As told to Brandi Lytle
At the end of 2021, Helen Segal, founder of Empowered Childlessness and Creator of “Grieve with Gusto,” contacted me. She wanted to tell me about a new online program she was planning to launch in 2022. (You can read more about that here.) And she wanted to know if I’d list her site, Empowered Childlessness, on the Not So Mommy… Resources page. After speaking with Helen for only a few short minutes via Zoom, I knew I wanted to do much more than simply place a link to her site. I wanted to fully introduce her to the Not So Mommy… community! So, today, I’m giving Helen the opportunity to share her Finding Joy Despite… Story. It is one full of emotion and struggle, power and perseverance… But why don’t I just let Helen share…
How Helen Found Joy Despite…
Wobble Warning: Helen speaks of grief, failed, IVF, and more… I believe you will feel empowered by the end. But there might be a few wobbles along the way. Please, only read if you are feeling strong enough, fabulous one.
Why had you lost your joy? What struggle and/or difficulty were (or are) you struggling with?
Hello. My name is Helen Deborah Segal (I love using my second name) and I recognise myself as a woman childless not by choice, but also a woman building a life of abundance, love, and laughter. It is a pure joy, after 7 years, to feel deeply more than my childlessness.
But hey, this was not the case at the beginning of my journey of childlessness. I struggled and lost my joy and mojo, which began way before my last failed IVF treatment.
But I can’t lie, when I finally gave up trying to have children, I fell into a depression so deep that at one point I thought, “I don’t know if I want to go on anymore. I’m not sure I can continue in life without the dream of being a mum and the family I desired so badly. What’s the point?”
It terrified me and the hardest thing was I felt so ashamed of really sharing how I felt deep within. It was practically impossible to share my deeper struggle with anyone. I even found it hard to share with my therapist.
Why? Because there was a part of me that said, “Come on now–get on, get up, you are being silly, and you should now how to deal with this.” It was shouting at me saying:
- Do this, do that!
- Get up!
- Be good!
- Come on–we have to sort this out!
So I did get on. I continued to work and even study.
But inside, there was a part of me which felt so damned ashamed, angry, sad, and very anxious–underneath the grief.
The challenge wasn’t that I struggled with expressing my grief. I cried in the arms of Simon (my life partner). Screaming with the unfairness, I collapsed with the devastation of it all. At times, I acknowledged my brokenness. But I also spent many hours, days, and months in bed in front of Netflix, numbing the pain because, at other times, it just all got too much.
But what I really struggled with was the acceptance and acknowledgement of where I was and what I needed to do to move forward. There was a part of me that felt so ashamed and overwhelmed with this fact. I was stressed, and I didn’t know how to communicate that.
Does that sound weird to you?
To me, it is only just starting to make sense.
Let me give you a little background…
I met my partner at 41. I had been teaching art for 4 years and had recently joined a wonderful school in Aylesbury, which I just loved. Teaching was my first professional career and I had worked hard to retrain at 30, connecting to my creativity, going to university and then following my plan to teach and support others to connect to their creativity.
My life was falling into place. Job √ home √ hobbies √ financial security √. Now the partner, husband, and children – that was the plan I was following. And yes, I went for it. I giggle as I write this because I signed up on dating websites, went on singles outings and holidays, speed-dating. I even went on a workshop to teach me how to flirt. Seriously, I had no idea. And it worked. That summer, I met my partner who I recognised was giving me the eye and, instead of turning away, I looked at him. He was cute. Hey, he still is cute–14 years later.
We had lots of fun. The relationship moved slowly but steadily and in 2010, we made a commitment to each other. I had moved in and we started to try for a child. There was a part of me desperate to have kids and another saying, “Helen, you’re 43”. But my heart and desire took over and it drove us in the direction of tests and then 2 IVF treatments.
I don’t want to go into the highs and lows of this time. For those who have been though this, you know how rough it is. Looking back, it was one of the hardest things that I have done and one that affected a lot of people in my life.
Over that period, I leaned heavily toward the arts. I struggle today to call myself an artist, but I found the intuitive arts connected me to my soul and an intelligence that helped calm and soothe me. (There’s all kinds of science that I know today which advocates the arts in mental health – but I did not know that then). I painted and drew what my heart needed to express. Allowing my pen and brush to flow across the page, I worked with my inner critic to allow myself to do what needed to be done. I think it kept me just sane enough.
After my last failed IVF, I stopped creating for awhile. One day, I allowed the emotions to flow through me. The deepness of my pain and how it was affecting me came out when I picked up my paintbrush and let it lead the way again. “My Grief Body” is what came out.
This little painting, which literally took 5 minutes to paint, helped me acknowledge and see the pain and struggle I was going through and its affect on my body.
How did you find (or are you finding) joy despite this struggle?
For me, I was challenged with slowing down and really allowing myself to be with my emotions and myself with complete love, acceptance, and kindness. I felt I had so much work to do that I went from complete action to overwhelm and exhaustion.
Creativity helped, and continues to help, give a voice to my soul, body, and mind. It connects me to my unconscious, which in turn helps me be able to repair and heal internal disconnection.
Does this bring me JOY? Oh my, it surely does!
Though for me, it does not stop there. I am learning that once I am connected within, by feeling–and processing–my feelings, I know what I need and want in my life. Then, I can start to go outside and make a connection with the world and to others.
I am able to:
- Share with you and do this from a place of love and connection.
- Be in nature and feel the sun on my face.
- Share with another human being the courageous journey I have been on and really feel that I was heard deeply, understood, and empathised with. (Wow! Now, that is joyous!)
- Build my business so I can continue to help and support others not just connect to their joy through their creativity, but also have safe places to be heard, seen, acknowledged, understood, and empathised with. So, they get the joy of being witnessed on their journey in life and find direction to a new happiness in their lives.
What would you like to say to others who are going through the same struggle that you have overcome (or are in the process of overcoming)?
Firstly, you can do this–tiny little steps at a time. It will take courage, but maybe not in the way you think. Sometimes, it only takes a risk of listening to ourselves to find out what we really need and telling someone about it.
If you are feeling confused, alone, and like nothing you are doing feels good enough to you, take a pause. Acknowledge where you are at and how you are feeling. Breathe! Give yourself a great huge hug.
For me, I found that I needed to slow down enough to start to feel on another level.
I needed regular support around me.
Also, I needed to be in my grief process and trust it.
I have traveled through my creative programs–including the Grieve with Gusto Programs–at least five times and had a listening ear when I needed it. It really helped me process my grief emotions and start to be in the world.
Know that you are already traveling your grief and life journey, even if it feels like you’re not. This is part of it.
Take a risk and learn to create and connect to your inner muse, intuition, and expression. Being creative does not mean being good at art, drawing, painting, etc. Creativity means allowing ourselves to flow with a pen, paintbrush, etc. This allows us to give expression to the unexpressed, which at times does not have words. And this type of creativity can be taught and practiced.
All my love and kindness.
On a personal note…
My thoughts for Helen…
Helen, you are such a beautiful soul! I am so grateful that you reached out. Because getting to know you and introducing you to the fabulous ones here at Not So Mommy… Well, it has been such an honor! THANK YOU for sharing your incredible heart with us…
My thoughts for you, fabulous ones…
Fabulous ones, if you’d like to learn even more about Helen and her work, check out my Game Changers Article in the February 2022 edition of Tutum Journal, an online magazine by and for childless women.
*I am a volunteer member of the Tutum Journal Editorial Team. I do not make a dime when you subscribe to the magazine.
Subscribe to Tutum Journal here
Connect with Helen at Empowered Childlessness
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Featured Photo: Created by me, using Canva