Hi everyone….happy Sunday!
So here we are again with the DSJ Hypnotherapy A-Z weekly Menopause blog and this week we are at G and I thought that I would talk about GRIEF.
Now many of us may not initially associate grief with the menopause because we automatically associate it with the death of someone we love. However, grief occurs as a result of loss and when we think about the transition through perimenopause to menopause there is a large element of loss involved. This can still have the same emotional, physical and mental impact as losing a loved one but can actually feel more confusing as nobody has physically gone.
From my nurse training days, I recall learning about the 5 stages of grief and throughout my nursing career have most certainly seen the evidence of these stages of ‘denial’, ‘anger’, ‘bargaining’, ‘depression’ and ‘acceptance’. Understanding these stages provides me with an insight into the loss my clients are possibly experiencing and allows us to work together to get them back to living their best life.
We are going to find out more about menopausal grief and the 5 stages and how focusing on the future and working towards positive goals in a solution focused way together can ease the transition. Let me tell you about how Solution Focused Therapy can ‘sculpt the brain’, which allows us to move away from the mind that has been conditioned through our experiences and circumstances and find our true selves because what the mind can conceive, you can achieve!!
So, when we think about the physical and mental changes that are occurring within the body of a women during perimenopause and menopause it can give us a distinct feeling of loss of youth and sometimes a loss of the identity. We will also suddenly find ourselves in a position that we no longer have the choice to have children, and although some may sadly have never had this choice, it can be a change that is sometimes difficult to come to terms with.
In addition, we may have had children, but they are now likely to be reaching a stage in their lives that they are spreading their wings and often leaving home. Although this is natural, healthy and inevitable, once again we can have a feeling of a loss of identity – we have been a mother for many years and suddenly (although we are obviously still an actual mother) the role has changed, and we are not as needed as we once were. So, here we are again with another chip out of our identity.
Sadly, as well, the average age of menopause can also coincide with aging parents and often we are faced with either becoming a carer for our parents, or even losing our parents, yet again another factor to a change in our role, our identity and our overall status as to who we are in life.
So, as I said, when we are faced with a large amount of loss for these varying reasons, we can find ourselves grieving for what once was and in addition wondering what an earth comes next. I think many women find it hard to see what comes after the youthful mother stage and often feel they have jumped straight to old age and are virtually booking their spot in the local Nursing Home.
Now, when we look at what Dr Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, Swiss-American Psychiatrist, called the 5 stages of grief, and although this is a model that is usually associated with the death of a loved one, I can certainly identify areas of my own menopausal, grief experience within it.
So, the first stage of grief is denial, feeling numb is common in the early days after a bereavement and I recall a bit of a feeling of numb emptiness when it dawned on me that I had now moved into an entirely different stage of my life after a total hysterectomy. Of course, I had known this was going to happen and was pleased that my Endometriosis was finally being addressed, but I had been in denial about what that actually meant and now I was in a strange denial about the impact it was having on me mentally and physically.
The next stage is anger, a completely natural emotion, and very normal in the grief process. Loss can seem cruel and unfair, especially over things that are out of our control. We can either find ourselves reacting outwardly in an angry way, making the lives of those around us a little unpleasant as well of course feeling rotten ourselves as this is out of character for us. So now we have guilt to throw into the loop as well and hey presto all of these negative emotions are just feeding our anxiety levels.
Alternatively, we may internalise that anger which can quickly take its toll on us because we find that our stress levels begin to rise, our sleep becomes poor and then our inappropriate habits can start to take over. Before you know it you’re an angry, tired, overweight mess with a mid-week drinking habit!! This is when we can start to find ourselves moving to the bargaining stage.
When we are in emotional pain, it’s sometimes hard to accept that there’s nothing we can do to change things. Bargaining is when we start to make deals with ourselves because we want to believe that if we act in particular ways things may feel better. Of course, this can have positive results if we are able to start to adapt to our menopause transition but often it’s common to find ourselves going over and over things as our younger self and asking a lot of ‘what if’ questions, wishing we could go back and change things or re-live things, rather than adapt to the here and now.
Sadly, this can then start to increase that negative self-talk and critical chatter from our primitive brain. We already know that the drop in reproductive hormones is making us more prone to being pushed into the primitive brain because our natural homeostatic state is feeling off kilter. We are automatically being pushed into that ‘fight or flight’ mode and this can then sadly lead us the exposure of stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol that are flooding our bodies, burning us out and leaving us depressed….. oh and hang on a minute…….we are also then at the stage of depression due to our grief anyway. Alongside that sadness and longing for what once was, we can feel like life no longer holds any meaning which can be very scary.
Fortunately, the next stage of grief can be acceptance. Grief comes in waves, and although it can feel like nothing will ever be right again, gradually most people find that the pain of loss eases. However, we can still find ourselves a little in limbo, yes we are accepting of the changes but then we are still asking ourselves what comes next? Who am I?
For me I found Solution Focused Hypnotherapy, not only as a way to move me out of the negative emotional and mental cycle I was in, but as a new career path. I was able to accept the loss of my past self whilst building a new future self and the reason it felt so right is that it felt so positive to share that the I had been given.
My previous blogs have told you all about the benefits of emptying stress buckets, moving out of our primitive minds with focusing on the positives in our lives to release that wonderful Serotonin, but what we haven’t yet discussed is the goal setting magic of ‘the miracle question’ that also take place during the sessions.
So….my client tells me that, due to their current state of loss and grief they feel lost…. I often hear phrases of “I just want to find myself again” and when I ask them to give me a score on a scale of 1-10 how content they are in their lives, I am presented with 5’s and 6’s. I then ask them if they could just imagine for me that they leave my office, have a pleasant evening, feeling nice and relaxed and when they go to bed tonight, something happens. When they wake up….unbeknown to them, a miracle has happened and the issue that has been causing them the problems in their lives has gone….just disappeared. I ask them something along the lines of ……. “what would be the first thing you would notice about yourself that is different”?
From this point we are then able to build the picture of the life without the issue and gradually and slowly, the perfect day and a world without the problems they currently feel. We want to visualise that life or even small parts and events and then gradually look at what the very first tiny step to achieving that might be and by doing this we are opening new neural networks. We are starting to ‘sculpt the brain’, which allows us to move away from the mind that has been conditioned through our experiences and circumstances and find our true selves.
The neurons that start to wire together, start to fire together, allowing the ability to achieve these goals to become easier and easier. Once we create this pathway we have taken control, and this breeds more control that starts to spread across all aspects of our lives.
What the mind can conceive, you can achieve!! If you would like to find out more about how we can work together to start your neurons firing, drop me a line!