Don’t you dare try to tell me how to feel! (pt. 3)

Explaining that you are experiencing grief over something that you’ve never had is a hard thing for many to understand. However, this is my reality, and it’s one that becomes more intense as the years pass by. I never expected that this would be my experience. Nevertheless, these are the cards that life has dealt to me, and I’m doing my best to work through the heartache and pain that has resulted.

I must have been in my early twenties when the dreams started. At first, they would come often (they still come, but not as often as they used to). The dreams always took me to a playground, where I would run after, and play with a little boy. Although the dreams were many, it was always the same little boy that I’d see in my dreams. He must have been around three years old. He was a good looking little kid with a great smile and spirited personality. I clearly remember hearing him squeal with delight as I pushed him on the swing, and took him down the slide. Sometimes he’d run straight towards me, with his arms stretched wide, wanting me to pick him up and hold him. I remember the overwhelming sense of love in that moment. The love that I had for that child was one of the most beautiful things that I had ever felt. In return, I felt an overwhelming sense of love and trust radiating from him. Although my dreams never revealed the little boy’s name, there was one thing I knew beyond a shadow of doubt. The little boy, that I always saw in my dreams, was my son.

It may sound like an odd goal to have, but one of the things that I always wanted to be was a father. I wanted to have a child to call my own. I wanted my mother to have a grandson that would bring her just as much joy as, I knew, she would bring to him. In my mind, I pictured us sitting together as a family, eating empanadas, putting together puzzles, and singing hymns (3 of my mom’s favorite things to do). I wanted my brother to have a little rug-rat that would call him uncle. I wanted his children to have a cousin that they could play with. However, it never happened.

When I was twenty-five I fell in love with the woman who is now my wife. As our relationship deepened, and we began to speak about marriage, it was natural that the subject of children came up. She had three children from a previous marriage, two in their teens and one who had just started kindergarten. After the birth of her youngest, she had elected to have a tubal ligation. Knowing this, we talked about the possibility of adoption. At the time I had been a foster-parent for four years, so I felt that it would be a natural and easy transition to experience fatherhood and expand our family. However, as we started our marriage, we began to entertain the possibility of reversing the tubal ligation. Neither of us had a strong source of income, so we began to save. Four years later we finally had enough money to have the procedure done. Unfortunately, a poor decision, made by my wife’s oldest child, almost ended her life, and left her in a coma for three months. Although she survived, the road to a recovery was a long one. Needless to say, this situation drained our savings and my wife and I were back at square one.

A few years later, and once my step-daughter had recovered, we began to explore the opportunity to have a child again. Our visit to the fertility doctor let us know that, due to our advanced age, our best option was invitro-fertilization. The problem was the cost. However, I had been holding on to land that I had inherited from my father. My desire to have my own child led me to literally “sell the family farm” in attempt to have my own child. However, our attempt was not successful. Over $30,000 later, I sat there sobbing with the realization that this wasn’t going to happen for us.
I wish that I could say that I handled everything in a noble manner. Instead, I repressed my feelings and sunk into personal darkness. I thought that it would be best if ignored the devastation. Instead of addressing my pain, I spent the next few years digging myself into a hole that would take me falling flat on my face to get out of. Instead seeking help, I exerted energy on trying to fix people who themselves were broken. I lost a lot of valuable time and energy because I was unwilling to acknowledge the crater that had been created by the dream that was ripped out of my heart.

It took me about five years to face the fact that I may never have my own child. It is something that I’m still working through. However, I’m willing to acknowledge it now. Acknowledging it doesn’t mean that I’ve got everything together. Instead, it means, that I’m no longer repressing my feelings and I’m choosing to share them with others.

Here’s some life lessons that I’ve learned from this experience

Sometimes our prayers go unanswered.

