Is it Shame or Fear That Silences Us?
It’s surprising how much loss remains unspoken, hidden within, sealed off even from ourselves.
Is it shame that keeps us silent, shame that we have not reached the goal or fulfilled the expectations we set out for ourselves, or was set by our families or our society? Or is it fear that we are not enough? That we will somehow be rejected as not worthy? Perhaps it’s both.
Even when the loss is known by others, does acting like it doesn’t matter, that we are OK with it, or have gotten over it diminish its impact on us or how others view us? Does our silence protect others from our pain and grief? Why can’t we talk about it? Are we afraid of being seen as a “loser,” pitied perhaps? Or is it just that we don’t know what to say, or whether it is ok to say anything? As if putting it into words makes it worse, more visible, an intrusion on another’s success?
I ask these questions because I know that exploring and expressing feelings about loss and grief and being heard is a proven path to healing and wholeness. Shame thrives in darkness. The way to diminish it’s power over us is to bring it into the light. Yet it is so hard for most of us to share losses –– not only hard, but seemingly dangerous. So we can push it down and hope that time will heal, and perhaps it seems like it does until that button is pushed again, and the pain resurfaces.
When I was told at 26 that I could never have children of my own, I thought I talked about it, but I realize now I really didn’t. The facts were shared, but that is all. I certainly felt inadequate as well as desperate for a solution, and maybe I even shared that. But many years later I recognize that I kept most of my feelings to myself. I certainly never shared, even with my husband, that I was suicidal for a year.
I facilitate a regular Sharing Circle for women who have experienced missed motherhood (infertility, pregnancy loss from miscarriage or abortion, giving a child up for adoption, childfree by choice or childless by chance). We talk about our experiences, our life then and now, our feelings. We listen and are heard. We are held by this circle of women as belonging and whole as we are. We feel nurtured by the group. Many in the circle have read my book and visited the website. Yet when I invited those on Facebook to “like” the Facebook page (Facebook.com/missedmotherhood), they demurred saying they don’t want anyone to know.
This is the dilemma. I want to spread the word that the experience of missed motherhood is as common as being a mother. It is not limited to a few, it impacts many millions of women’s lives and their partners. Taking into account all 5 categories, as many as 75% of women have had at least one experience of missed motherhood by the time they reach menopause, and many have had more than one.
There are steps that each of these women can take to grieve their losses and experience greater wholeness and belonging. Is it fear keeps the silence going? Perhaps sharing does not even appear as a possibility. Or having shared with someone who is not open to listening, but rather wants to fix them, inhibits further sharing.
When I was researching and writing the book, Honoring Missed Motherhood: Loss, Choice and Creativity, I would talk about it to everyone I met. The amazing response I almost always got was, “Oh, I had an experience myself.” And then they would tell me about it, men as well as women. I could hardly find anyone who had not had at least one experience of missed motherhood. We would share our experiences. Each encounter added to my sense of belonging in the community of women.
I had lunch with a friend today who has his own teenage daughters and he shared that he had been terribly sad when his wife had a miscarriage many years ago, and yet they had never talked about it. When I asked him why, he said expressing feeling was not done in his family. His father died when he was a teen, and they had never even talked about that.
Another surprising fact that kept surfacing in my research was that women who had themselves experienced missed motherhood frequently never shared their experience with their daughters or sons – even when their children were adults. My own mother waited until she was 70 to tell me she had a traumatic miscarriage before I was born. So the silence continues and we don’t have the chance to learn from each other that sharing our losses is healthy and healing and connecting.
The “no-talk rule” has got to change for all of us. If exploring, expressing and sharing feelings is a path to healing, which it has been demonstrated to be, then silence is the road of suppression, suffering and sadness. Just imagine if all of us who had experienced missed motherhood, and our partners, were to speak up now and realize we are the majority.
Copyright ©Kani Comstock
You can learn more of my story and the stories of 13 other women as well as steps you can take to honor the loss in my latest book, “Honoring Missed Motherhood: Loss, Choice and Creativity.”
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I invite you to “like” the www.Facebook.com/MissedMotherhood page and follow me on Twitter. Purchase the books in print or kindle at Amazon.com.
Kani Comstock is the author of two books: Honoring Missed Motherhood, Loss, Choice and Creativity and Journey into Love, Ten Steps to Wholeness. Both of these books describe challenges involved in healing the past, and outline steps to be taken to claim personal authenticity and inner wisdom and find love for self and others. In addition to being Director of Coaching Programs and a Process Teacher for the Hoffman Institute Foundation, Kani speaks and leads workshops to support women, and their partners, in healing the loss and unresolved, often repressed, grief from missed motherhood,which includes infertility, pregnancy loss from miscarriage or abortion, giving a child up for adoption, choosing to be childfree, or never having the right circumstance.