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 second theme looks into some of the complexities of grief for those who desire a life partner and/or children, but do not get that chance. Grief is so much more than immense sadness, it holds a multitude of thoughts and emotions, as well as physical and mental responses that can sometimes take us by surprise, and can be hard for others to understand.
When a loved one dies, grief is complex. It is not just sadness but often includes anger. We can question God – why did He allow this to happen now? We can be angry at the systems involved – hospitals, drivers, laws, ourselves – anyone or anything that may have contributed to their death.
We have regrets for the things we didn’t do while they were here, unpleasant moments we may have had with them, the things we never said to them, the memories we didn’t create.
And we are terrified of what our futures will bring with them gone – scared the pain will never go away, scared we can’t live without them, scared we will lose everything else as well.
When we realize we will never have that loved one – spouse or child – we process these same things. Anger that everyone else around us seems to get these relationships (even people who may not deserve them) when we won’t. Anger at God for not following through on giving us these good gifts. Anger at others involved – men and women who didn’t want us, doctors who didn’t help, society which makes dating impossible, etc.
We can regret past relationships, priorities, and perceived potential missed opportunities we may have had. Maybe if we’d been thinner, someone would have loved us enough, maybe if we’d not gotten that graduate degree we wouldn’t have been so intimidating, maybe if we’d tried harder with online dating or gone to a different church, maybe if we’d gone to the doctor sooner about fertility, maybe, maybe, maybe . . .
And the fear is incredibly strong. What will I do now? Where will I live? How will I be able to afford an apt. or house on my own? What do I do when my roommates move away or my elderly family member with whom I live die? What will my childless life look like when I’m in my 60s, my 70s? Who will take care of me? How will I find a purpose? Will I be alone for the rest of my life?
So much of this compounded grief a single or childless person goes through is internal and unprocessed. Most of us will suffer alone, because we know we are “too much” for others to help, we know they won’t understand anyway. We may not even realize the anger, regret, and fear we feel is actually part of grieving.
Subscribe, or check back next Friday for Part Three of the series: Grieving an Unfulfilled Future, when I’ll get into how this grief can make experiencing other people’s blessings difficult.