How to Cope With the Sadness of Infertility

Creating a Safe Time and Place for Tears

Woman walking in nature near the woods, finding a safe place to express sadness and tears of infertility
If you're lucky enough to live near a park or the woods, spending time in nature can help you release sadness and transition to more hopeful feelings. Mint Images - Jonathan Kozowyk / Getty Images

Feel like you need to cry? You're not alone, not by far. Coping with infertility is exceedingly difficult. Research in 1993 found that the emotional experience by women facing infertility is comparable to the emotional pain felt by women facing cancer, HIV, and chronic pain.

To make things even more intense, many fertility drugs bring on mood swings, further exasperating our delicate emotional balance. People talk about the Clomid Crazies — the mood swings this particular drug is known for — and they aren't joking! 

Just like many women get teary just before their periods, fertility drugs mess with your hormones and emotions in a similar way. Unfortunately, our society discourages acknowledging sadness. We're supposed to "see the bright side," and "stay positive!"

People may insist that we look at all the blessings and goodness we have in our lives, or they may preach that if we would just "be optimistic" enough, we'd get pregnant with the snap of our fingers.

There is, of course, a place for gratitude and trying to see light even in darkness. But you can feel both.

You can be thankful for what you have and feel sadness. These aren't contradictions.

Don't Hold Back the Tears

Putting on a false smile isn't going to create a miracle. And feeling sadness over the loss and frustration that infertility brings does not negate the goodness in our lives.

When you need to cry, it's important to let yourself do so.

Holding in sadness doesn't make it go away. Instead, it eats up the emotional energy you have to cope with and face your daily life.

Tears find their way to sneak out, sometimes at the worst moments. Sometimes, sadness that is held in may present itself as anxiety or panic.

On the other hand, you don't want the sadness eating away at your life. When things are really difficult, it can help to choose a contained period of time to let the tears out.

It may seem strange — scheduling in some time to cry — but it's surprisingly effective and freeing.

7 Steps to a Good Cry

Step 1: Choose a day and time to feel the sadness.

If reading this has you tearing up, perhaps that time should be sooner than later. You might set aside just 15 minutes or a few hours. As long as you will be able to be alone and feel free to cry and express yourself during that time frame.

Step 2: Set a start and end time. 

It's important that you set a start and an end time. This isn't to say that you are not allowed to feel sad after the time limit, of course not. But it can feel safer to know that you won't cry forever once you start.

Plus, if you do find the sadness creeping in all day, this can provide a way to express those feelings but prevent them from taking over completely.

Step 3: Choose a safe place to let go. 

That place may be at home, or it may be in a woods near your office.

If you're at work, and really need 10 minutes to cry to get through the day, you might decide to drive to an empty parking lot.

If you're seeing a counselor, your safe place may be inside his or her office. Just be sure to also have a safe place away from therapy. You don't want to spend your entire week holding feelings in. 

Step 4: Find a way to bring out the tears. 

Just because you want to cry doesn't mean you can on demand. You might need to tease those tears out. 

You can use music, writing, art, or a movie to help you get the tears going.

When you've been holding back for a long time, the tears can get stuck. When I'm feeling the need to cry, my movies of choice are Forrest Gump, Dead Poet's Society, and It's A Wonderful Life. I don't think I've ever made it through those movies with dry eyes.

As for music, I have playlists by mood. Crying music, comfort music, happy music...

Seriously: It helps!

Another trick I've used is to write myself a letter, saying all those things I'd say to someone else in my situation. (Isn't it funny how forgiving and kind we can be to others, yet remain so judgmental of ourselves?)

Step 5: Offer yourself plenty of self-comfort.

This might mean drinking a hot cup of herbal tea or wrapping yourself up in a blanket or towel just out of the drier. Do whatever you need to do to feel cared and loved.

You might even rock yourself back and forth gently. Rocking soothes the nervous system. Use that knowledge to take care of yourself!

Step 6: Don't judge yourself if you can't cry in this moment. 

If you can't cry, that's also ok.

Any time spent taking care of your emotional self is time well spent.

Step 7: Create an ending or transitional activity.

You spent some time with your sadness. Now it's time to say goodbye to it (for now) and move into a more positive or at least less intense emotional place.

Maybe some upbeat music, or a brisk walk outside. Perhaps you can call a friend to "talk about nothing."

You just need something to signal to your emotional self that you've listened, you've acknowledged the sadness, and now, it's time to get back to your life.

Schedule Time for Tears as Often as You Need

Schedule these moments whenever you need, whether it's once a week, once every few weeks, or even 15 minutes every day, during a really difficult time.

If you feel that the sadness is taking over your life, and these short moments aren't enough, seriously consider finding a professional therapist to speak with.

Therapy has helped millions of people get through difficult times. Don't assume you can't afford it. Check with your health insurance, counseling is a part of many plans. 

At first, it can feel scary to stop holding back the tears, and it might feel like you'll never stop crying.

But you'll see.

While it hurts when you're in the moment, afterward, your heart will feel a little bit lighter.

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