I’ve often imagined the scene at the tomb the day after Christ’s crucifixion. The world must have seemed bleak. His family and disciples spent that Saturday grieving the loss of the One they thought would free them. They didn’t know He’d rise in victory over sin and death the next day. In the shadow of the cross freshly stained with Jesus’ blood, they couldn’t see the glory of an event yet to come.
Women who suffer infertility experience a similar grief over the death of our dreams about motherhood. Like those who mourned Jesus that dark Sabbath day, we’re unsure when or if joy will come tomorrow or the day after. Our bodies set us on a perpetual roller coaster of emotions, rising with anticipation at the start of a cycle then crashing with disappointment when the test turns out negative. A friend described it well when she called the arrival of her period as a “mini-funeral” she endured month after month.
This comparison to death might not make sense if you haven’t lived through the heartache of infertility. I didn’t understand it until my husband and I struggled to conceive. After years of tests, surgeries, and failed treatments, I learned the truth of Proverbs 13:12: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.”
In the thick of our infertility journey, I couldn’t see past my tears to grasp the hope of Christ’s resurrection. That period of waiting for a child—for God to breathe new life into being—felt dark, lonely, and pointless, as I imagine it seemed to Jesus’ followers the day after the Light of the World flickered out.
Helpless to Help?
If you’re on the outside, peering into the cloud of grief your loved one is experiencing through infertility, you might feel unprepared and ill-equipped to help. You worry you’ll cause more pain and so be tempted not to say or do anything. Or maybe her grief seems so raw and overwhelming, you feel like avoiding her altogether. Being the one to shine a light into darkness requires you to step into unknown, dreary territory, taking on some of her emotional weight that could drag you down, too.
On top of these factors, you could get backlash from the loved one you’re trying to help. I confess that when my heart was aching and my hormones were a mess, I was often irritable, sullen, and sharp-tongued—overall, an unpleasant person to be around.
Even if you’re willing to step into the minefield of supporting your hurting and potentially moody loved one, you might feel a sense of helplessness. How do you comfort her when you can’t deliver the one thing she desperately desires?
You can’t give your loved one a child or speed up her wait. But through the strength and gentleness of the Spirit, you can help carry her burden and remind her of the abundant comfort she has in Christ.
5 Ways to Support a Friend Facing Infertility
Everyone grieves differently and at their own pace. With infertility, the journey to resolving childlessness involves multiple pain points along the way—hearing a discouraging diagnosis, experiencing miscarriage or a failed adoption placement, managing the sting of others’ pregnancy announcements. Although it’s tricky determining how best to encourage a friend or family member dealing with all this upheaval, you can follow a few general, biblically based guidelines for supporting someone facing loss.
- Listen first.
When someone you love is hurting deeply, your first impulse might be to say something to staunch their tears. But in the urgency of the moment, you could get flustered or forgetful and wind up making an unintentionally insensitive remark.
One of the best ways to support your loved one longing for a child is to simply sit down and listen to her pour out her sorrow. Devoting time and attention to hear her release the flood of emotions conveys patient love (1 Cor. 13:4) and demonstrates Christ-like humility as you consider her more important than yourself (Phil. 2:3). The ministry of your presence and commitment to weep with her will speak volumes of grace to help in her time of need.
- Ask questions.
Posing tactful, well-timed questions shows your loved one you care about her journey. Before diving into deeper conversation, check if and when she’d be willing to answer. Keep questions general and open-ended, such as “What options are you considering?” Avoid questions that pry into private details that should remain between her and her husband, or “Why don’t you ___?” questions that put her on the defensive. Proverbs 20:5 affirms the wisdom of gently inviting others to process their thoughts and feelings: “The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.”
- Pray for and with her.
God’s Word assures us that He hears the prayers of the righteous (Prov. 15:29) and calls all Christians to pray for one another (James 5:16). Scripture also records several instances of prayers made on behalf of childless women, including Sarah, Hannah, and Elizabeth. Fulfill this duty and honor to take your loved one’s petition for a child before the throne of heaven. After all, only the Author of life can build a family through the beauty of pregnancy and adoption. Ask Him to guide her in all wisdom and comfort her in His strength as she waits according to His timeline.
You can also go a step beyond private intercessory prayer and ask if she wants to pray together. This can help both of you by turning her thoughts away from herself and toward Christ and keeping your encouragement more defined to earnest supplication instead of empty platitudes.
- Show love.
Babies get lots of attention, as do their mothers. From gender reveals to showers to meal trains to Mother’s Day, celebrations abound for pregnancy, birth, and other family milestones. While new life is always worth celebrating and mothers should be honored for their important ministry, these events often can make women who are struggling to conceive feel excluded. Missing out on such joyful occasions can add to their feelings of rejection and abandonment.
Though you can’t change your loved one’s circumstances, you can help her feel valued by surprising her and/or doing something special. Write and mail her a letter. Take her out to lunch or drop off dinner. If she has a hobby like baking or gardening, buy her a gift she can use as she’s doing something she enjoys. Any meaningful gesture will lift her spirits and affirm that she’s seen and loved.
- Seek Christ together.
Your loved one might be so immersed in grief that she can’t embrace the joy of her salvation. Remind her the Lord is near to her broken heart (Ps. 147:3) and that His grace is sufficient in her weakness (2 Cor. 12:9). To shift her eyes from despairing over a withheld blessing, read verses together confirming the blessings she has now in Christ: “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace” (Eph. 1:7).
On this side of the cross, we know Jesus’ family and followers only had to wait until Sunday for hope to burst forth from the grave. Our loved ones grieving infertility don’t have that certainty about their longed-for children. By faith, we can sit and cry and wait with them, believing that our Savior will redeem their tears in the fullness of time.