Support for friends and family without children is…
Support is not…
Earlier this year, I received an email from a woman who wrote to ask if I could point her toward resources that would help her be most supportive possible for her best friend. The writer has children herself. Her best friend does not.
I was touched that she took this initiative, and wrote her back...
Thank you for your email.
I myself have recognized a bit of a void in the area of 'how to support childless friends' and have been meaning to write about this. Last summer, I spoke with my best friend about this idea - like you, she's a mom with two children, and she thought this a very helpful idea too.
I have not really come across existing resources focused on how friends can help but have some thoughts...How to support a friend depends to some extent on 'where' your friend is at - if she's still trying to have children vs. if she is trying to move through the grief of realizing it will never happen are two very different experiences. If she's still trying, maybe infertility support groups could be a resource for you to explore. If she is not, perhaps look at some of the resources (websites, books) I've listed as a start so you can better understand what she may be going through. Grief, isolation, anger, feeling invisible - these are fairly common feelings. Suggestions on 'what to do/keep trying' from friends or family tend to be upsetting, so best to listen and let your friend know you understand how hard this can be and let her know you're there for her if she wants to talk. For me, finding other women who were experiencing involuntary childlessness as I was going through was a huge turning-point - it really helps to realize you're not alone. And, talking with women with similar experiences also helps with maintaining friendships with our friends who are parents; as, when grieving and trying to 'accept' what's happening, the different experiences can be hard to bridge. Jody Day's Gateway Women website was a big help for me - there is an online community of women from all over the world.
I really appreciate you writing, and your concern for your friend and wish to understand how you can support her. She has a good friend in you:) It might even help your friend to know that you have tried to find resources so you can support her as she needs. You could let her know you came across this site and some of the others listed in the Resources section and see if she would be interested. But, most of all, I suggest letting her know you care about what she's going through and you're here for her to listen.
I hope this is helpful. Your email will inspire me to get my thoughts in this area written. If you'd like me to let you know when something is done, I will.
Take good care. Thank you so much for writing,
Since my reply, I have spent many early mornings awake thinking about all that I could and would like to write for her - and for the many friends and family members who want to be the most supportive possible for their loved one who is childless not by choice. There are so many things.
Finally early this morning, I decided this thoughtful question deserves a dedicated page. This will be a page to capture my many thoughts on this question. It will be a continuous work-in-progress and will also share what I hear from others. And, I know already that it will be about awareness, understanding, acknowledgement, empathy, patience and, above all, inclusion.
If you have a friend or family member who is involuntarily childless and have found your way to this website with wishes to understand how you can best support, thank you. You are a good friend.