I’ve noticed that most childless women are similar in how we handle being on this path we didn’t expect to travel. We make the same mistakes.

Before we get into it, let me first say that this is not about judging you, or you judging yourself for making these mistakes.  I don’t want you to feel bad about it.  It’s about showing you there’s another way, another perspective.

I made these mistakes too.  It took me a while to realize it and then another while to change my habits.  But it worked.  And that’s why I want to share them with you because it feels so much better to stop feeling like crap and start feeling relief.

Here are the top 5 mistakes that childless women make:

1. Not honouring your grief.  The loss of your imagined future, the loss of your dream family is worthy of grief.  You’ll  tell ourself that this isn’t something to grieve. Especially if you haven’t experienced a death, say a pregnancy loss or stillbirth.  We associate grief with death but there are at least 30 different types of grief.  And the loss of a dream is one of them.

 2. That that is waiting for time to heal your wounds.  This refers to the notion that you just need to endure the pain until it goes away.  You may shut off social media, avoid baby showers and family-oriented events, assuming that things will get better, time will heal and then you’ll return to normal life.

But the premise of this doesn’t make sense.  I like to use physical injury as an analogy. Imagine you break a leg.  You can wait for time to heal, and it ultimately will, but you’ll move your leg around, the bone may not be properly set and as a result the pain will go on for much longer than is necessary.  In some cases, the bone even needs to be re-broken in order to heal properly and you have to go through it all again.

When that bone is reset and cast, it can heal properly.  When the cast comes off, you might go to physiotherapy in order to get your range of motion back more quickly.  You’ve taken action towards your healing and, as a result, it heals well and in a much shorter timeframe.

Emotions work the same way.  You currently have an emotional injury that needs healing.  You can wait for time to heal or you can take action.

 3. Burying or numbing all the emotions.  This can look like something that is socially acceptable or not.  We use booze, gambling, drugs, and netflix to numb pain.  We also use work, food or working out to numb.  We bury pain by trying to forget about it.  For example, keeping your schedule so packed so that you have no time to feel.

When you bury or numb, the pain will eek out in some other way.  It’s like trying to hold a beach ball under the water.  You can hold it down for so long but the deeper you try to push it, the faster it pops back up. 

Emotional pain works the same way.  But it doesn’t always show up in the form you expect. Sometimes that pain will show up as anger instead of sadness.  Or shame about your body or your empty arms.  It may show up as fatigue, low energy, or no motivation to do anything. Your pain can disguise itself so you don’t even recognize it when it shows up.

 4. Putting on a mask to cover up pain. This is essentially akin to pasting a smile on your face, putting a shield around your feelings and heading out to the baby shower.  It’s about faking a strong outer shell to cover up what you’re really feeling inside. 

Boundaries play into this as well. Saying “yes” when you really don’t feel up to it and then showing up when you really can’t fully show up.  This is the kind of thing that leads people to say things like “you’re so strong”.  What that means to me is, “you are so good at hiding your true feelings so the rest of us don’t have to see your pain”.  We find it very hard to watch someone else in pain so we’d rather not see it.

 5. Tying your purpose to raising children.  We’re told that raising children is the most important job in the world.  We grow up believing that it’s the one fundamental thing that women are supposed to do and it’s our main purpose in the world.

It’s not.  I would argue that it’s more of a volunteer position, or even a hobby.  A job is something you get paid to do.  Your purpose is your calling.  When you listen for it and follow the niggling feeling or follow what lights you up, you’ll find purpose.   It’s often linked to the change you want to see in the world.

Having a child may spark a purpose, for example, you have a child that has ADHD and you want to see better treatment and care of children with ADHD in the school system.  So you set out to change that.  That is a purpose.

 Even if you are a mother and you tie your purpose to raising your children, what happens when your children become adults?  You are left without a purpose and you begin the cycle into worthlessness as you age.

My purpose is to serve childless women.  To awaken them to their self-worth and their value in the world.  My purpose evolved.  I used to coach women who’ve had a miscarriage and then I changed.  My own journey evolved and my purpose followed. 

Your purpose does not have to be set in stone.  And it defintely does not need to revolve around raising children.

 So how do you avoid making these mistakes and what do you do instead?

 1. Not honouring your grief.   Well, honour it.  Give yourself permission to grieve.  To feel the sadness at the loss of your dream.

2. Waiting for time to heal. Instead, take action toward your healing.  There are coaching programs out there, therapy, counselling, spiritual practices, energy healing. 

Close your eyes for a moment and open your heart to healing.  And then notice the next thing that comes into your life.  The next suggestion, the next ad, the next post.  Instead of shutting that next thing down, ask yourself, “is this something that may help me to move forward and feel better?”  If the answer is “yes”, then perhaps it’s something to consider.

 3. Burying or numbing your feelings. Instead of burying or numbing your emotions, you need to FEEL them.   It seems counterintuitive.  We think feeling is what hurts.  But it’s not.  Emotion moves.  It shifts and changes shape.  When you allow yourself to feel and observe, you’ll notice that it fades. 

For today, try this: sit quietly, take a deep breath, in and out. Close your eyes.  Allow yourself to feel the emotion, notice how it feels inside your body.  When you feel it, you release it. 

4. Wearing a mask to cover pain.  Instead of putting on a mask or a suit of armor every time you go out, practice saying “no” to invitations and events when you know you can’t show up for them fully.  Draw boundaries.

You can also give yourself permission to share your feelings.  Maybe you only do this with people you trust, but you don’t have to hide.  When you open up about how you’re really feeling, the people around you know when you need support.

5. Tying purpose to raising children. Grieve the loss of your dream, but open your heart to a new purpose.  Ask yourself what change you want to see in the world.  What fires you up? What are you passionate about? What brings you joy? Lean towards those things.

 I would love to know which of these mistakes you’re making and what you’re going to do to fix them. Comment below!

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References from this episode:

Episode 50: Birthing a Baby is Not the Only Kind of Birth That Creates Purpose

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Sheri Johnson