Want to dive into the map for yourself? You are warmly welcomed to join us at our next retreat:
The question that I’m most often asked about menopause is
“How long will these symptoms last? When will I reach ‘the other side?”
How long is a piece of menopausal string?! The length of time you experience menopausal difficulties varies enormously, anywhere between a year and a decade can be considered normal. Some barely notice it, for others it is devastating. Some see changes in their cycles, some stop, abruptly… all matter of experiences are considered normal. But one thing is for sure, how you experienced menarche and regarded for femininity will massively impact the way your experience menopause. Another factor is how easily you are able to manage change in your life? Are you kind of rigid in yourself or is it easy for you to flow with what is as it emerges?
The menopausal transition is not just a change from menstruating to not menstruating, for me personally, this has been the smallest aspect of menopause. In fact, it’s a mighty change from one way being, to becoming another person entirely. It’s an inside job, a transformation. We shed what no longer serves us so that we can emerge, phoenix-like, from the ashes of our roles and restricted identities to serve the world in our own unique way (big or small) unimpeded by hang-ups or fears.
Susun Weed, who’s book ‘New Menopausal Years, the wise woman way’ is an excellent guide to natural remedies, maps the process into three parts; premenopausal, menopausal and postmenopausal. The medical model divides the process into –
- Perimenopausal – literally ‘around’ menopause
- Menopause – the last bleed. But as you’ll only know it’s the last bleed sometime after the event, menopause is said to be at least a year after the last bleed.
- Postmenopause – a year or more since your last bleed
Here at Woman Kind we see perimenopause as an autumnal process, akin to the premenstruum and the menopause process as a wintery process, like the time of menstruation. Once the psycho-spiritual process of menopause is complete you get to start a whole new cycle starting with Second Spring.
- Separation – our defences are stripped away
- Surrender – asking us to stand naked in the unknown
- Emergence – returning tenderly back into the world
- Second Spring – the new cycle of post-menopausal life
To identify the challenges, gifts and strategies we need a more detailed guide to find our way but it’s not a linear map. It’s a cyclical map, so though you may find yourself cycling through different aspects of menopause in one day, or even an hour you’ll probably resonate with a particular phase over a longer period too.
This map was inspired by our teacher Alexandra Pope as part of her menstrual teaching at Red School . Over the years that we’ve held retreats and 1-2-1 Circles to explore their cyclical nature we have developed our own version based on the experiences of our participants that is rooted in our own, lived menopause process.
The phases don’t necessarily coincide with particular symptoms, or manifestations, as we prefer to call them, so that you may start to enter Separation way before your periods start to change, or feel like emerging while also flushing. This is a psycho-spiritual map and the sharp-eyed amongst you will have noticed that these phases hold true for any transformation in life. Pregnancy, birth, death, bereavement all follow similar patterns.
Not yet perimenopausal? You need to read this too! These phases are also present every month during your bleed-time and are a rehearsal for menopause; pay attention to the shifts now and your menopause will be much easier!
Separation – the 1st Phase of Menopause
You’re just about coming into your power in your 40’s, you know who you are and what you want, you’re on your way to get it and BAM! This is where the rug gets pulled out from under your feet. You start to question…
“Does this job really matter to me anymore?”
“Is my partner really my soulmate? Maybe I should go, I can’t take it anymore?”
This is where many of us find ourselves in perimenopause.
Doubts, uncertainty, confusion and raging is your new country. In ‘The Wisdom of the Menopause’ Christiana Northrup tells a story of ‘crazy’ Aunt Carole throwing the leg of lamb out the window, to the consternation of her family. I think Aunt Carole was becoming sane and had seen the light; it’s a bloody struggle transforming into a different sort of self. There is no doubt that menopause is tough, all and any of the health or emotional baggage that you have not dealt with, will come and bite you on the bum. Youch! It is meant to be messy, this is part of the process, so if things are looking like they’re falling apart, you are doing it right.
You’ll find you need way more space and time alone than before and fantasise about running away. You may actually leave but just don’t burn the house down before you go.
There will be grief – over not having children, over ageing, facing your mortality and all the things you wanted to do but never got around to.
Separation is the phase many women experience as perimenopause.
In Separation you may say…
“I hate my body, with my droopy skin and stiff hips, I’ll never dance again!”
Your task in Separation
Use your excellent discernment to work out what is essential and/or pleasurable for you to do, then ditch everything else.
Make stress-reduction your number 1 priority.
Take time out. This will mean saying no to stuff, it’s good practice because you’re going to be no a lot more! Take time out to drift. Stare out of the window. Sleep. Do pretty much nothing (or that how it looks on the outside).
Self-care is key during this phase. What does self-care mean? It will certainly include reforming your diet and honing the exercise you take, but there’s much more… self-care massage, dancing, yoni steams (download your instructions here), singing…. In short, doing the things that give you most pleasure.
Say YES to pleasure.
Say no to everything else.
