Five Things to Know about Grieving your Hysterectomy
Five Things to Know About Grieving Your Hysterectomy
Sometimes a hysterectomy isn't a choice. For most, the grief and emotional pain are difficult to cope with. There are different physical structures that can be removed during the hysterectomy in addition to the uterus, such as the cervix, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. But for all women, a hysterectomy means no longer being able to carry children.
Some women have had this surgery in their twenties before they had a chance to meet their spouse or even consider children. What can be difficult about this is that they are grieving a loss that they and their peers may have not even considered yet. There is a lack of people to talk to about it, and no one seems to get it. Even for women who weren't sure that they even wanted to have children this loss is difficult. It's the fact that they now don't even get to choose that is so hard.
Other women find out about their endometriosis, uterine fibroid, gynecological cancer, or whatever the reason for the hysterectomy, while they are trying to conceive. Maybe they've waited until the found the right partner, the right job, the right home, and finally begin trying to create their family. To find out that the dream of carrying a child is not possible is devastating.
Another group of women that have difficulty grieving this loss are those who have had children, but have lost the ability to choose if they want to have more. They may still be surrounded by peers who are getting pregnant and having second and third children, but they know they'll never get that option.
What is common for most of these women is the disenfranchised sense of grief for all of them. For the one too young to consider children, their friends might say "Great! now you don't have to worry about getting pregnant!" For those with cancer their friends might say "Great! now you don't have cancer!" And for those with children their friends say "Great! now you don't have to worry about having more children." But that is not actually the sense that many of these women feel. And there aren't many people who get it that they can share this with.
They feel a great sense of loss about who they are as menstruating, ovulating, female women. This sense of loss can also come with early menopause. Women are also experiencing hormone changes and having to make decisions about hormone therapy which may feel anachronistic for their age group.
Five things to know about grieving your hysterectomy
1. You are involuntarily losing a part of yourself. It is okay to grieve. Regardless of what your friends and family say, if you feel sad about this, it is normal and okay.
2. Find a professional to help you grieve this loss. Check with your OB/GYN who will have referrals to a perinatal health specialist, grief specialist, or infertility specialist who will get it. And they will help you find healthy paths to grieving.
3. Tell your friends that you are grieving this loss of yourself and expected future. They don't have to get it. You can tell them what you need. Especially if they say "Let me know if there's anything I can do to help?" You can also send them this blogpost to help them understand more.
4. Grief can be confusing, but it is also our brain's way of adjusting to our current reality and expected future. If you weren't particularly sure you wanted children or were pretty sure you were finished having children, it can be difficult to make space for this pain. Part of your mind might say "I should feel relieved I don't have to worry about this any more." With curiosity, as your mind, "How else do I feel about this?"
5. Take your power to choose back. You may not have been able to choose the hysterectomy, but you do get to choose how to handle it. You can talk to friends, find online or professional support. You can journal or create art about your feelings. Choose to take the time to mourn this loss. It is significant.
Allison Ramsey is a licensed professional counselor and fertility counseling specialist in the Asheville area. She’s a member of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, and completed their certificate training in mental health counseling for infertility. Contact her to start feeling better.