Monday, April 24, 2017

Mother Loss: When Grief Is Mixed with Menopause

[Reviewed and updated July 10, 2023]

"Do not become alarmed when you experience yourself in totally new ways," sighs Grandmother Growth tenderly. "You are changing, getting ready to be initiated into the third stage of your life. Are you ready for the ride of your life?"  ~ Susun Weed

A reader writes: I’d like to know if any other women in their early 50's (like I am) might lose their mother (or dearest, closest relative) during the process of menopause. I looked online for some more information regarding this topic, and didn't find much. If there is "nothing new under the sun", then I know I am not alone, and someone else can relate.

The hormonal changes that are occurring are all mixed-up with my grief. My mother is not here any longer to help me and comfort me ((tears flowing...) -- I am scared. Fear can be overcome, I know, but I have never been through such a life-changing event without my mother to help me though it.

Ok -- so -- I have never been pregnant. I never got to be a mother (other than to my cats -- not the same, I know). It's not for lack of opportunity, but, my body just never got pregnant. I am both happy and sad about this situation in my life. Never more sad than I am now that my mother is gone, and I am lonely for that mother/daughter closeness (if I were to have been so lucky to have that kind of relationship with my child).

I have only been late with my "monthly" three times: when my 57-year-old brother died (a little over 4 years ago); when my mother died last year; and now, during the 1-year anniversary of her death (and this is the longest I have ever been "overdue"). The two pregnancy tests I have taken a week apart both show "negative" results. There is not much information out there to know if any of this is normal. Every woman has gone through this change differently, with different life circumstances altering the commonality of the situation.

I am ready for menopause, and to stop having to deal with the monthly situation. No matter, it is still yet another grief to go through, and the reminder that I don't have any children -- and -- that my mother is gone as well. As much as I tried to get close to my extended family (sister and brother's kids -- and their kids), I am just the Aunt.

Feeling very on my own here...without my mother... New territory, once again, and my mom's not here to talk to.

Mood-wise, I once heard a funny line about peri-menopause, "Her moods are swinging like Benny Goodman". This is how I feel. Up and down -- sometimes -- rapidly. It's hard to keep up with my own emotions. My husband is taken-aback when I bust out crying out of nowhere. Grief for my mother -- hormone changes -- who knows??

My response: I’ve consulted with some of my colleagues who've facilitated Mother Loss support groups, and it seems that this particular question has not come up ~ but certainly we all recognize and understand that when two or more major life events occur simultaneously, the experience of grief can be more muddled.

Any major loss almost always includes secondary losses, each of which carries its own grief response ~ and that is why it's so important to take the time to examine and explore exactly what you feel you've lost here, what those losses mean to you, and what you can do to manage your own reactions. In addition to learning all you can about what is normal in grief, I encourage you to read some articles and books specifically about mother loss and menopause. I believe such reading would help you to see that your thoughts, feelings and reactions are normal and to be expected under the circumstances.

One of the finest books about menopause that I can recommend to you is The Wisdom of Menopause: Creating Physical and Emotional Health During the Change, by Christiane Northrup, MD. If you click on the title, you'll go to Amazon's description and reviews. You can "Click to Look Inside" to read an extended excerpt from her book, and I've a feeling that that alone will offer you some reassurance as well as useful information.

These articles address the co-existence of grief and menopause:

Grief and Menopause by Sandy Clendenen

Depression, Menopause or Grief? by Margaret Wehrenberg, PsyD

Grief and Menopause - Comments via Daily Strength Online Discussion Group

Menopausal Grieving, Depression, and Mood Changes via

35 Symptoms of Perimenopause: Grief and Depression by Magnolia

As for mother loss, below is a list of suggested readings you may find helpful (you can look for the book titles online, at your bookstore or at your local library):

Always Too Soon - Book by Allison Gilbert

Becoming Myself: Living Life to the Fullest after Losing Your Parents - Book by Shari Butler

Does Grief End? Turning the Corner after Mother's Death - Article by Gemini Adams

Grieving the Death of a Mother - Book by Harold Ivan Smith

Grieving the Loss of a Parent - Alexandra Kennedy’s Website

Helping Yourself Heal When a Parent Dies -  Article by Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D.

In the Letting Go: Words to Heal the Heart On the Death of a Mother - Book by J. Lazear

The Loss That Is Forever: The Lifelong Impact of the Early Death of a Mother or Father - Book by Maxine Harris

The Long Goodbye: A Memoir - Book by Meghan O'Rourke

Losing a Parent: Passage to a New Way of Living - Book by Alexandra Kennedy

Motherless Daughters - Hope Edelman Home Page

Motherless Daughters: The Legacy of Loss - Book by Hope Edelman

A Mother Loss Workbook: Healing Exercises for Daughters - Book by Diane Hambrook

Never the Same: Coming to Terms with the Death of a Parent - Book by Donna Schuurman

One Woman's Journey: Recovering from Grief -  Book by Ruth Forman

The Orphaned Adult: Understanding and Coping with Grief and Change after the Death of Our Parents - Book by Alexander Levy

What to Do With Mother's Stuff? - Article by Sara Davidson

When I Lay Her Down to Sleep: Love Letters to a Dying Mother - Book by Ann Wright-Edwards

Your feedback is welcome! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question, or share a tip, a related article or a resource of your own in the Comments section below.
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© by Marty Tousley, RN, MS, FT, BC-TMH

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