Mid-Life Hormonal Natural Shifts...
the subtle differences
Pre vs Peri vs actual pause.
Some hormonal changes may be occurring but there are no noticeable changes in your body. When a woman is deeply in touch with her own cycle, the most subtle hormonal shifts is something that she is present to. She notices.
During perimenopause you may start to show symptoms of menopause (e.g., change in period cycle, hot flashes, sleep disturbances, or mood swings or other fun stuff). Hot flashes may actually only happen the last week of the cycle. Which may be a part of the transitional process from Premenopause as we head into perimenopause
Premenopause and perimenopause are sometimes used interchangeably, but technically they have different meanings. Either way, this stage of our cycles changing can last a few years, 8 years, 10 years and sometimes longer.
Official Meno-pause is rather straight forward. Your cycle is paused for the remainder of your existence.
Women today are so darn busy, they can often miss the very subtle shifts as they are happening moment to moment.
I just happen to be in mid-life, I live alone on an island and as a writer, I spend a significant amount of time alone. What I'm saying is, I'm not all that busy with all the things many women today are very busy with. That has been my intentional choice at this time. I also happen to study female physiology and many other things as a part of my work.
A researching Daughter:
I'm told my father is dying and from that moment on...much of my research has been an expanded realm of medical, spiritual, hormonal, loss, grief, what happens when adult children are told their parent is dying, what really matters at the end of life. Everything I could think of from every angle. I like to be informed in this way. I felt better having all of the information. Long extremely detailed story short: It's been a little over a month since his passing, I just came back from the east coast two days ago after being with my family for weeks and the more research I do, the more I see what can be missing in what I am now calling this "Pause" stage of my own experience.
When a Parent Dies...
What I have learned from my friends is that a single death can transform your life, especially if the death is that of your mother or father. And it doesn't matter whether that parent was beloved or resented, whether the relationship was close or distant, warm or cold, harmonious or hotly conflictual. It doesn't even matter how old you are, or how old your parent was at the time of death. For most people, the death of a parent, particularly when the parent is of the same sex, is life altering.
Anyone who has lost a mother or father knows this, and yet there is little social recognition of parental death as a milestone of adult life. Even more remarkable is the near total vacuum of professional research on this subject. There is an enormous, burgeoning field of psychology called bereavement studies, but in the 814 pages of the Handbook of Bereavement Research, the bible of the field, only four are devoted to the subject of an adult child's loss of a parent.
Miriam Moss, one of the few researchers who have studied the impact of parental death, suspects that ageism is largely responsible for this neglect. "Old people are not valued in this culture," says Moss, senior research scientist at the School of Public Health at Drexel University. "The loss of an elderly parent is not seen as particularly important." What reinforces that ageism, Moss adds, is the fact that "it's normative, expected. The attitude is, Oh well, she was old. How old was she? Seventy-eight? Oh, I'm sorry. What else is new?"
Disenfranchised grief is the term for mourning whose depth is not socially recognized, and it has a silencing effect on the griever. It also, says Miriam Moss, has distorted and trivialized our understanding of the loss of a parent. "A parent's death," she says, "has a very strong impact, and it's not just emotional. The whole meaning of who you are is very much attached to this person."
In my family and with my Dad, he was absolutely valued to all in a massive massive way and in fact, many of the people I know absolutely valued their connection with their parents and experience the loss as life altering. Whatever is true in culture, doesn't make it true in individual family systems. Still, the thing is, people just don't like to talk about these things. Through this entire experience, I was absolutely confronted with how true that is.
I have this one friend, from the moment we met 18 years ago, he had always shared very beautifully and very openly regarding the intensity of the loss of his father and all the ways this loss impacted him. Actually, I don't recall a deep conversation between us where he wasn't sharing his pain and I also remember no matter what was true for me, I just listened to him. Allowing him to just share, he would get to the other side and it seemed like no big deal for me personally. Yet, in the moment where I shared what was about to happen with mine, his response was really just odd to me. I walked away feeling like I shouldn't have mentioned it which confused me in terms of, are we really friends? It took me days to realize our history was such that, it wasn't just me in that moment, he actually knew my Dad, spent time with my family and in the space between us, I felt I could share something like this with him, because he had, so many times, shared something like that with me. In fact, many people turned away or didn't want to be in the conversation with me. Which you know, people have their own problems, their own reality and in this space with life, you can't help but notice..who is who. Meaning: Who won't be able to go there with you, and who can.
