How friends and family can help.

Wanting to have a child, but not being able to, can be extremely hard for those who experience it. The loss they face, while not necessarily visible to others, is real and significant – they are experiencing a type of grieving for a life they may never have. This grief can be very intense and may last a few years, or even a whole lifetime.

While you may not completely understand the pain your friend or family member is going through you can still be a great support to them. If you know someone who is currently walking through the challenge of infertility, it can be difficult to know what to do or say to best support them.

Here are twelve top tips that can help:

  1. If you don’t know what to do or say, ask them. Let them know you’re there for them, acknowledge that infertility is hard, and ask them what they would find most helpful.
  2. Don’t assume they don’t want to be around children. Different people have grief triggered by different experiences. It’s often seeing someone pregnant that is the hardest sight to bear.
  3. Share pregnancy announcements sensitively. If you’re good friends with someone struggling with infertility, and you or your partner are expecting, think about telling them first privately, and maybe by text message rather than face-to-face – it will help them get their emotions sorted out so that they can express their joy for you when it goes public.
  4. Don’t try to solve their problem for them. You don’t need to ask, ‘Have you thought of adoption, IVF, hormone treatment, just relaxing?’ Or any other suggestion. Yes, they have.
  5. Still include them. Invite them to events such a baby-showers, baptisms and children’s birthday parties, but be sensitive about it and let them know that you understand if they’d prefer not to come.
  6. Be aware of your conversation. Don’t constantly talk about your own or other people’s children, or child-related topics that will make it difficult for them to join in with.
  7. Be brave. Ask them how they’re doing from time to time, but recognise they may not always want to talk about it.
  8. Don’t ask for all the details of their situation. It can be very difficult for someone to talk about infertility issues, so respect their privacy and let them decide how much they are willing to share.
  9. Let them know that you’re thinking about them. Certain times can be more difficult than others – Mother’s Day or Christmas for example. A simple message or card that expresses your understanding of their situation will let them know they are not forgotten about.
  10. Be sensitive with your adult children. If you are a parent of someone facing infertility, don’t add pressure to their circumstances by talking about your own desire to become a grandparent. While you may be experiencing your own grief about not having grandchildren, the sadness they feel about their situation is already significant, and won’t be helped if they also feel responsible for your grief.
  11. Look out for them in social situations. Be ready to change the subject if the conversation is starting to get awkward. Infertility can feel very isolating, so it will be a great relief to know that you are looking out for them and that you recognise some of the difficulties they face.
  12. Plan events where you can go out and have fun together. Let them know that you really value their friendship and enjoy their company. Infertility can be a long and painful journey, and so having times of fun where they can forget about their current circumstances can be a great support.

In whatever way you support someone who is facing issues of infertility, knowing that you care and are trying to understand their situation will go a long way in helping your friend of family member to feel loved and valued. Your support to them will make a world of difference!

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