There comes a time in life when the realization that we will not see the fulfillment of all our passionately desired good dreams hits hard and strong. When a woman hears “you can’t have children” from her doctor, when a man has yet another birthday alone and knows he won’t ever be an energetic young father, when the dream job turns into a nightmare, when your husband or wife divorces you and you realize you’ll not grow old together, when your body or mind breaks down before you get the chance to succeed in what you thought God wanted you to do, when the person you are in love with marries someone else, when the friend you thought you’d have this close relationship with forever moves on without you, when your lack of finances, ability, or status in society strips your opportunities away, when choices you made years ago limit your options now, when it’s just too late. This will happen to every human at some point as we age and life continues on in all of its complexity of disappointments and blessings.
When I led GriefShare for a couple years, I was able to walk through grief with those who had lost a loved one. There are books and therapies and counseling strategies galore for the grief we experience over death, and rightfully so. But what about the grief that stems from loss other than death? Where do we go for help when our losses are often considered lesser? How do we make it through our grief when those around us honestly can’t understand what we’re going through, and are often confused at our seeming inability to move on? This is heightened even more when the specific loss is something the majority of people will not experience.
I’m going to spend the next few blog posts on the grief that can come from the dashing of dreams and expectations related to marriage and children.
When the vast majority of American men and women will get married, and the vast majority of American women will have babies (even with the current declining fertility rates), it can be easy to downplay the grief experienced by those of us who will remain unmarried and/or childless. Sympathetic, well-meaning friends may get to a point where they don’t understand why it’s still a big deal to some of us. I hope to present some common themes I’ve seen in counseling people through miscarriage, singleness, hysterectomies, and aging to help us think through the reality of these non-death losses that are very real with singleness and childlessness.
Each individual experiences singleness and childlessness in their own ways, so I will be exploring a few general themes that have come up in my own experiences, as well as some of my counselees. This will by no means be exhaustive, nor will they all apply to everyone. In fact, some singles and some people without children are perfectly happy in that state and prefer it, or have already grieved and moved forward with our lives so are in good places. As always, when it comes to helping your loved ones walk through life, it’s best to ask each person if they are willing to share a little about how they are doing in these areas and how you can support them.
For the next 3 weeks, I will post a short blog each Tuesday and Friday morning exploring 5 different aspects of grieving an unfulfilled future. I hope these short blogs will be a comforting balm to those grieving their own singleness or childlessness, as well as a little glimpse into the reality of these losses for their friends and family. So come back Friday as I delve into the first theme: Grief is often strongest when we lose our hopes for the future.