At the annual ADEC (Association of Death Education and Counseling), I spoke with Dr Darcy Harris about families and their struggles with infertility and the unacknowledged loss.

Darcy originally got interested in this topic when she was doing research on couples going through infertility treatment. The language they were using was the language of grief and loss even though there wasn’t a death in the traditional sense. They were mourning the loss of baby they were hoping for but never appeared.

That experience got Darcy thinking more about non-death related loss. There is still a lot of misunderstanding when it comes to these experiences, which Darcy goes on to discuss in detail in the video below.


Here are some key takeaways from the video:

  • What people don’t realize about non-death loss through infertility is that people are grieving the future they thought they were going to have. It feels like a minimized loss because people don’t extend the support they normally would if it were a death-related loss.
  • There is a misunderstanding when it comes to infertility. There are a lot of media reports that lead people to conclude if you’re infertile, all you have to do is go to the doctor and you can have a baby. That’s usually not how it happens.
  • Often you don’t know when people are going through a non-death loss because it’s such a private issue. But if you do know someone who is going through infertility treatment, recognize that it’s a very hard thing to do.
  • Those who are going through infertility treatment may want to be private and not talk too much about it, but what they have been through is indeed a loss.
  • Just like with any other loss there is uncertainty, and your whole life ends up revolving around infertility treatments and wanting to have a child.

For more video interviews, please see the Open To Hope YouTube channel.

Heidi Horsley

Dr. Heidi Horsley is an international grief expert, licensed psychologist, and social worker. She is the Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Open to Hope Foundation, one of the largest internet grief resources, with over 2 million yearly visitors. She hosts the award-winning Open to Hope cable television show and podcast. Dr. Heidi is an adjunct professor at Columbia University. She serves on the ‚ÄčNational Board of Directors for The Compassionate Friends, the largest peer to peer support organization in the world. She also serves on the National Advisory Board for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS). TAPS has served over 50,000 military families who have suffered a loss. In addition, she serves on the National Advisory Board for the Elisabeth Kubler-Ross Foundation, and the Children's Brain Tumor Foundation. Dr. Heidi is on the VIP section of Marquis Who's Who in America, Madison Who's Who, and Who's Who of American Women. Dr. Heidi has co-authored eight books, including; Spouse Loss; Fresh Grief; Inspirational Stories for Handling the Holidays After Loss; Inspirational Stories of Healing After Loss; Real Men Do Cry; A Quarterbacks Inspiring Story of Tackling Depression & Surviving Suicide; Teen Grief Relief: Parenting with Understanding Support and Guidance; and Signs and Hope From Heaven. She has appeared on the ABC television show 20/20, has been interviewed by numerous media outlets, and has been a guest on hundreds of radio shows as well as quoted in dozens of media publications, including the Metro World News, Washington Post, Time Magazine, Newsday, Money Magazine, and New York Daily News. Dr. Heidi is also the author of numerous articles and academic book chapters. Dr. Heidi gives keynotes, presentations, and workshops throughout the country, and teaches continuing education workshops for health care professionals on support following trauma and tragedy. For 10 yrs., Dr. Heidi worked as a co-investigator for the FDNY-Columbia University Family Guidance Program; a study which looked at traumatic loss in families of firefighters killed in the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks. Through this 9/11 study, Dr. Heidi provided ongoing intervention and follow-up to firefighter widows and their children, and facilitated groups for bereaved siblings. In addition, Dr. Heidi supervised the school social work staff at Harlem Democracy Charter Schools in NYC for four years. Dr. Heidi's early career included work in a variety of clinical settings, including; Manhattan Psychiatric Center, California Pacific Medical Center Psychiatry Dept., University of San Francisco Mental Health Clinic, St. Lukes-Roosevelt Hospital Psychiatry Dept., and Hope Haven Residential Treatment Center in New Orleans. Her doctoral dissertation was on the sudden death of a sibling. Her academic credentials include a doctorate in Psychology (PsyD) from the University of San Francisco; a Masters degree in social work (LMSW) from Columbia University, and a Masters degree in mental health counseling (MS) from Loyola University, in New Orleans. Dr. Heidi splits her time between NYC and Tucson AZ.

More Articles Written by Heidi