Relating well with others through one of the most difficult seasons of your life can be incredibly challenging… especially during the holidays with more get togethers.
Which is why we created this series to equip you with practical ways to relate well with your family, spouse and friends. We hope you can do more than simply survive your dearest relationships in one of the most beautiful seasons of the year.
How do you relate well with family when you’re walking through one of the hardest seasons of your life? Five years into my infertility journey, I don’t have all the answers. But I do want to share what helped.
If you are dealing with constant questions about when you’re planning to have kids, you are more than welcome to use my ready response (if you don’t already have one). Just a few simple words: “It isn’t always automatic.” I found it to be a concise boundary setter and conversation stopper when needed. And I think when you say it with a kind tone, people will have compassion and understand that it’s probably a good time for a different topic.
Within the context of closer family relationships, it can also be an open door to have a deeper conversation if that’s what you need.
Here are some practical suggestions:
Remind yourself that it’s impossible for family members to totally “get it.” Even if someone in your family has also experienced infertility, every person’s journey is unique.
Acknowledge family relationships always require a lot of mutual grace-giving, and even more so in this season.
Let the clueless comments go as quickly as you can. Don’t use any extra energy on worry or frustration for those words.
Think about & set boundaries. You are going to need space and time.
Tell your family what you need and don’t need. Be as specific as possible.
It is easy to become the younger version of yourself around your family, especially with extra stress and hormones raging, so take steps away and deep breathes.
I have an open and generally close-knit relationship with my parents and my big sister. She is married and has five kids. FIVE. And though she ached for us as much as anyone, it didn’t change the obvious and very painful contrast.
When Mother’s Day rolled around for the second time since I had been increasingly longing to become a mother, my sister gave me a necklace from Bottle of Tears including this verse: “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” (Psalm 56:8) I wore that necklace like armor and have clung to that verse ever since.
It is good for our souls to acknowledge that God sees our pain, our tears. He is a “man of sorrows” and is “acquainted with deep grief”. He knows our pain. He experienced the depths of grief and loneliness. Though we may never make sense of why He allows our hopes to be deferred, we must know that our situation does not escape His sight. Scripture says He cares for us affectionately and He cares for us watchfully (1 Peter 5:7).
Not a tear has escaped His sight and I believe that He is weeping with us in our pain. Bring your sadness and all the feelings to Him. He already knows. Thank Him for never leaving you. Ask Him to help you forgive and love your family, if and when they hurt you unintentionally.
My mom is an incredible woman of faith. She showers love and kindness on everyone she knows. The times we had tension were when I felt like she responded to my heartache with what I refer to as “Christian chirping.” Those sayings that while true, can’t come close to meeting us in our deep place of grief and pain. Of course, she meant well, and I knew she had endured losing a child at 14 months. So, when I felt like I was getting a pat answer or a canned saying, I was honest and would say so.
That’s my best advice. Be honest. In trusted relationships, I refused to be anything less than honest about how much I was wrestling with God through my infertility journey.
How painful it was. How many questions I had for God. And I would also share where I was seeing glimpses of God saying, “I see you, I hear you, I have NOT forgotten you.”
I can think of so many highs and lows in my journey, and processing with my family over the last five years. But one moment from last summer, will always stand out in my memory.
In June of 2017, on the last day of my family’s reunion in Colorado, a huge wave of grief rolled in and over me. I thought back to our previous family reunion. Three years prior. My husband and I were waiting in hope then for our first child, just as we were now. Three years later. In seemingly the exact. same. place.
That day, we all donned our matching shirts for the family photos and in photo after photo, all I could see were the new additions and the “effortlessly” growing families all around me. That’s when my mom’s cousin Carol, 70, came up to me. My mom had shared about our struggle with her.
I choked back tears as she shared words of compassion and empathy with me “I remember thinking when I went to a birth class that I was going to be the oldest one by far, and even back then I wasn’t. There were plenty of women in their 30s, couples who had started trying later in life or couples who had struggled.” She could never have known how she was encouraging me in my biggest struggle. As I stood there, I was 38 and my husband was rapidly advancing through his 40s. By sharing her story, she simply made me feel seen and therefore, not alone.
Our relationships can be one of the most painful and recurring reminders that we’re in a different season than those around us, but our relationships can also bring encouragement and growth too. So I began to remind myself regularly that being the same age does NOT mean we’re in the same stage. Of course, it doesn’t! God is far too creative for that!
So let’s ask ourselves deeper questions to work on our hearts:
How might God desire to minister to our family through our honesty and vulnerability about the pain of infertility, waiting and loss?
Might He desire to bring healing to any relationships through this?
Look for the purpose in your pain, even when it seems like there is none.
My prayer for you: Lord, for the woman who is reading this right now, may she begin to see glimpses of the goodness and light you intend to bring from this heavy heartache. Be bigger than this struggle in her life Lord. Show your nearness to her. Show your power and might over this. I ask for a breakthrough in every form that she needs it. Lord Jesus, bring light and hope that does not disappoint. You have a perfect plan. Amen.
Jaclyn Toscas | @jaclyntoscas
She recently joined the content team of Waiting in Hope. She grew up in the Houston suburb of The Woodlands and lives in the Washington DC area with her husband of six years. Through her 5-year journey of infertility, IVF and loss, she has discovered great passion in helping women rediscover God’s goodness through their pain.