Menopause and my grief at being childless

Earlier this year menopause kicked in big time for me. While I had some over-heating moments, the worst thing about it was that I felt completely exhausted all the time. Even after a good night’s sleep I still felt I was running on fumes with nothing left in the tank.

Single woman alone swinging on the beach and looking the other seat missing a boyfriend

And on top of the fatigue I felt irritable, vulnerable and emotionally on the edge.

At the time, I was in the middle of trying to write a book as well as do my day job, but I was finding it hard work.

After two tearful visits to the GP to seek reassurance that I wasn’t going crazy a moment of insight occurred while I was out walking with the dog.

As I was scuffing my way through the fallen leaves it dawned on me why I was feeling angry. Here I was going through all this and what was the point of it anyway, every month of my adult life I’d had a menstrual cycle. Now this was at an end and my body was going through another transition, and for what… I DON’T HAVE CHILDREN!

And then the penny dropped… here it was again… that sadness about not being a mum. I thought I’d dealt with this, had moved on and accepted it but I was wrong. Here was another stage in my journey.

Being childless is a silent, intangible and invisible grief that can make you feel very alone. It has the same emotions of other bereavements but it’s about grieving what’s not to be rather than grieving what you’ve treasured and lost.

Recognising that this sadness was creating a deeper dimension to my symptoms was a turning point for me. I now knew what I was dealing with – loss.

I am a great believer in a holistic approach to wellbeing issues and in the importance of having a supportive team around you. In my professional capacity as a therapist I am fortunate to have support through coaching, mentoring, supervision and professional networks.

Letting go of the grief…

Realising that loss was a recurring theme in my life, I decided to use some of my coaching sessions to work on this. This included some therapy specifically to clear the emotion of grief. With this support, I was able to realise my grief had become a barrier, something I had been holding on to. It was quite literally keeping me stuck. This new insight helped me to let it go.

And since investing in myself in this way, things have changed enormously for me. My energy is much improved, I feel more connected in my relationships, and my menopausal symptoms have mostly gone.

And I now recognise that I am not on my own. I have a supportive personal network around me which includes my family and two close friends who are both childless and who listen to me and get who I am. I also have a network based on playing tennis, socially and competitively.

Being active and doing the things that give me joy, such as playing tennis and walking the dog, also keep me strong and positive.

And with moving on from my grief and feeling in a better place, I’ve been able to overcome my writer’s block, crack on with the rest of my book about infertility so that it’s now due to be published very soon. I have also written an article about my fertility work for a special edition of an online magazine in support of National Fertility Awareness Week 2016.

And after reading the courageous personal stories about fertility struggles, including the grief of childlessness shared as part of this important awareness-raising week I was inspired to write this.

So, all in all life is in better flow for me now.

Menopause helped me to acknowledge and face a painful truth and feel all the stronger for it.

I am sure I am not alone in going through this experience. Menopause can often stir up strong feelings of grief for many different reasons – grief over a personal loss, a changing body, going through a significant life transition, to name a few.

But you don’t have to go through it on your own. Building a supportive network who can listen, empathise, support, and inspire you can make a real difference.

Sally Coombs

About Sally Coombs

My great passion is tennis, and through tennis I was introduced to Henpicked by the late Carolyn Lazarus as we were chatting after a tennis match against each other, which she won! I also love art, architecture, music, literature, films, nature, walking and sport. In my professional capacity I am an emotional well-being Hypnotherapist and easibirthing® fertility practitioner and author of 'The Infertility Experience' available from Amazon.

  • Gaye Marshall

    This was an excellent article. Seldom does the childless get any press or allowed to feel they have lost something, or had choices taken away from them. It is supportive to hear others are in the same situation, and given it a voice. Those without children, while avoiding all the frustrations and fears of having a family also are without that same support that children or husbands give day in and day out without being conscious of it. Or that love and fulfillment that I see on my friend’s faces with their kids.

    • Sally Coombs

      Many thanks Gaye for this, so sorry it’s taken me a long while to respond. Writing this article wasn’t easy but I agree it was important to give childlessness a voice.

  • Thank you for sharing Sally. It is encouraging to read that you have now dealt with the loss and grief you felt. I am not childless, having a son who is now 35. However, when I went through the menopause I did feel a sense of loss for not having a second child. Don’t most women feel a sense of loss when going through such an important transition as the menopause. I really don’t know.

    • Deborah

      Know what you mean Linda. I always thought I’d have more and then I didn’t. My next door neighbour said exactly the same thing when she went through it early. She was devastated and felt robbed. I didn’t entirely understand it because I’d just turned 30 but I do now.

    • Sally Coombs

      Thank you for your kind comments Linda and for sharing your experiences, I agree with you that menopause is a significant transitional experience and that it can feel like a loss for many women for different reasons.