This is a hard pill to swallow. I can’t tell you how many times I prayed to God to give me a child. Yet, He chose to not grant my request. Because of this, it would be easy for me to curse God and go my own way. However, I remember that the scriptures tell me that God is sovereign. He is all knowing, all-powerful, He is love, and He is everywhere. Somehow, I’ve mustered up the strength to trust Him in this situation. I don’t understand his reasoning. However, I do know that if He knows all, understands all, and if He is love…. in the grand spectrum of life there is a reason why this request wasn’t granted, and God’s choice to deny my request was actually an act of love in itself. It’s not something that I fully understand yet, but I believe that he can be trusted, because He cannot operate out of the context of who He is (God is Love). Now, when I’m feeling down, I try to remind myself of the words that the Apostle Paul said when his prayer for healing wasn’t answered, “His grace is sufficient.”

We have every right to grieve.

Most people don’t know how to grieve. In many situations they repress their feelings until they explode (usually at someone else’s expense). At other times, people don’t know how to handle the grief of others so they try to find a way to silence them. Sometimes people taken on the responsibility to try and fix your grief for you. While this is noble, it makes things very awkward when that person realizes that they are powerless to do so. Other people try to silence your grief with impractical advice. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people tell me, “At least you got to raise your wife’s youngest daughter.” (insert the feeling of cold water being unexpectedly splashed on my face right here)….. I absolutely love my little girl and I’m glad that I was privileged with the honor of raising her and providing for her. However, I do not view her as a consolation prize. She’s not a stand in. Raising her in no shape or form minimizes my desire to have a child to call my own.

There is life beyond grief.

I always admire people who do not let extreme circumstances of life define them. I’ve seen people emerge out of an unhealthy relationship, sickness, or crisis stronger, wiser, and ready to conquer the world. This is the way that I want to live my life. So here it goes….. I may wake up, some days, with a hole in my heart, but I acknowledge that there is a beautiful life out there waiting to be lived….. and with God’s help, I want to live it well.

Unapologetically yours,
John Eli Garay

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Categories: Feelings, masculinity, painTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

John Eli

John Eli has spent over 15 years mentoring and coaching individuals in life skills, career transitions, and through organizational change. He has worked in behavioral health, pastoral care, and higher-education. He has found that he is most satisfied in life when he is helping people recognize their potential and assisting them to reach their goals.

He currently lives in Chandler, Arizona with his wife, mini-schnauzer and an antique piano whom he calls, “Betty.”


  1. Amen!! I experience somewhat of the same thing. No two stories are the same but there are many similarities. Being a mom is all that I’ve ever wanted now I’m approaching 40 in a couple years on top of that I’m single. So I have to accept the fact that it may not be in God’s plan for my life! Those around me don’t understand my pain and even though they never tell me to get over it their actions speak it. A lot of times those around us think if we don’t have it or never had it then it shouldn’t affect us. A couple years ago I worked with children with physical disabilities. There were two boys in particular one had cerebral palsy and could never walk. The other had muscular dystrophy and who could walk but lost the ability due to the deterioration of his muscles. I remember a staff member telling the one who could never walk to get over it he has no idea what it’s like for the one who could. I was angry and sad. Truth is both experienced pain,but because one lived his whole life in a set condition. His struggle was minimized. We need to stop minimizing someone else struggle simply because we don’t understand it. God’s blessings!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Amy

    What comforts me the most about that verse is that it goes on to say God is made strong in our weakness. It is not by accident we are flawed. It is by design. I’m so sorry for the journey you and your wife have gone through. Sometimes the most painful dreams are the ones where we have lost hope. It’s hard to trust that God is good even when we don’t understand or get what he had hoped for in life. But what he has for us is always better or greater than we could dream.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. In Christ I am SHE {Saved. Hopeful. Empowered.}

    Thank you Brother for sharing your journey (along with your families). Your raw openness is both refreshing yet convicting to be just as open with God, self and others. Your words are written from deep within and wisdom abounds. Keep walking with the Lord. May the Lord continue to use you as His mouthpiece as you openly share your God-journey with others. He has a plan. Jeremiah 29:11-13

    Liked by 2 people

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