Okay, technically grief is not usually mentioned as a symptom of perimenopause. But, it should be. Because, believe it or not, good old fashioned mourning and an overwhelming sense of loss (aka, grief) is something that many women experience when they enter perimenopause.
It usually comes out of left field too. I mean, most of us are expecting hot flashes. And we’re usually prepared for a few good rounds of night sweats and mood swings too. But, who is prepared for grief? Yet, grief and the process of grieving, is as much a part of perimenopause as hot flashes, night sweats and mood swings.
We Should Be Talking About This
Unfortunately, very little is said about grieving during perimenopause. Why that is, I do not know. Maybe we lump it in under the broader heading of mood swings and depression and don’t identify it as grief.
But, we shouldn’t. Because grief is not like irritability, weepiness, hormonally induced depression or even those dreaded rages. It is about mourning a loss and coming to terms with a new life on the other side of that loss.
The Life You Once Lived Has Passed
Usually when we speak of grief, it is in the context of death. We understand that grief is based in loss, and death is certainly about loss. But, in many ways, perimenopause is a death too. No, it is not a physical death, but it is a biological death, and most definitely a loss.
It is the loss of your life as you once knew it. It is the loss of a personal identity that many of us defined by our fertility and sexuality. Not to mention the roles in our life that grew out of fertility and sexuality, like marriage, family, and motherhood.
So, it only stands to reason that when fertility ceases, menstrual cycles end, sexuality changes, children leave home, and we get older, that a sense of loss is experienced.
And speaking of getting older – grief during perimenopause is often compounded by the fact that many of us fear getting older. Yeah, we all pay lip service to the notion that we are aging and that one day we will die. But, which one of us is running forward to meet old age and death, much less embracing it? Unfortunately, life doesn’t give us a choice about aging or dying, and neither does perimenopause. There is only one ending to this story and that is, life as you once knew it is over – hence, the grief.
Allow the Change to Occur
If you know anything about grief and loss, then you probably know that denial is one of the primary coping mechanisms. Denial is like psychological blinders and ear plugs. It cushions you from the full psychological and emotional impact of loss, which enables us to cope. In the appropriate context, a certain amount of denial can be healthy.
But, chronic denial which is rooted in fear can be not only crippling and paralyzing, but it can keep us stuck in place, spinning our wheels and creating a rut which is just short of the grave. In her book The Wisdom of Menopause: Creating Physical and Emotional Health and Healing During the Change, Dr. Christiane Northrup addresses the transition and transformation of perimenopause and says that we need to allow ourselves to feel the “pain of loss and grieve for those parts of our lives that we are leaving behind.”
“We should allow ourselves to feel the pain of loss and grieve for those parts of our lives that we are leaving behind.”
The grief process requires that we move through the change. We don’t avoid it. We don’t fight against it or push it to the side for a rainy day. We have to allow ourselves to fully experience the emotions and pain of loss in order to heal and come out whole on the other side. Otherwise, we may find ourselves stuck in the pain and wounds of emotional baggage that only serves to weigh us down.
For all that is said about the perimenopause, there should be equally as much said about actual menopause. But, unfortunately, we just don’t talk about how great life can be once we transition through perimenopause. While there is definitely a sadness associated with leaving behind the years that brought us to the pivotal point of menopause, it seems to me, that life no longer punctuated by a period doesn’t sound half bad.
Can I hear an amen?