By Kara Yorkhall L.Ac., MAOM, FABORM
“Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things…” Naomi Shihab Nye
National Infertility Awareness Week starts on April 21. For each of us this means something different. It might cause you to remember back to a dark time in your past, something you’d rather forget. Or it could remind you of a challenging time-but one also filled with growth, beauty and a happy ending. Maybe infertility is a current, consuming, perhaps even devastating centerpiece in your daily life right now. Or this week may be a reminder of something hopeful, of doors opening and of possibility.
If you haven’t experienced a fertility struggle yourself, you may not know how to connect to this Infertility Awareness Week, but you wish you did, because someone you care about is going through it.
It’s understood that 1 in 8 couples experience fertility challenges and I think it is likely more prevalent than that. Through my work as a fertility specialist over the past 12 years I’ve found that many couples are suffering privately and do not seek a formal evaluation and diagnosis.
Given the prevalence of this struggle it’s safe to assume that there are people in your community who are either dealing with this now, or have in the past. This April, I encourage each of you to consider how you might become a better ally for this cause. If you are experiencing infertility this is an opportunity to reflect on how you can better support yourself and others struggling alongside you. If you are not, I encourage you to explore how you can be a great ally for those who are. Whichever group you are part of there is one thing I’m sure of– everyone has experienced sadness, loss and grief.
“Grief and Resilience Live Together…”
Grief and loss are inevitable parts of the infertility journey. The more comfortable you can become with your own grief and loss the better you will be able to support someone, even yourself, through a fertility journey.
Grief takes up space. It occupies our thoughts, our emotions–it also takes up physical space in our bodies, and it uses energy. Like a needy child, if you ignore grief it will likely start to protest loudly. This protesting can manifest in a variety of physical and mental symptoms that you might not even relate to the grief.
I appreciate the quotes from the amazing women above because they illustrate the generative and creative possibility of the grieving process. I have found this to be true: that grief has the potential to generate great and beautiful things like kindness, tenderness, strength and resilience. But only if we allow it to offer this potential. We need to nestle that small child into our lap, to offer comfort and sanctuary, and let it be.
What allows grief to become a creative process instead of a destructive one?
Below I’ve shared a few ideas for things that can support this transformation. This list is certainly not complete, and we welcome you to share your own personal experience below.
*Chinese medicine understands that acupuncture, bodywork, herbs and even certain foods can support the body to process grief more effectively. For more information on our Acupuncture and Chinese medicine services please contact us here.
*Counseling therapy is another modality that can be enormously helpful. If you would like to see our list of our common therapy referrals, or think you would be a good addition to this list, please reach out to us here.
Here are some tools that you can utilize on your own:
Cry: Crying is our body’s natural healing response for processing sadness and grief. It has literally been shown to cause drastic shifts in mood for the better, as well as regulate stress hormone levels.
Silence: Sometimes we need to talk to process, to figure things out and to connect. But talking must also be balanced with silence, and with listening–especially inward listening. For many people this looks like prayer, meditation, or reading. If this sounds too uncomfortable or painful to do alone, reach out to us and we’ll help you or find someone who can. Journaling might also be a good option for you.
Spend time in the nature: When we are in nature we can more easily attune to the natural processes of growth, death and new life, which can be very healing.
Look for Inspiration: From a 5 Element Chinese medicine framework increasing the Fire element (Joy) helps to bring the Metal Element (Grief) into balance. Doing things that bring you pleasure can help keep grief in balance. Again, if this seems completely out of reach we can offer you some resources in this area so please contact us.
National Infertility Awareness Week may draw attention to your own fertility journey, highlight some other area of loss or grief in your life, or encourage you to create more space for someone else’s struggle. I hope that you are able to receive all the resource and support that you need to expand your capacity for grief and nurture your whole self.
If you have any questions of your own or on behalf of a friend, or if you would like more support or resources, please contact us.