Disenfranchised grief is the term for mourning whose depth is not socially recognized, and it has a silencing effect on the griever.
YES! This is what I am saying!!!! I actually felt shame for speaking my truth every time someone turned away, ignored me or never got back to me. That would be the "Silencing effect on the griever" because the grief process begins when you learn...someone is actually dying. Yet, me being me...I wasn't able to be silent. I needed support and when I say that, what I mean is, I just needed to talk about it. Let me complete my sentences and I'm back in the game of the goodness of life and all the joy and all the fun and all the laughter. I didn't need to wallow, I just needed to talk. I didn't need to talk for hours, I just needed to get it out so that I could be freely in the other joyful life stuff.
Moss adds, is the fact that "it's normative, expected. The attitude is, Oh well, she was old. How old was she? Seventy-eight? Oh, I'm sorry. What else is new?"
Yes, yes and YES! My parents and I have talked openly about when they die for a long time now. Dying is a part of life and we will all do that and it is the natural order of things.
And...there are all of these other pieces to that pie. I don't even know how to explain the sensation that ran through my body other than to say I felt this loss in my bones and as I write this a part of me knows people don't want to "hear," that. I'm too intense or something. People claim to like authenticity but they only like authenticity when it doesn't make them feel too deeply or make them feel too uncomfortable. Hence why that word has been so annoying to people. I think that's mostly because the word itself has been used, abused and confused. I don't know if that is true, it could be my grief talking, or maybe my hormones are imbalanced...
Either way and no matter what:
One of the important things I found in all of my research was some of the threads where women express their truth....many mid-life women were experiencing and looking for information specifically on these two subjects: Mid-life shifting Hormones and Grief of the loss of a Parent.
The struggle is real and the struggle is real because:
Disenfranchised grief is the term for mourning whose depth is not socially recognized, and it has a silencing effect on the griever.
The question in mid-life becomes: How much of this is grief and how much of this is impacting us women on a physiological level and are we using our own innate wisdom as our guide to move us through?
(Our innate wisdom meaning, the gift of our cycles)
While suffering is inherent in our existence, there is a difference between necessary suffering vs unnecessary suffering.
I would define necessary suffering as suffering we experience that help us grow into our next level of maturity or our next level of wisdom.
I would also define unnecessary suffering to be suffering due to having to be socially proper, social conditioning and that "silencing effect."
Disclaimer: I am most certainly no expert on this "combined topic," I'm just a daughter who lost her father a little over a month ago who also happens to study female physiology while being in mid-life herself and could feel this loss was impacting me in my female physiology.
In this way, I feel no shame about being my age, moving through pre, peri to eventual pause. I treat all of my phases as a new Rite of passage. I love to do that. So...This disclaimer:
As always with anything I contribute or put out there....
Take whatever resonates and ignore what doesn't. This may not be relevant to you... yet that doesn't make it irrelevant. If it doesn't feel like your truth or doesn't apply to you....Totally cool...
Stress and our Physiology
The physiologic response to stress consists of a rapid component and a slower one, acting in a coordinated temporal manner to reestablish homeostasis. The rapid response is the activation of the sympathetic nervous system, which increases the levels of circulating norepinephrine and epinephrine and elevates the levels of norepinephrine in the brain. This is referred to as the “sympathetic-adrenomedullary system.” The slower, longer-lasting response is activation of the HPA axis that begins with the release of CRF into the circulation from the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus, which then stimulates the pituitary to release ACTH into the bloodstream. The released ACTH accelerates the discharge of glucocorticoids from the adrenal cortex.
It's ALL CONNECTED!
Mind you, the internal questions have been:
When will 28 days like clock work, stop being clock work? There is an uncertainty about that. Through the 14 days of lateness, I had no clue, I felt like there was this odd extended pms and I couldn't actually know, which was grief and which was hormones. Is this life changing moment going to send me from pre-to peri or take me right into pause? I haven't a clue.
