I recently celebrated a friend’s 50th birthday by attending the musical “Menopause.” The group of us laughed so hard that tears were streaming down our cheeks. At the end of the play the audience was invited up to the stage for women to unite around this season of life. SEASON of life it is! I have spent years working as a nurse with some of my time in maternal child health helping mothers bond with their babies after birth and working with women’s gynecological health issues. I have, also, birthed 5 children, but nothing has given me as much insight as my own 10 year perimenopausal journey, which I am happy to report seems to have come to a close.
Menopause is a time in a woman’s life when her periods stop, and the hormones estrogen and progesterone decrease. This change often occurs in the early 50’s, but can take anywhere from 1-10 years. The time before menopause is complete is called perimenopause. Some women do menopause as they do pregnancy, without much ado and other women struggle with an array of symptoms that can vary from mild to severe. A woman may experience hot flashes, interrupted sleep, memory loss , vaginal dryness and mood swings that may include anxiety, irritability and depression.
As a pastoral counselor and Imago relationship therapist my work has mostly been with women and couples. This season of change that was hilariously depicted in the play can wreak havoc in the life of women and their relationships. The fluctuation in moods may seem foreign to the couple and bring a level of tension and fear that was not experienced before. Therapy can be an invaluable resource at this time for a client and/or couple. This time can be used to explore and embrace the second half of life with greater wisdom, creativity and spirituality. With the use of Imago therapy, a relationship can be restored and the couple can have compassionate understanding towards one another. In my work, I have found the resources from the book Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom: Creating Physical and Emotional Health and Healing by Christiana Northrup to be very grounding. The author gives a comprehensive medical explanation of menopause, as well as, practical advice that will help to explain this transition. Another book that clients have appreciated is Falling Upward by Richard Rohr. He describes the “second half of life” in a spiritaul sense and invites us to a life of greater exploration and authenticity.