Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

Uncovering Grief February 16, 2012

This week, I’m very pleased to introduce a new Guest Blogger.

Shannon Calder is a psychotherapist, specializing in grief and loss. In this, her new column, she’ll be addressing some of the issues many of us are facing as we look towards a life without children. I hope you’ll find her guidance helpful.

Uncovering Grief

By Shannon Calder

“If we carry our storms like actors pretending to be brave, each swallowed tear will fill our hearts like a bag of stones.”

– Alison Asher

Grief is a sacred time, a sacred act and it is the way we honor the importance of what we lost. The amount of grief we feel is in direct proportion to the importance of the person or idea we have lost. It is an honor to grieve.

My name is Shannon and I am a psychotherapist and a survivor of grief. I phrase it that way because surviving something indicates that it is still with you, in you, but that you pulled through and gained strength and meaning from it. I am here to remind you that grief does not evaporate, but like the wind, it breezes in and then recedes, leaving you to respond in its wake. How fast it recedes and how much havoc it wreaks on your life is the result of how you respond to it. I am here to help you with that and to listen, because grief is with us no matter how long ago we lost something or someone.

I am all for moving on, moving up, moving around, being positive and letting go. Every now and then I may discuss these very ideas. However, my purpose, whether it is on this blog or in my profession, is to address where people are in the moment and to speak to who lives and breathes underneath the persona that we show the world. I think we can agree that we don’t always feel like moving on, letting go or being positive.

Frankly, I don’t think putting happy pants on everyone and sending them back out into the world does them, their spouses, or the drivers next to them any good. It leads to repressed, angry, sad, grief-filled folks running into or running over each other unconsciously.

Do not misunderstand me. In your life, away from this discussion, it is a brilliant idea to have a stiff upper lip in most situations. But in this discussion with me, or anyone else on this blog, and hopefully with the people you trust the most, invest in the emotions that come with grief and give them the attention they deserve. If you are honest with yourself and others about what you feel, they can give you what you deeply need.

This is my not so subtle call to arms to those of you who are grappling with grief. If you are having trouble deciding what you feel, figuring out if you’re grieving, then that is completely valid and we can address that. I want to encourage you to do as Alison Asher says and “soar straight into the storm,” but only do this if you have a lifeboat. I hope that this column, the resources discussed here and the exercises we try can be your lifeboat, along with the friends and family you find here on this blog and in your life. Rally your resources and bring them close to you.

Please write to me with questions and/or your stories. I will attempt to address many of them in this column.

Be well,


Contact me at: Shannon [AT] lifewithoutbaby [DOT] com


Alison Asher wrote Soaring into the Storm, a lovely book about anyone facing adversity. She interviewed people of all ages and backgrounds who endured tragedy and came out strong. She is an artist and a poet and she survived the loss of a child.


12 Responses to “Uncovering Grief”

  1. Kathleen Guthrie Woods Says:

    I felt a weight lift as I read your column this morning. I think I needed “permission” to grieve, to be alright with where I am right now. Thank you. Can’t wait to see where you take us on LWB.

    • Shannon Says:

      We so often think of permission as something that others give. I’m happy you gave it to yourself. So happy to be here with you Kathleen

  2. Christine Says:

    I am grieving a recent miscarriage but more than that the loss of what I had hoped my life would be. I am single, childless and feel extremely socially isolated and lonely. I’m grappling with whether I want to keep trying to have a child – largely so I won’t be so lonely anymore. It feels very selfish to me to bring a child into a world that I find very difficult to live in myself. I’m trying to live in the present but the thought of a long lonely life stretching out in front of me keeps re-emerging – honestly how does one deal with all of this?

    • Shannon Says:

      Since your miscarriage is recent I imagine the grief feels very heavy right now. Know that it will not always be that way. There are so many reasons people decide to have children and for you, continuing to try, seems to have great meaning.

      If when you read that last statement… it does not quite ring true for you, look at what does have meaning and go towards that. If it does ring true then maybe you are not at your ending point with pursuing having a baby. Either way, take your time in deciding. Making such a huge decision, colored by your grief, may yield a hasty decision.

      Take these moments and decisions one at a time. You have the power to titrate the amount of emotion you deal with in one moment. Slow down and sink into the present moment. Grieving the exact life you hoped for and the recent loss of your pregnancy seems to be what happens now.

  3. I know what you say is true but I’m still annoyed that it doesn’t just evaporate.

    • Shannon Says:

      Honest and real. I have felt annoyed, repeatedly, in grieving. It’s true, loss is annoying. Plus it might be even more than annoying, feel free to share that too.

  4. You are right about the grief continually living within my body even though life continues to move on. My grief seems to ebb and flow depending on the day or moment. It’s only been 5 months since my sweet daughter was born sleeping and a little over a year when her brother was born sleeping. The sadness of not having them alive and well, seeing their beautiful faces and hearing their laughs and gurgles will always be with me.

    Thank you for this post. I look forward to reading more.

    • Shannon Says:

      I am struck most profoundly by your strength. I hope you have people around you that help you move through this time.

      And when the waves of grief come, what do you do to honor them and weather them?

      • I allow myself to feel the grief most times instead of pushing them away. I write in a journal where I express my grief in a way I’m not able to verbalize. I also have an altar with pictures and urns of my children where I light a candle and sit with them on occasion.

        My husband is truly my strength when I’m finding it difficult to get to the other side of the grief. I do also have a good friend who listens.

        Thank you for writing back.

  5. Peaches Says:

    Thank you! Grieving is so important and such a strong process I think it can be very harmful not to griev and being pressed to move on too quickly! People will eventually move on, when they are done grieving and noone should come and say when it’s time for that! Also I’m very tired of today’s “everyone should be happy all the time” society. Why on earth are “negative” feeling not allowed to exist anymore? Have we forgotten that we are humans?

    • Shannon Says:

      You bring up a great point. There is a whole structure of belief behind not being negative. I believe even the words negative and positive, good and bad, are at the center of that debate as well. I prefer “comfortable” and “uncomfortable” or Buddha’s words – pleasant, unpleasant or neutral.

      As a society we have come to a place of being intolerant of uncomfortable or unpleasant feelings. It is a fascinating idea to sit with how that effects our ability to survive, to weather any storm, to honor our ancestors and to accept what the present moment has to give us.

      How is our intolerance of uncomfortable feelings being reflected in the world today?

      An excellent point and an important reflection.

      • Christine Says:

        I feel very strongly about this, I attribute the high incidence of depression in our society partly to people’s inability to hear about other’s sadness. I once told a ‘friend’ about my difficulties in trying to have a child and at the end of it her comment was along the lines of ‘well we’re happy, be happy for us’.
        There is unfortunately a lot of people who don’t want to hear about sadness as it brings them down. The positive thinking movement including ‘The Secret’ have a lot to answer for in this problem as well I believe.

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