How could I know either way? I've never been forty-eight years old before and my cycle isn't actually "exactly," like my mothers. It just isn't. We have some general elements that we can relate and connect to and some that we have no biological similarities. That makes some things knowable and other things very unknown.
So..at this time:
It's all a new
Pre, Peri, Pause:
Pre-The news of: Your parent is dying. My experience was:
With that came...anxiety, inquiry, investigation combined with confusion and an extra dose of not being able to handle some people, places and things.
What is happening now?
Am I moving from pre to peri?
Is that why I feel excited and disturbed/ happy and sad/ free and worried in that last week of my cycle?
...is the news that my father is in his dying process and the way it hit me what is disturbing me?
Or is it both?
Are my wobbly bits becoming more wobbly because I'm moving from pre-to-Peri
Or am I deeply unhappy that my father is dying.
Or is it both things?
Pause: I could answer these questions for myself in each moment and the answers leaned very heavily toward the depth of my unhappiness that my father is dying.
I know myself very well. If I say, "this is what is true for me," than for sure...that is what is true for me. One thing was impacting the other.
My self awareness and my innate wisdom was solidified 100% the moment I got the news of his passing.
Disenfranchised grief is the term for mourning whose depth is not socially recognized, and it has a silencing effect on the griever.
Pre-when you learn your parent is dying
Peri-when your parent is in their dying process
Pause-When your parent has passed away
What comes next? Is this like the fairytale endings or something? You know...it's just "They lived happily ever after..THE END" But that really isn't the end of the story, it's just the beginning.....
All of the anxiety I had been experiencing as a daughter whose father was dying for 7 months, was washed away. It was instant and instantly replaced with something completely different and absolutely foreign to me, a sensation I had yet to experience ever before that moment. (Again, I felt this loss move through my bones)
It was very different than the loss I experienced two decades ago after giving birth to Donovan. There is a thread of hormones there too.
There is no other way it can happen. Much of the time, I do believe, if you aren't experiencing your own life as your life is happening, if you aren't present to the sensations within your own body and are instead just regurgitating something that you read or studied...
I discover a whole new dimension as the sensations move through the center of my being.
This works both ways, with pleasure and with pain. It's not one or the other, it's the fullness that life has to offer. It's all of it.
Wisdom Being Born
A new expanded wisdom is also being born right along with the pain or pleasure I am experiencing in that exact moment so I'm oddly loyal to my own experience, which makes it impossible to give me advice or tell me how this will go for me. I have already decided I want to be so fully alive that I experience all of life without shame on any level. That decision has been made already. There is no wisdom to impart on me, unless I ask for it and the only people I asked for wisdom from through the entire experience was a select few who were with me for the entire 8 months and still are.
When a new layer of wisdom is being born inside of me through the portal of my own experience, I want to be present to the pulse of my own experience. Every little piece. I understand, I am learning and I also understand...wisdom is being born. You know, birth is messy and painful, it's not just this cute little baby coming out all cleaned up wearing a beautiful little outfit. That is not how birth works. To a mother, that little messy teeny tiny human with a bunch of birth "gook" all over it's body..is the most beautiful little creature, even before the doctors clean that baby up.
Baby Wisdom: Same thing.
Many loving people who have experienced their own loss of their own parents want so much to speed up the new born wisdom process. They can't help it. People want to help where they can't. Totally natural. The thing is...
Our rite of passage is so sacred and individual based on what lives in the spaces between the person we lost and ourselves.
It is hard to see people we care about experiencing the rawness of their own loss and the pain they experience, yet the rite of passage can be approached as something that needs to be fully experienced through an ingesting, digesting and elimination process that needs to be felt and experienced moment to moment and moved through individually from a new born wisdom moment that has it's own organic process. That can co-exist with a collective empathy and compassionate understanding. Much of life, for me is not black and white. There is a lot of co-existence.
The most loving thing anyone could have done for me through this was to just allow me to be where I was in each moment and to honor my space between no longer and not yet.
I want to be present to the baby wisdoms that are beginning to be born inside of me and since it works both ways: through pleasure and through pain, and I have that understanding for myself in my life...I am very kind, until someone tries to tell me how to feel or what to think or what my truth is. I don't like that and I'm not shy about sharing what I do not like.
