Is the Menopause a Grieving Process?
The psychological and physical symptoms of the menopause can make it an uncomfortable transition
Grief expert Lianna Champ explores the value of honouring the grieving process
We have counsellors and therapists who specialise in working with women during the menopause – find yours here
The menopause can bring challenges on so many levels. The severity of symptoms can vary dramatically from one woman to another, but it is important to learn to accept the changes it brings. We feel our youth slipping away, at the same as trying to cope with mood swings, tiredness, brain fog and the loss of our childbearing capacity. But we are arriving at a new stage in life and, rather than railing against it, allow yourself to grieve the passing of time. The menopause can be a grieving experience and we should acknowledge this as with all other life experiences.
The menopause is a natural process, even though it doesn’t feel like it. We have to allow the passages of time to allow the younger generations to have their time. And so we hit the menopause either gradually or sometimes like a runaway train, and we mourn for everything that was, as we try to come to terms with Mother Nature’s conveyer belt.
It is natural to grieve the loss of our youth and the uncertainty of ageing as well other life transitions that happen around this same time, for example grown-up children leaving home, elderly parents deteriorating and perhaps retirement. The symptoms of menopause can wreak havoc in so many areas and as we travel through our menopause grief journey, we mustn’t try to be superwoman. Allow yourself to recognise the losses and the feelings it brings. Like anything in life, preparation is key. This includes learning as much as you can about the symptoms, finding natural stepping stones, making an informed decision about HRT, and above all, listening to your body.
We have no choice but to step back and think about how we want to go through this and this means allowing our tears and sadness to surface at the changes. This releases tension and helps to unravel our feelings of grief.
Younger women sent into early menopause as a result of breast cancer treatments or for other reasons can grieve the loss of fertility, the side effects of early menopause as well as the impact this can have on their perception as a woman and the unfairness of this happening years before they ever expected. Even if they never wanted children, the loss of possibility of being a mother can be just as devastating.
We grieve for what is and for what never can be. The loss of our hopes, dreams and expectations.
The changes of menopause can also affect our relationships. Try to be open in your feelings and share your struggles, this will help to give you support when you need it most. Communication can create great bridges between us and when we need to shove our heads under the covers and hide we won’t have someone telling us to pull ourselves together because they haven’t understood.
Ageing isn’t something we can stop but we can respect ourselves with good diet, exercise and rest. Even though grief is heavy, by forcing ourselves to do things that help us to love and respect ourselves more, we can work through our grief for the better.
Each decade brings its benefits, and you must keep yourself open to this and find things that make you feel better about and within yourself.
Some women use this to time make life changes. If something isn’t right, don’t be afraid to do this. On our death bed it’s not the things we did that we regret, it’s the things we didn’t do. Really tune in to what is going on inside and have the courage to change what needs to be changed.
Menopause is all about accepting and adjusting but we can only do that if we acknowledge how we feel and take the steps to work with the changes.
Lianna Champ has over 40 years’ experience in grief and bereavement counselling and is author of practical guide, How to Grieve Like A Champ