If you want to support someone going through infertility learn to listen... Part of my role is to help women through the difficult and often all-consuming emotions they can experience while trying to conceive or going through fertility treatment. Women are increasingly aware that their emotions may impact on their fertility. Sometimes they will say to me things like: ‘I’m stressed that I am stressed, because I know it’s bad for fertility!’ They are often caught in a vicious cycle of trying to relax, yet feeling incredibly stressed and out of control. Not only is struggling to conceive an emotional rollercoaster, but it is subject to many external stressors that often add to the problem. Often stress is caused by those closest to you as they struggle to know how to support you and can say seemingly thoughtless and careless things.
“Just relax!” This sort of statement is more likely to induce stress than ease it. There may well be some truth in this for some people, but rarely does telling people to relax actually have the desired effect. Don’t be tempted to fill spaces with paltitudes it is disempowering and irritating.
I just know you are going to be ok”. Equally stating that you have some inside knowledge above and beyond the facts of the circumstances is trite and dismissive.
Unsolicited advice; giving advice or cutting out things from the paper when advice has not been asked for, maybe well meaning but it causes stress. If you want to be involved ask if there is anything that you can research on behalf of them to save them time and being exposed to irrelevant information.
Making comparisons; this is rarely helpful or constructive. People often feel like they need to say something or perhaps they are trying to switch the attention away from you. Often comparisons detract away from what has just been spoken and leaves the person feeling unheard.
Finding solutions; when people open up to you they are usually not asking for solutions, they are usually asking to be heard.
Become a good listener; that is usually all that is required. It is much better to let the person talk and you to simple listen. Validate what they say by feeding it back to them as way of confirmation. Feeling listened to and understood is far more healing than being told what to do.
You can always ask how you can help or even better drop a healthy meal on the doorstep and don’t expect to be entertained.
Last but not least, sometimes it is the person who is struggling that needs to lead the way. Instead of stewing over careless comments instruct loved ones HOW they can make things easier for you. People are often well meaning but don’t understand what to do or say for the best.