Helpful: How to support the childless not by choice

by Brandi Lytle
Photo of a woman holding a basket of purple flowers on "Helpful: How to support the childless not by choice" on Not So Mommy..., a childless blog

Those of you who follow along here at Not So Mommy… know that I have been writing a series entitled, “Not So Helpful: Things You Shouldn’t Say to the Childless.” Last week, I wrote a round-up of ten not so helpful pieces of advice, jokes, and comments that we childless not by choice often endure. (You can read the round-up here.)

Ending on a positive note…

As the series finished up, I knew I wanted to end on a positive note. Originally, I thought I would write a blog called “Helpful: Things You Should Say to the Childless.” But as I wrote and thought and read comments from Not So Mommy… community members, I realized my original idea wasn’t quite right…

A personal story…

As many of you know, my best friend of 37 years recently passed away from breast cancer. When she was diagnosed in October 2017, I struggled with knowing what to say. I’ve now realized that my desire wasn’t really to say something helpful. My desire was actually to make sure that she knew I loved her and supported her and would be there for her in any way she needed. In my mind, that meant I needed to say something to express this…

So, I tried. Sometimes, I was eloquent. Sometimes, I stuck my foot in my mouth. But I think… At least I really, really hope that my beautiful friend understood my heart and felt my support, my friendship, my love.

Love & Support…

And I believe that’s what most people want to do for someone who is struggling. Like me, they want to be there for them, to help in any way possible. They truly want to show their loved one that they are indeed loved and supported…

And so, we try to say something. But unfortunately, we often get it all wrong despite our efforts to offer comfort. Why is that? Why do words spoken, with the purest of loving intentions, cause pain?

Listen, Love, & Support

Well, I think it’s because we are supposed to listen, not speak.

Yes, when someone is struggling, we need to not simply love and support.  When someone is struggling, we need to listen, love, and support.

Now, I’ve said before that I do feel my childless not by choice struggles pale in comparison to the life-or-death battle that my friend courageously fought. The treatments, the physical pain, the unfairness of battling terminal stage four cancer at age 39… Well, I cry thinking about it.

And then, I think about how my amazing friend supported me through my infertility battle and acceptance of my childless life…

The best listener ever…

Jennifer was the best listener ever. Non-judgmental, she allowed me to speak openly and honestly about my feelings. She let me cry and yell and vent. Jennifer knows everything about our journey. I never had to censor what I was telling her. And truly, she never said the wrong thing. And that is because she knew how to listen.

Silent & Listen

You know, I used to tell my students that “listen and silent are spelled with the same letters.” Think about that for a moment. In order to listen, you must be silent. Oh, you can hear someone without being silent. You can hear their words and respond. But to truly listen, to truly comprehend what they are telling you, one must be silent and allow the words to settle within…

If you will do that… If you will really listen, you’ll discover that advice may not be what the other person needs. Perhaps they need for you to say, “I’m sorry. That sucks.” Perhaps they need you to acknowledge the difficulty they are going through. Perhaps they just need a hug.

Yes, supporting someone does not require that you speak. You can show someone your support without saying a word…

How to support the childless . . .

How? Well, here are 8 tangible ways to raise awareness and show your support for the childless not by choice who are redefining, who are creating a new, beautiful and courageous existence…

  1. Wear, display, and support the olive green childless not by choice awareness ribbon.Olive Green Childless Not By Choice Awareness Ribbon on Not So Mommy...
  2. Follow Not So Mommy… on Instagram, Facebook, and/or Twitter to learn more about the canbace/cnbc journey.
  3. Share your good things story to help others discover different ways to find joy after struggle.
  4. Share this post by clicking the social media icons below.
  5. Like this post by clicking the heart below.
  6. Comment on this post to show others they are not alone. (Remember that a simple “I’m sorry you are struggling” or “Hugs” is enough to let others know you care.)
  7. Subscribe to Not So Mommy… emails and receive monthly updates about initiatives and activities taking place within the CNBC community, such as the inaugural Canbace Awareness Day being held 1 May 2019.
  8. And, perhaps most importantly, if someone is brave enough to share that they are childless not by choice, remember to listen and give them a hug (either in person or virtual). Don’t offer unwanted advice, jokes, or comments. Be silent and listen. Show your support…

Because if we’ve made the extremely difficult decision to stop trying and let go, we need you to respect that.

Photo of the quote, "We all want our grief validated... We don't want people to fear it nor try to fix it--just acknowledge it.

If anything I wrote resonated with you, fabulous one, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

And make sure to share this post using the social media icons below.  Let’s raise awareness about how to support the childless and show that being CNBC is nothing to be ashamed of!


Featured Photo: Valeria Boltneva of

You may also like


Sarah November 18, 2018 - 3:55 pm

Dear Brandi,

I’m so sorry for your recent losses, one right on top of the other. You make such a crucial point and you honor your friend in doing so. I was stunned in the years coming out of fertility treatments at what I refer to as the “lost art of abidance”. We don’t need to be fixed or redirected, we need to be heard. Sounds like Jennifer had that one down! I now know, after going through infertility and meeting involuntary childlessness, that when I’m in the presence of someone who is speaking about an experience, particularly a life altering one that I myself have not had, that it is time for me to listen, not to talk. Thanks for sharing this important post.

Brandi Lytle November 19, 2018 - 2:21 pm

Thank you so much for your kind words about this post honoring Jennifer. She truly knew how to listen. It is an amazing gift!

And thank you for taking the time to come over to my blog, read, and comment. Your support truly is appreciated, Sarah!

Sherry Stout November 7, 2018 - 6:21 pm

Everything you wrote resonated with me. I have learned through my 65 years that listening silently is sometimes the best thing to do. Know your friend or family member and act accordingly. I have a good friend that wants responses, lots of them, so I do. But during your journey there wasn’t anything I could say or do to make it better except love and support. Jennifer certainly knew how to do that. We are blessed with her life lessons.?

Brandi Lytle November 8, 2018 - 10:18 am

You and Jenno are two of the best listeners I know. Love and Hugs…


Leave a Comment