Coping with the expectation of perfection during the winter holidays can be a real challenge for many people. It can be especially challenging for people already coping with the heartbreak of infertility. Two clinical psychologists who specialize in helping people with fertility issues offer these six tips for coping with the holiday merriment that seems impossible to escape.
Dr. Ariadna Cymet Lanski and Dr. Marie Davidson, both clinical psychologists at the Fertility Centers of Illinois, know the holidays can be isolating, sad, and discouraging for couples experiencing infertility. Although in so many ways, children are the focus of many holiday festivities, these techniques for coping with the infertility holiday blues can help make the season more pleasant.
Does it help to acknowledge the sadness?
Stuffing emotions is never a good way to endure grief. Acknowledge the sadness as well as the anger and frustration, too. Holding emotions inside is mentally draining and can lead to the feeling of alienation. Express these very valid emotions instead of struggling with them alone.
What does simply talking about it do?
Men and women feel and express emotions differently. You and your partner can both be feeling upset and a little down but act it out in different ways. One of you may be angrier, more sullen, or quiet while the other may be acting like nothing is happening but that doesn't mean that either one of you is not affected. Be sure to support your partner through this mutually difficult time to express your sadness and support, or even your disbelief or frustration. Confide in each other. It also helps to confide in a trusted friend, family member, or professional who understands infertility.
What if I don't feel like I can attend all holiday functions?
Make a plan to attend only the holiday events that truly interest you. It’s OK to turn down invitations, especially if there’s a chance painful thoughts and feelings will surface at a specific event or party. Remember, you are not obligated to say yes to anyone in any circumstance.
What do I tell people who ask me when I will have children?
The holidays tend to bring people into our lives we don’t see much during the rest of the year. Baby questions are likely to arise and so are baby announcements. Anticipate baby-related conversations and have an answer ready when the inevitable occurs.
What can I do to take my mind off my infertility?
Make plans to do something outside the norm to celebrate the holidays. Try a romantic getaway for two, an adults-only holiday party, or anything that you enjoy doing together as a couple. Taking some time to be alone and reconnect is always a good thing, and it's important for couples to focus on each other.
How do I cope with the feeling that I may never get pregnant?
The holidays won’t last forever and, in many cases, infertility doesn’t, either. Keep in mind this challenge may last no longer than this holiday season and you may feel entirely different by the time the holidays roll around again.
It’s also important to know that others may not understand why you choose to limit your exposure to holiday festivities. Your reasons are personal and private. Keep them that way. Share your reasons, your thoughts and feelings with those you feel close to but refrain from public announcements or group explanations.
Many winter holidays are based on religious tradition. Quiet contemplation of the meaning of the season is perfectly acceptable and appropriate from religious and personal perspectives. The end of the year is also the time many people spend reflecting on their current affairs, reviewing the past, and planning the future. Allow time for introspection and intimate conversation with the people in your life who matter the most as well as exciting plans for the upcoming new year.