Give me space and allow me the dignity to move through my rite of passage... (that's kind of the depth of where that comes from with me)
A Rite of Passage
any important act or event that serves to mark a passage from one stage of life to another.
Our losses are shared and our losses are individual as well. There's that co-existence I keep writing about.... once again...
Shared and individual.
Some adults grew up in divorced homes. Therefore, they don't have experience or access to having intact parents who have always had one another. For them, it's been my mom over here, and my Dad is over there and they may have never had the security or the ease of knowing your parents have each other. In fact, one parent can die and the other remains married to their spouse. It becomes centered around the loss of their parent and a check in to see how the other parent feels and that in itself could get very dicey.
For my family, the ease of knowing our parents had one another in the physical no longer exists. That's a game changer in and of itself. That's something adult children of divorce have already endured in a very real way. through time...
My point is:
In any way, shape or form...there can be a mix, blend or difference in the evolution of any particular wisdom that's just being born.
If my Dad was 98 years old and died in his sleep, I think I'd be sad at the loss but I also think I'd be peaceful about his longevity too. I don't know that though because that's not what happened.
Combine that with the transitional hormonal changes many women go through when they experience loss...that's a whole lotta "Rights of Passages, happening all at once. It would behoove us all to slow down and honor all parts of our physiology.
Statistically, it is said to be a U curve in "happiness," and the dip seems to be in mid-life (age wise) before it dips back up and while that isn't always the case, I think these are the types of "baby wisdoms," in development and a huge factor of the "Why," there can be a lower dipping at this age. (Just as a generalization)
For me, mid life has been amazing...and right now, there is a piece of my peace that isn't there right now. I don't know how else to explain it. Life is just a little "dull" yet not.... again, all at the same time. (Co-existence)
When I went home to be with my family, there was no adjustment for me. It just felt-this is where I need to be. In returning home, to paradise, it's been two days. I feel like one of those tourists I meet all the time, the one's who fly all the way to Hawaii but aren't really on the island.
Using The Wisdom of The Feminine Cycle as a guide to heal grief: Powerful
Me "Everyone LOVED DAD...but me being just like him seems to be this massive problem for some people"
We all laughed, my brother really laughed. To be in a family, is to understand the humor of what is said, how it is said and why it's so darn funny....
My sister-in-law, in her wisdom says: "That's because you're a girl"
Maybe it's because I'm a girl. Maybe it's because grief brings out the depth of truth in a very unexpected ways and everyone's feelings are so raw. I don't know.
The thing is, if we stay with our family, stay with our hearts, stay in the tough moments and don't shut down, withhold or move away...this beautiful opportunity to move through and get to the love again...resurfaces.
Now, every morning, I meditate and allow what is true for me to flow in. I care deeply about my own life force and I care deeply about my family. I also use my cycle as guidance.
Yesterday, what came into my consciousness:
I have a nephew. His mother is a person my Father liked and respected a lot. She and he had their own connection. She was absolutely included in the standard email subject line that was classic to my Dad. His "YO!" As the subject line. He had a very strong affinity for his grandchildren. Blood ties meant everything to him. That meant having a strong affinity for his grandchildren's parents.
My nephews mother loved my dad and most importantly, she respected him. He did not play games. Divorce meant nothing. Blood meant everything.
My nephews mother and my father, they had their own bond. She came to pay her respects but then she left. At that time, I thought "why did she leave?" She was so deeply upset. She was shaken by the loss of my Father and then she was gone. I'm like "What happened?" Just as fast as I thought this thought...I had people standing in front of me for the next few hours and lots of happenings for the next several weeks.
In my meditation: My thought was this:
I really hope no one made her feel she wasn't welcome because she totally was. In the same way my son's father was totally welcome too. And he stayed for the funeral and the lunch and sat with his son. My son. My son's father and my brother have a special bond, they are friends. It exists beyond and away from me. That connection belongs to them.
In this way, my nephews mother could have came to lunch and sat next to me. I'd have been more than happy to have her there.
We are talking about this man's grandchildren and the people who gifted him with these children. Children that carry his bloodline. I have this inside of me.
Where did I get that from?
