Soon after my husband’s death, I felt myself descending deeper and deeper into a dark, lethargic place. My body felt sluggish. My mind felt like it was stuffed with cotton balls. I ate little, but seemed to be gaining weight.

I decided to visit my naturopathic doctor. She reminded me that I was beginning my transition through menopause. Somehow I had forgotten that my body was moving into this new phase of life.

The doctor’s conclusion was that the menopausal symptoms were affected by my grief and the life stress of having to move soon after my husband’s death.

The stress in my life was intensifying the hormonal shifts going on within my body. In turn, the hormonal shifts were pulling my grieving heart to very dark and extremely painful depths.

Homeopathic remedies, carefully chosen herbal blends and acupuncture took the edge off my cloud of multi-layered discomfort.

Reflecting on this extremely uncomfortable period of time, I believe I was feeling abandoned by my body as well as by my husband. My body was changing, and I didn’t seem to have anything to say about it, just as I had nothing to say about my husband dying.

Who am I without my husband? Who am I now as a menopausal woman?

The stress on the body and emotions during menopause is enormous. The fact that I was moving through this process while simultaneously grieving the loss of my husband has helped me see from the inside how stress affects hormonal levels and how hormonal levels can affect the grieving process.

Susan Weed, in an introductory flyer for her book Menopausal Years, The Wise Woman Way, explains that the menopausal process can really be broken down into the three stages of an initiation process: isolation, death and rebirth.

I believe the grief process can be viewed as an initiation as well. Initiation in indigenous cultures is about moving from one level of existence into another. There is a phase of isolation, a move from viewing oneself as a victim circumstance to making a conscious choice to get to know yourself as an individual again.

Without the conscious choice, being alone can lead to feelings of being a victim of loss. Being alone by choice after a significant loss will probably involve being part of new groups and new experiences.

This inevitably ties in with the second phase of initiation, death, an ending, a sense of closure. Whether the loss you experienced was a very loving relationship or a loss involving more anger and frustration, there is a real need to let go of who you were in order to move beyond grief.

Emotionally there is great resistance to letting go. Somehow, letting go of grief seems almost like another death, another loss. But letting go is really the only way to see new possibilities and new opportunities.

Being part of new groups on your own, as an individual, can feel both lonely and empowering. The power of independent choice is one of the gifts of both the move beyond grief and the process of menopause.

Some helpful books about the menopausal journey include, Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom and The Wisdom of Menopause, both by Christiane Northrup. I already mentioned Susan Weed’s book, The Menopausal Years. There is also Gail Sheehy’s book, The Silent Passage.

Author's Bio: 

Sandy Clendenen lost her husband and best friend in 1999, after twenty-one years of marriage. Her grief process was lengthy and complex. Sandy felt stuck in layers of unresolved grief. As part of her heaing, Sandy filled numerous journals with her thoughts and feelings. A review of these journals several years later revealed insights into the grief process which Sandy is now committed to sharing with other grievers. Sandy attended seminary for 3 years. She also received her Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology. Sandy has also worked in various areas of hands on healing. Sandy incorporates her vast personal experience and education into her grief coaching products and services.

Additional Resources covering Grief and Bereavement can be found at:

Website Directory for Grief and Bereavement
Articles on Grief and Bereavement

Products for Grief and Bereavement
Discussion Board
Sandy Clendenen is The Official Guide to Grief and Bereavement.