Home Grief


Identifying and processing grief.

Hope is a skilled seductress. She’ll find your deepest desires and echo them back to you, in a honey-toned voice that melts your insides. She swears she’s a seer. She’s envisioned your future and will whisper in detail the beauty that is about to unfold. She’ll capture your imagination and you’ll find yourself dreaming in vivid color of her promises. She’s enrapturing, all-encompassing. She makes you feel as though you’re the only woman in the room. When you’re together, life feels vibrant, full of possibility, magical.

Hope is a fickle mistress. She makes promises she has no intention of keeping. She’ll woo you until you can see nothing but her, until you are inflamed by desire, then flee the moment another captures her attention; leaving you yearning and unfulfilled. She’s incapable of acknowledging your pain, of witnessing the wreckage she leaves in her wake.

Hope has two sisters. When she leaves, one of them arrives, acting as your companion until she reappears. If you’re lucky, she’ll send Fulfillment. Fulfillment will ensure all the sweet nothings Hope sang to you come to fruition. She has the power to make every daydream, every yearning, every wish, a reality.

But, sometimes Hope sends Despair. Despair forces herself inside you, searching for the places Hope left open. The chambers of your heart that had expanded, holding space for your dream. The light pockets within your soul that were awaiting Fulfillment. She will penetrate every space with a dense, black fog that is infectious and unshakable. She will take up residence and every attempt to evict her will be in vain, because you have become her.

For as long as I can remember now, she’s only sent Despair. It wasn’t always like this. For a while, Hope and I were entangled lovers. In the rare moments she left my side, she sent Fulfillment to comfort and entertain me. Life was blissful. I was in love with Hope. 

Our relationship has become toxic, one-sided. It started when she began leaving each month, sending Despair for weeks at a time before returning. Each time Despair withdrew, she left a filmy residue that lingered and thickened. I begged, pleaded, cried for Hope to send Fulfillment. I told her I wasn’t sure how much more I could endure. She promised the next time would be different. Every time.

I’m afraid of Hope. She is God, for her power to shower you with Fulfillment is equally matched by her ability to take all of you, leaving only a crumbling husk. So I have shut her out. I hide when I hear her call. I lock the door. I try to forget her. 

Without her life is dull, but predictable. No promises means no betrayal. No love means no heartbreak. No longing means no disappointment. Here, I am safe.

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A few months ago I was at a full moon circle, a small event where women gather to let go of the things that aren’t serving them and to make space for what they want to create. We ended the night with a type of meditation called breathwork.

As I lay there, focused on my breathing, one sentence kept playing in my mind: I never knew real love until I had a child. I’ve heard this or variations of it many times over the past few years and it haunts me. Because if it’s true, it means that all the love I have in my life isn’t “real” but the shadow of something greater that I can never experience.

I thought of other hurtful statements I’ve heard: that parents have a greater capacity for empathy; that having children is the meaning of life; that people without kids are selfish; that God blessed them with children or a miracle baby; that you aren’t a “real” woman until you’ve given birth; that having kids is what makes you a family.

Then, in contrast to the mashup of awful thoughts swimming in my head and with tears streaming down my face, snapshots of my life came into focus.

My mom taking on my grief, crying with me during life-shattering moments. My husband’s face when I make him laugh and the way his eyes look when he’s worried about me. The overwhelming awe and joy I feel when I see my nieces and nephews. The themed sleepovers my dad would plan when I was a kid to make weekends at his house special. The weekly Mario Kart battles I have with my brother where we talk and drink for hours. The warm, engaging conversations I have with my brother-in-law and his wife. The way my sisters can always make me laugh and how our history connects us in a way unlike any other. My friends that are so close they have become family.

If this isn’t real love then I don’t know if I need real love. Because the love I have now is so strong, so powerful that it already feels hard to contain. The beauty of it overwhelms me. If I am fortunate enough to sustain this level of love throughout my life, I will die knowing that I loved deeply, wholly, and was loved that way in return.

In that moment, I decided to start telling myself a different story. I’m sharing it here because it is just as true for you as it is for me.

I am not a mom,
but I know real love.

I am not a mom,
but I am a powerful source of creation.

I am not a mom,
but there are endless ways I can contribute to this world.

I am not a mom,
but I have the ability to nurture.

I am not a mom,
but anyone who identifies as a woman is a “real” woman.

I am not a mom,
but I have a family, some members by blood and some I chose.

I am not a mom,
but I am empathetic because I have felt a wide range of emotions inherent to the human experience.

I am not a mom,
but I have the power to create a life that is meaningful to me.

I am not a mom,
but I am full of love and energy that I can choose to invest as I wish.

As I was repeating these mantras in my mind, the woman leading the meditation walked over and placed her hands lightly on either side of my hips, her fingers across my pelvic area where my womb used to be. It felt comforting and a little spooky since I had never met her and she knew nothing about me or my situation.

When the meditation was over, I asked her if she had touched other women in the circle that way and she replied no, just me. I asked her why and she said she tries to stay open to the energy of what each woman in the circle was needing. I still am not entirely sure how to process this experience, but I like to believe it was the universe sending confirmation that although I am not a mom, I am enough.

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There are moments so life-altering that as you experience them you know you will never be the same again. That forever after, you think of your life as pre and post the experience. Birth, death, marriage, heartbreak, can change who you are so completely that it alters your identity. These moments are so powerful because of the gain or loss we experience as a result. A birth or marriage expands families and relationships. Death and heartbreak sever them.

Throughout my life, I assumed that having a baby would be one of those life-altering experiences for me. That I would have clearly defined chapters labeled “before I was a mom” and “after I was a mom”. In 2013, I started trying to get pregnant. Four years later that journey ended, not with the ever elusive yet longed for miracle baby, but with a hysterectomy.

I was wildly unprepared for this and it knocked me into a lonely, dark place. I had planned on a beautiful, life-altering event and experienced the opposite: loss and grief that consumed me to the core. So I did what I always do when my anxiety-ridden brain feels a loss of control. I researched. I read everything I could find on living an unexpectedly childfree life, found supportive online communities, went to therapy, read memoirs, talked to friends and family, tapped into spirituality, you name it.

I was looking for a road map. Instructions on how to move forward when just getting out of bed felt impossible. Unfortunately, there isn’t an aisle in the bookstore for this situation. The path feels lonely and untrodden. Slowly though, I’ve been gathering resources that, cobbled together, are helping me design an unexpectedly childfree life. Giving me a path forward through the grief and anger.

I’m at the beginning of my journey and I don’t have all the answers, but I have found hope through the wisdom and stories of women who started this journey long before me. Who have cleared the brush and left footprints for me to follow. Through Chasing Creation, I hope to share the resources I find along my journey, to add a bit of light for my sisters that will follow on this path.

Maybe together we can answer the question that plagues me: can a life defining moment that feels so devastating and full of loss eventually be redesigned into something beautiful?

For those of you on this journey with me, I hope we can connect through this project. That together we can share our wisdom, move forward on the path, and get to a place in our journey where we can yell a resounding “YES” to those just starting out.

How about you? Where have you gone to build community and healing?


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