Many people don’t express sympathy for single women past a certain age who say they want marriage and children. It’s often easier to blame single women for their circumstances.
Melanie Notkin’s post, “My Secret Grief. Over 35, Single and Childless,” captures the essence of what many women experience, but can’t seem to put into words. Notkin describes her own battle with grief as a result of not having the marriage and children she always wanted. By age 35, she expected to be married with at least two kids.
So often, women who don’t suffer from fertility problems, but are childless, are told to hold on to hope that one day they’ll be wives and mothers. Many women not only hope, they put action behind their hope. They go to therapy, put up online dating profiles, get comfortable with their own company, and brave events alone. One year goes by, then another, and before they know it, they’re still single and their biological clock is ticking louder than ever.
It can be painful to put in effort without seeing the results you’re hoping for. This is when the grief creeps in. Even friends who once remained hopeful are eventually at a loss for words and often disappear as they spend time with their own significant others and families. Women are often left alone to fight through their feelings of grief. Many wonder how you can grieve for something you never had in the first place.
But that’s the point. Notkin calls for women to give themselves permission to grieve for the marriages and children they never had. First proposed by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in 1969, the stages of grief include denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. People don’t necessarily experience the stages in order and grief is often expressed in different ways at different times. Some women may experience grief after they can no longer have biological children. For others, grief comes after they find themselves single for a substantial amount of time even though they have done all they can to change their situation.
The notion of acceptance is powerful and helps you regain control of your life. Accept that you may be single and unmarried for a very long time, possibly forever. Accept that you may never have biological children within marriage. The thing is, on your road to acceptance, you’ll probably feel many negative emotions as you mourn.
But instead of forcing yourself to smile and pretend you’re happy with your love life when you’re really not, allow yourself to grieve.
If you found these tips helpful and would like to do more in-depth work, contact me for a free 15 minute phone consultation. I offer therapy, coaching, and private workshops.