One of the most difficult pieces of my cancer experience has been the loss of my fertility. I’m someone who really always imagined a future with kids, and while I’m not counting it out, I know the path to parenting is going to be different than what I had expected. I had to grieve that expectation. I’m still grieving it. I’ll likely continue to grieve this loss for the rest of my life.
I grew up thinking about grief as a challenge, as containable. Grief is something to get over. You do what you can to hopefully never have to feel this pain again. I was convinced I could pack away the pain of my infertility and lock it away.
But grief is not so easily contained. My grief is like an ocean — always transforming and ever melting into the horizon ahead. At first the waters were rough and I did not know how to swim. I would choke on the pain of the loss. I would sink into the crashing waves and consider never emerging. I would cling to small pieces of hope that would float me to the surface — the miraculous pregnancy of your friend’s cousin, a news story about the successful transplantation of a uterus, and vague dreams of affording surrogacy and shallow offers of support. There would always be holes; the hope would be fleeting, but they gave me the opportunity to catch my breath and to kick my legs.
I learned to swim.
With time, the waters became much calmer and my strokes more consistent. I would rest on the shore with my friends and imagine possibilities I had not been open to before. I visited new shores. I thought about the adventures I might have without the pressures of parenting. Would I travel more? Would I go back to school? I played with these possibilities, splashing in the gentle waters of my grief.
With my therapist, I learned how to safely dive into the depths of my grief. I would learn how expansive my grief was and all the beautiful rivers and streams where my grief nourished my ability to love and to dream. My closest friends become pregnant and I feel a deeper capacity to feel gratitude, love, and admiration for the lives they are growing. My grief is enriching, it is essential. It has made me powerful.
There will be other storms and I will weather them. I will allow my grief to be as complex and vital as water.
Writing Prompt, inspired by Sharon Bray of writingthroughcancer.ca: What is your grief? Try to freely write an expressive metaphor about your experience of grief. Is yours also an ocean? Maybe grief is a jungle or a suitcase or a small scar on your chest.