Surrender – the 2nd Phase of Menopause
In Surrender you may say…
“I was always doing to be a dancer but I never did it… I wonder why?”
Surrender doesn’t eliminate the challenges you’re facing, it does something much more helpful, it transforms your relationship with them. Instead of wishing the damn problem would go away, you start to wonder what does this manifestation need? How can I be kinder to myself here? It changes your attitude to friendly listening and curiosity so that you can face yourself and become your own best friend.
The other aspect of Surrender is learning to tolerate being with the unknown: you still don’t know what’s happening, which leads to follow or who you’re becoming. It takes great courage to accept this without grabbing at the threads in desperation to pull yourself back into known territory but staying with the unknown strengthens your spirit.
Your task in surrender
To accept your limitations and be kind to yourself.
Take more time out to rest deeply; you know the brain fog? This is where it’s inviting you, to a place of inward rest.
Search out healing practices that work for you, it may be homoeopathy, therapy or massage, community circles or nature. Choose what soothes your soul.
Potter in your jim-jams.
Lean into your friends and your Circles of like-minded souls.
Say no to more stuff.
Let go of your expectations of doing all the never-ending stuff that you feel you ought to do.
Burn your to-do list.
Emergence – the 3rd Phase of Menopause
This is where things start to turn; there is a teeny tiny fragile sense of hope returning. The new shoots raise their heads above the ground.
“Maybe I… What if I…. “
Somehow, having done the healing work in the phase of surrender, the lost parts of yourself are being gathered home.
It is also possible that some of your energy will return at this point and it is so tempting to squander it, this is the energy of regeneration for you to use for yourself, to replenish your soul.
In Emergence you may say
“It’s not just about dancing, actually it’s about teaching children to express themselves through dance, oooh, that would be fab!”
The task of Emergence
Is to enjoy the sense of possibility and growth without acting on it. Think of the tender shoots in spring that must be protected from frost they need protection and kindness or they will not thrive. Your job here is simple, it is merely to receive the renewed energy. Simple, but not easy, because as soon as we get a little more juice in our tanks, we rush off and get super-active. Emergence teaches us to contain our energy for ourselves.
Kindness is your first priority.
Trust arrives at your side. At this point in your process you will be developing a great sense of trust that despite how things appear, things are working in the right direction and hope in the new cycle arriving soon. Second Spring is on its way!
Trust in your body’s wisdom and capacity to heal. Trusting your own rhythm and pacing which soothes and allows you enough time, most especially when it doesn’t fit with the world’s timing.
Self-care is still your first priority.
Non-negotiable self-love and kindness.
Second Spring – starting the new cycle
This phase is a natural extension of Emergence and heralds the beginning of a whole new cycle. Your energy and hope are stronger now and you are starting to want to go out in the world again. Maybe you can see how your passion and skills can come together in the outside world and how to move forward.
Just like your first, maiden spring it’s a time of playfulness, exploration and trying things out for size. You may find that you reconnect with your teenage enthusiasms and your tearaway nature. It’s a tender time too though, emerging into the world without your previous armour can make you feel vulnerable.
In Second Spring you may be
Now your dancing project is really coming together, you’re scribbling down ideas about games and processes the children might move through to help them express themselves and become more confident in their movement… trying them out with your kids…
“I had the power all along!”
A new enthusiasm comes through as the pieces of your new self reveal themselves; menopause is organizing you from the inside.
Your task in Second Spring
This new exploration can make you feel wibbly-wobbly without your old way of being, so still be super-tender and gentle with yourself.
Pace yourself and use your energy wisely, i.e. if you charge out at 100 miles an hour, Separation will come back and bite you on the bum. By now your self-care routines will be so habitual that you won’t even think about them : )
Enjoy the excitement of your renewed life-force and new possibilities. Think of when you buy the perfect pair of shoes, bring them home and try them on to admire them and maybe try them out for a trip to the shops, before coming home to a comfy pair of slippers.
You can now explore the possibilities that arise on your horizon at your own pace, there is plenty of time for things to come together and you are just landing now.
Trust is still key here, a trust that the universe has your back and your way is emerging.
Do I have to mention that you still have to make self-care a priority?
Congratulations! You are now officially a rooting-tooting, bad-ass, mighty powerful wise one!
In whichever form you choose to show yourself.
Powerful and wise means, of course, flawed and humble and authentic and strong, and a thousand other things you’ve yet to invent. You are as big or as small as you choose to be, but now it is freely chosen from your heart.
If this map appeals to you, you can delve deeper into the phases at Am I Going Mad and at our next Love Your Menopause workshop or find more articles about menopause well-being. If you are interested in doing more reading, you might enjoy Leora and Kate’s menopause booklist.
So where do you think you are in this process? Tell us in the comments below, sharing our experiences is incredibly powerful, remember; there have never been so many educated, aware menopausal women on the planet, let’s make this a change for good.
To track your moon cycle, you can use our moon chart.
If you’d like to go into the other phases of menopause in more depth and read more about navigating Second Spring, you might find this article interesting.