How to offer support to a loved one dealing with infertility
Infertility is a confusing, complex and common struggle affecting one in eight women. It can be an emotionally tolling time, during which feelings of inadequacy and strain on relationships can become heightened. When it comes to being there for a loved one dealing with this sensitive issue, you might be searching for the right resources to offer support. You might also be scared to say or do the wrong thing. Is there a right way to comfort someone who is having trouble conceiving, experiencing a miscarriage, or undergoing fertility treatments? While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, our Northwell Health Fertility experts can help you navigate this delicate topic.
Offer to listen, but don’t pry
Watching someone you love struggling to conceive can be difficult. You might feel helpless, powerless or at a loss for words. Start by letting this friend or family member know you’re there to support them through this difficult time, but don’t pry. Updating friends and family on the intricacies of infertility can be an added layer of stress for those facing it. Everyone copes differently. Be patient and let this person know you’re there to listen whenever they are ready.
Avoid telling them not to worry
The pain and frustration that comes from the inability to conceive is something that can only be truly understood by the person, or couple, facing it. With that said, telling someone dealing with infertility not to worry is pointless and can actually have an adverse effect. Instead, let this loved one know you’re there for them every step of the way and try to be a source of healthy, positive distraction.
Don’t push for action or solutions
Before suggesting a solution to someone else’s infertility issue, recognize that there is a good chance they’ve thought about the alternatives many times already. Simply validating feelings and letting them know you’re there to listen can go a long way. Focus your efforts on being a compassionate pillar of support rather than a problem solver. This will open the door for conversation without overwhelming or causing the person to shut down from added pressure.
Be compassionate, but don’t over exaggerate
Being overly sensitive to this topic can actually make someone dealing with infertility feel isolated and alone. You don’t have to walk on eggshells. It’s okay to say, “I don’t want to say the wrong thing, but I’m here for you,” and it’s okay to not have the answers. Be mindful of feelings, but don’t treat the person you care about as if this obstacle defines who they are.
Be mindful of your own emotions
It’s okay to feel invested in the journey and to be affected by the highs and lows, but don’t make your friend or family member feel like they have to manage your emotions. You don’t have to be stoic, but try to remember the immensity of the stress and anxieties they are already dealing with before projecting your feelings. The last thing you want is for this person to feel like they disappointed you or let you down. Celebrate the small victories and be compassionate during the road blocks. This might just make your loved one open up to you even more.
Be thoughtful during the holidays
The holidays can be a particularly sensitive time for those struggling to conceive. Holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas and particularly Mother’s Day can intensify the feeling of frustration and disappointment surrounding this life obstacle. Go out of your way to offer additional support during these times. Maybe it’s a heartfelt card, or an open conversation—just let the person you love know they’re on your mind and you are invested in their journey.
At the end of the day, be there for your friend or family member by acting with compassion, sensitivity and understanding. Being a good listener and a source of encouragement can make all the difference.