this loss much different than the death of a loved one? We have to process what our lives will be like without those very normal hopes and dreams. We have to rearrange our lives to accommodate being alone. Financially, this is quite similar to the loss of a spouse. Emotionally, we grieve deeply. Those dreams were good and normal and lovely. What do we hope for and dream of now? We have to restructure our whole lives. We have to say goodbye to our dreams of them.
Join me next Tuesday for Part Two of the series: Grieving an Unfulfilled Life, which will explore how grief usually includes anger, regret, and fear.