The news is devastating. Despite your best efforts, what you have imagined as your ideal future family is unattainable.
You probably feel a range of emotions inside of you—anger, frustration, sadness, even hopelessness.
However, central to your feelings is a deep sense of grief and loss. All of the plans that you have been working towards for family building have been for naught.
Make no mistake about it, you are grieving the destruction of a dream.
A situation like this can be very hard to process, especially if you are used to success in other aspects of your life.
So, what do you do now?
Consider three essential keys to coping with the loss of your ideal future family plans.
1. Acknowledge the Loss
The first thing to do in this situation is to acknowledge your loss. You are in mourning for plans and a future that will no longer happen. That’s very hard to cope with.
In fact, you might be tempted to minimize your experience, or just plow forward with work and life. Yet, the despair that you are experiencing doesn’t go away.
By first acknowledging the loss, though, you begin to honor the reality and vulnerability of bereavement. The emotions that are released when you make this initial acknowledgment may surprise you. However, it’s critical that you take this important first step towards grieving the loss of your ideal future family.
2. Create Space for Yourself
Another important part of this process is creating space for yourself to grieve. As mentioned above, all too often people who are in the midst of grieving shut themselves off. They dive back into work or try to create distractions for themselves. That’s because doing anything else seems preferable to facing the grief.
However, it is important to have the space to grieve. This can look very different depending on the person.
It may include, for example:
Taking time out of each day for a walk by yourself
Attending a house of worship to reflect
Spending a Saturday hiking in the woods
Participating in some kind of symbolic act or gesture
During this time, you will have the freedom to feel your emotions. Cry if you want to cry. Laugh if you want to laugh. If you are angry, give yourself permission to scream and yell.
In fact, just give yourself permission simply to feel exactly what you are feeling as you are feeling it.
3. Give Yourself Time to Feel Hopeful Again About a Joyful Future
Hope is an important part of the human psyche. Sometimes, people who experience a loss, such as the death of a loved one, find it difficult to move beyond grief. That’s in part because they have lost hope for future happiness. They can’t make plans because they don’t see the point in it when the future doesn’t—can’t—include what they felt held such a huge piece of their happiness.
This holds true, as well, for those who have been attempting family building, but can’t have the ideal future family they hoped for.
So now, give yourself permission to grieve while also reminding yourself that there might be a reason to hope for a joyful future, even if it looks very different from what you had planned and hoped for. You don’t need to make any decisions just yet about what that future will include, but please be gentle with yourself about the prospect of having joy in your future.
But What If You've Lost Hope?
Clearly, when your ideal future family plans are destroyed by reality, the grief can feel unbearable and you might need additional support. Talking to a professional who understands not just grief and loss but also the issues surrounding family building can be very helpful.
A therapist or counselor will be able to help you make sense of what you are feeling and experiencing. It’s important to give yourself permission to grieve the loss of your family building plans. Of course, therapy won’t make those emotions disappear instantaneously, but talking to a therapist will help you with navigating the grieving process.
If you're looking for a professional who can help you do just that, please learn more about how I approach therapy for family building.