Experiencing infertility is experiencing grief. Grief is not only for death, but also is the response to other forms of loss. Infertility often involves the loss of dreams, plans, goals, life experiences, community, and a sense of belonging.
Couples suffering in infertility are couples suffering in grief. This grief is often invisible since the experiences of infertility, such as scheduled intercourse, the arrival of a menstrual period, or invasive testing, are kept private. The invisibility of this grief, however, doesn’t make it any less significant.
“Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give but cannot. All of that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.” (Jamie Anderson, author)
Treat couples experiencing infertility with the compassion you would extend toward someone who lost a loved one. Be present, and assure the couple of your love and prayers. Be willing to listen. Don’t claim to understand what they are going through, even if you have experienced infertility yourself; everyone has unique experiences. Avoid saying “at least”: “at least you’re married,” “at least you can have a great career,” or “at least you have one child.” Statements like these can be perceived by the couple as invalidating their suffering. Try saying instead, “I’m so sorry to hear you are going through this struggle. I’m here to listen and I understand if you don’t want to talk. I don’t claim to understand what you are going through, and I care about you. Would it be alright for me to include you in my daily prayers/check in periodically/make a meal to save for a day that is hard to face?”