I come from a family who holds things close to the vest. They are an amazing, supportive, generous, loving group of people - they just don't want to talk about it. Deep expressions of affection are conveyed by a hearty pat on the back - and no matter the storm brewing inside, if asked what is wrong, we will tell you we are, "Fine, just fine."
So when my husband and I were struggling to start a family, we didn't share many details - even with some of our closest friends and family. It wasn't that we were ashamed or afraid of how they would respond, we simply preferred to keep the experience - and its roller-coaster of emotions - to ourselves.
When I began working to help other women facing the challenges of infertility, I knew sharing was critical to the healing process, but I was far more comfortable facilitating the discussion than participating. I would provide a general outline of our journey - numbers, protocols, procedures, and results - but I kept my story brief and quickly pivoted to "listen and encourage" mode.
But last month, I learned the Huffington Post was seeking essays as part of its coverage of National Infant and Pregnancy Loss Awareness Month. At first it didn't seem a natural fit: if I couldn't share my feelings with those closest to me, why would I expose something so personal to a broader audience? But I couldn't get the idea out of my head.
So I sat down to write. And when I finished, I felt that a weight I didn't know existed had been lifted from my shoulders. If nothing else, the exercise was therapeutic, I thought.
I sent the piece to an editor the next day, and it was published. And read. By thousands of people. Our story was out there - not just for our closest friends - not just for my students, but for anyone curious enough to click on a headline link.
I was unprepared for what came next. I received responses from complete strangers in similar positions who were grateful to know they were not alone. Others thanked me for being honest about the ugly feelings that can accompany loss. Any fear I had about making our story public vanished. Knowing I had been helpful gave me peace.
There are many occasions when keeping our feelings to ourselves is perfectly acceptable - perhaps advisable. But there are other times when it is helpful, even healing, to open up and give voice to what we are experiencing and how it affects us.
Is there something you need to share - whether with a trusted confidant or a larger audience? If so, take a deep breath and put it out there. Your act may be just the medicine you need - and you might help someone else along the way...