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The Grief of Being Single and Childless

 

I recently received a message from a woman who has always wanted to be a mom. All she has ever wanted to do was tie the knot and have kids, but now that she is in her forties, she is feeling the dread that accompanies the ticking of a biological clock.

The realization that she won’t be birthing her own babies has settled in, and her heart is understandably aching. She asked me if I could relate because I married at 46. Of course! I always pictured myself finding my Mister Right young, tying the knot and having a family, complete with white picket fence—but that’s not how my life worked out. And honestly, it’s okay.   

But I didn’t always feel so optimistic about it.

The onset of grief

In my early forties I noticed a sense of grief begin fill my thoughts and emotions about not being a mom. One experience in particular hit me hard. One afternoon, while I worked in one of my favorite coffee shops, a woman stood near my table with her baby, who was in a stroller.

I love babies, so I asked if I could say hi her little cutie. She said, “Of course,” so I bent down to say hello. All of a sudden, I got choked up. My eyes filled with tears and I had to walk away. This experience ushered in a bout of grief that lasted several weeks. I cried and cried, lamenting that my life was not turning out at all how I imagined—and it hurt. A lot.

This is not uncommon. Many women begin to feel the grief brought on by childlessness as they enter their late thirties or early forties.

Maybe you can relate.

Focus on what you have, not on what you don’t

Getting back to the woman I spoke with, she asked me how I’m doing with it all now—whether I feel hopeful. The honest answer is that I am happy with my life. Sure, I have felt pangs of grief every once in a while, but I would say I have made peace with my story.  

One of the beautiful, redemptive things that has happened in my life is that I have become a grandmother to a gorgeous little boy.  

There have been times when I look into his beautiful blue eyes and feel a little sting. But, whenever this happens, I remind myself that even if my dreams of becoming a mother had come true, my life would still not be perfect.

It is so important to focus on what we do have. There are always challenges in life. This is why we must stay away from believing that if we only had this or that our lives would be perfect. These kinds of thoughts are only robbers. There is no truth in them.

If I had birthed my own children, there would have been challenges and problems in those relationships just like there are in all relationships. So, it’s not like having children would have inherently made life flawless. Sure, I would have experienced joys that I don’t experience now, like watching my children grow and sharing precious moments with them. But again, there also would be challenges because people are imperfect and life isn’t perfect.

So, I’ve reminded myself that my story didn’t develop the way I planned, but it has led me to a profound happiness in other areas of life. For example, I am fulfilled in my relationship with my husband, and I am very grateful for everything I have in my life. I work to focus on the blessings I hold in my hands, not in what I lack. Gratitude is key, especially when talking about grief, because gratitude can help us not get stuck in grief.  

Your joy and self-worth are not defined by being a mother

When your dreams come crashing down, recognize the hurt you feel. Maybe you didn’t marry young, or perhaps you did, and you divorced. Maybe you haven’t had children. To make peace with your story, acknowledge your hurt, and then accept what happened so your grief does not define you. And, finally, practice gratitude for what you do have.

If you have always wanted children but your desires have been unfulfilled, I want to encourage you: your joy doesn’t have to be lessened by childlessness. And motherhood doesn’t define your value.

Motherhood is just one way you can experience purpose. Women can do all sorts of awesome, inspiring things in the world, not to mention the ability anyone has to use their unique gifts to be a blessing to others. You may be able to serve in some capacities that otherwise would have been closed off to you had you been a mother.

Please remember that life is not perfect. It never will be—for anyone. And be encouraged: practice gratitude today. It’s a powerful light against the darkness of grief.

 The dream you have to love—and be loved—is possible!

I’m rooting for you!

Shana

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