Hysterectomy: a clinical term, yet an emotional storm. The life-changing finality of this procedure can be frightening and even painful, but it doesn’t have to be the end of the world. Here are five tips to help you recover emotionally after your hysterectomy.
After the initial physical pain of a hysterectomy recedes, it can be tempting to expect that you should be able to check off the box ‘heal’ in your mental to-do list. However, grief is a normal and ongoing part of a multidimensional loss like a hysterectomy. You have lost part of your physical self as well as part of your feminine identity and dreams of a larger biological family. Of course you feel sad at times!
Emotional pain can be astounding in its unpredictability. A magazine headline announcing Princess Kate is pregnant again could cause you to weep quietly over your cart in the checkout line months after you thought you were fine. Grief isn't a river you cross once, but a gentle rain that will occasionally fall when you least expect it.
Sharing your feelings with friends goes hand in hand with accepting your emotions. As you explain your journey to a friend, you are explaining your journey to yourself. Talking helps to make sense out of what you have experienced. When you open up, you may be surprised to learn of other women who have also had hysterectomies, uniquely qualifying them to offer empathetic support and guidance.
A core identity of many women is found in becoming a mother. When you once dreamed of bearing one, two, or seven children, a hysterectomy can wreak havoc on your sense of self. What makes you who you are? A hysterectomy modifies aspirations and abilities, but you are still full of these and more: you have passion, talent, and wisdom. If you are a nurturer, you are a mother. Whether this is accomplished biologically or through adoption, your nurturing is needed. Some things may have changed, but you are still you!
Whenever you are tempted to sink into self pity, challenge yourself with the exception and focus on what you do have. Yes, you are dealing with hormonal imbalances—but there are so many more helpful products and treatments than there used to be. Congratulations on your good timing! Yes, it may be years before you can finalize an adoption—but those are years to prepare. Think of the stability your preparation and readiness will give to a special child! Yes, you lost something—but your life and health were saved. Now you can continue to enrich that life!
With a little hope and imagination, you can replace "I'll never be able to..." with "I may be able to..." and eventually "I will be able to..."! Your story has had a plot twist and now you get to decide what the next chapter will reveal. Will you look into adoption and someday be led to a child you would not have been blessed to love otherwise? Will you use your new understanding to help others who are suffering grief? Will you discover an interest in women's health you never would have known you possessed had you not experienced the healthcare system so thoroughly? Rewriting your story can be a source of inspiration and excitement!
Every woman's experience with a hysterectomy will be slightly different, yet all women need time to heal physically and emotionally. Give yourself the support you need, and watch your life blossom into abundance again.