Saturday 5 December 2020

A different kind of grief

Emily shares her experiences with a different kind of grief for Grief Awareness Week.

- Emily Maybanks

I understand full well how it feels to lose someone you love dearly. My Dad suffered with cancer for a few years before he sadly passed away in 2012, when I was seventeen years old. I’ve been learning to deal with the loss of my Dad; not having him be there for special occasions such as graduating university, moving abroad, birthdays, and beginning my career in teaching. However, the hardest thing has been not having him there for me through my own battles with cancer. First in 2017 and then again earlier this year.

Lots of people talk or write about the pain and grief that comes with losing a loved one, but no one really talks about the pain and grief that comes with finding out you are never going to be able to have children of your own. I think it is important to talk about this, and to be open and honest about the emotions and feelings that this brings with it.

I had my first ovary taken out in 2017 when I was twenty-two along with a tumour. Earlier this year, just weeks before lockdown, I had my other ovary removed, again, along with a tumour. Being told that I had ovarian cancer once was hard enough. Having it again and becoming infertile at the same time was crushing. To then have to recover from a major operation whilst coming to terms with everything, without being able to just go and see my friends earlier this year, was challenging to say the least. I often found myself wondering what my Dad would have said if he were still alive.

It has been so hard coming to terms with it all. I’ve felt angry; I’ve felt apathetic; I’ve felt alone; I’ve felt relieved, and I’ve wondered if I’d been going mad with all the emotions I felt. But most of all, I have tried to tell myself that I am lucky to have my health and that not being able to have children of my own isn’t a massive deal breaker because I can still make a difference to the lives of children and young people by being a teacher, and even a foster parent.

Finding out you’re not going to have children is certainly a different kind of bereavement because it is a type of loss. For me, it sometimes feels like I’ve lost the right to call myself a woman. And I feel awkward when people ask, “do you want children in the future?”, because how do I answer such a question honestly, without making them feel awkward?

I think it is important to keep talking about this openly and honestly because it is a reality for many people, and it is a tough, sometimes isolating experience. But, I have also learnt that friends will try to understand and they will be there for you – whether it is a shoulder to cry on, a hug, an ear to listen, or even just someone to sit in silence with. 

Learn more about loss, and how you can support yourself through it on Student Space. 


My name is Emily (Em). I recently graduated from Swansea University with my BA degree in Modern Languages, Translation & Interpreting where I was also passionate about and dedicated to Swansea Student Media and the University students' newspaper - Waterfront. I am currently an EAL Teacher and LSA at my old secondary school in Reading. I blog for Student Minds because I have experienced mental health issues as a student and now also as a graduate, as well as various other health issues, and I support friends and students who also have mental health difficulties. I am a passionate writer and writing has been important in my mental health experiences - both in helping me to explore and to cope with my mental health, as well as sharing my story in order to help and inspire others.

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