From my Dad. Direct from the man himself. Blood lines. She's a part of that. She gave us one of our valued family members. Period. End of story.
Here's what was true for me when I thought of this moment again:
I don't even need to know the details of why she didn't stay. She could have just made that choice herself and no one made her feel unwelcome. After all, she has had some serious loss herself and I was there for her through that because...she's family.
Mostly, I don't know or care either way. Grief is tricky. It brings out all kinds of things. You just never know and I can not get all caught up in anything that does not matter at this point.
Here is what I did:
I needed her to know.... She was absolutely welcome to attend. She is family. She gave my brother his son. I love my brother and I love my nephew. Her son. That thread does not change. Ever. Much more important than that: she gave birth to my Dad's grandchild. My Dad liked her. She got the "YO" in her subject line email box just like we all got. To acknowledge her relationship with my Father is honoring my father, the truth of who that man was and the space that absolutely existed between him and her. And you know...I have that "A Woman's Physiology is the most important thing," which also seems to live in my bones now too....
I like how I handled this because nothing needs to change or be different. I don't have to ask or get involved in anything or disrupt or interfere with anything (if there is anything going on) People connect, disconnect, relate or don't relate however they do or don't. I have no control of any of that and you know, at this age, I'm SO glad I don't.
For me: The simplicity of acknowledgement. It feels right to me. It feels good to me. I believe, having even just one person acknowledge the biological ties that DO bind us...has the power to wash away some of that unnecessary suffering. If there is any.
Healing....Healing...Healing....So important if you ask me.
The Focus Now
With the goal of further opening up this subject, I conducted interviews with a small sample of women, ages 46 to 66, about how their lives had been affected by the death of a parent. Although the stories they told, and the parent-child relationships they described, were highly individual, a remarkable consistency began to emerge. Without exception these women described profound changes, both internal and external, which they directly attributed to their parents' deaths. Most surprisingly, they characterized the changes as positive. That, in fact, is why they seldom, if ever, had talked in detail about their reactions to becoming motherless or fatherless. They were afraid that speaking of the good that had followed would be unseemly, disrespectful, too easily misunderstood as being glad that a parent had died. And that indeed would be a misunderstanding.
"I wish my mother could see me now" was a commonly expressed sentiment—paired with the complex irony that "if she could see me, I wouldn't be anything like I now am."
As for Me being ME
Every meditation offers me an opportunity to take the action steps that make me feel like I'm moving to the next level of acceptance.
Every time I sleep more than 5 hours, I feel my own healing. Every time I drink a lot of warm water, I feel better. And I also feel a little raw, tired, my body hurts, my digestive system is off track. Every time I hear from my mother or my brother and how my brother has her living, going to the movies, out walking, going out to dinner...that makes me feel just a little bit better. I feel vulnerable at this time. I also feel this is the time to take some action steps as well. I know how my cycle works in terms of....
When the hormones shift into PMS...whatever isn't healed, complete or whatever I didn't deal with...comes right back up for me to deal with those things. I know this about myself so it is best that I handle what is true at the level it is true for me in very honest ways.
From a pre-peri-pause standpoint, anyone can look up all the foods, and standard things women can do to help themselves. From a using our cycles to guide us into healing, forgiveness, love and a return to our absolute wholeness... that is, to me...highly individual. At least to me it is...
In this way....Yesterday, I would have liked nothing more than to stay in bed all day. Instead I walked. I felt sluggish and yucky and I did it anyway and I kept walking until the slug and yuck disappeared. I didn't want to go to an event that I was invited to. I went anyway. I'm happy and glad that I did and I noticed, I was very exhausted three quarters of the way through the event.
Ayurveda helps me know what to do and how to discern when I truly need sleep or if it's my Kapha Dosha, which is prone to sluggish when imbalanced working.
There is, I'm tired, my body wants sleep and there is also, I'm tired, and there is a sluggishness that means sleep is actually not best for me.
I have to say, it is so much more fun to be me when I feel good and I want to walk and everything feels magical. I am now highly accustomed to feeling good in this way. It is really hard to experience anything other than that. Yet, every time I do, what I do know is...I'm taking the steps to return to my own wholeness.
So that's it for now