Gratitude and Grief Are Not Mutually Exclusive

January 25, 2022
By Tiffany D. Gardner

When donor conceived people share their grief about being separated from genetic family members (including the donor used in their conception or their donor siblings), we are often reminded that our parents wanted us and encouraged to “be grateful”. The implication is that gratitude for existence should replace our grief.

But gratitude and grief are not mutually exclusive. It is not necessary to be grateful for your method of conception if it is intertwined with trauma or loss.

Donor conceived people do not have to be grateful that our parents chose a method of conception that severed us from genetic relatives, and our grief over that loss does not mean we are ungrateful if, in the lottery of life, we ended up with kind and loving parents. (And let it be known that like anyone else, not all donor conceived people grow up in loving homes.)  Likewise, a parent’s gratitude for their own children does not diminish their grief over the loss of another loved one. Why would it?

Why do we ask donor conceived people to be grateful rather than accept that grief is a normal emotion? Donor conception involves an inherent loss for the donor conceived person, just as recipient and intended parents experience the loss of a full genetic relationship with their child. We would never tell a recipient or intended parent they should not grieve their own loss simply because they have or will have a donor conceived child. It’s the other way around. We are all entitled to grief and are not required to bury it under the guise of gratitude.

Top image by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash