Each day I have a new appreciation for how difficult the concept of infertility is both for those of us living it as well as those who are not but don’t know how to best to respond. Following the bad news on the pet front last week I shared my sadness and frustration with family, friends and colleagues. I received an outpouring of sympathy. It was bad news after all and they wanted to make me feel better. I welcomed and appreciated their caring gestures.
What surprised me though was the depth of condolences from some of my colleagues. Sure they felt a bit invested in the process as I’d been talking up how excited I was about Scout’s arrival for more than a year. At the same time their sympathy far outweighed the circumstances. There was something more there. They lingered in my office longer than necessary some of their faces carrying real sadness. When I took a step back to assess their reactions further something else became clear to me. My loss of Scout had become for them a proxy for my loss of children.
The ability to channel their sadness for me into the pet loss gave them a safe and less intimate way of expressing a larger sadness on my behalf. Their body language told me that the loss of this furry little addition to my family was just one in a series of greater losses that they had not been in a position to address — as much for my holding them at arm’s length as for their discomfort with the larger subject of infertility.
It was a lesson for me. A lot of people truly want to be there for me, but sometimes I won’t let them or they just don’t know how.