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It’s strange, when you get older, you don’t feel older. Sometimes, this sounds ridiculous, but my reflection shocks me. I still feel young inside, but when I catch a glimpse of myself, I realise I’m not young looking anymore. Maybe it’s some sort of grief reaction or a form of denial, I don’t know. The same kind of thing strikes me when I think of my eldest daughter getting older.

It saddens me sometimes, to see my children getting older. It strikes me that these are the things we don’t talk about really. At my age, there is lots of talk of menopause but precious little of how it feels to be in it. There are a lot of jokes and physical changes that are spoken about, but not the feelings. This is true of many situations faced by women, e.g. When the first child leaves home and the next and the next until finally the last one flies free. Half the time we are so busy with supporting them and/or going to work and doing all the other tasks, that we don’t take time out to grieve the loss or celebrate the new phase. I think that too often, we celebrate weddings and engagements, our children’s and even sometimes our own achievements, but don’t let ourselves feel the not so nice stuff.
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I feel it is important for our own health on all levels to mark these unsung phases in our lives. I remember when my eldest daughter had to stay behind when we moved to Ireland. She was part way through her course in dancing. Occasionally, we have talked briefly about that period in our lives, but there has not been any real expression of the emotion associated with it. My daughter would come home every holiday. The time would fly, and all too soon there would be tears again at the airport when it was time for her to return to college. Later, when she had completed and was going on contracts in different countries, it felt as if I was always saying goodbye to her. The emotional upset each time, would take a while to subside. However, I never once took myself aside and sat with those feelings or made ritual, to fully move into the experience of these feelings. Oh yes, I would cry a little but then it was locked away. Afterall, what did I have to cry about? She wasn’t dead, she had got back safely; I was being over emotional. Or was I?

This happens to Mothers, in particular and yet we move through these periods, simply cutting off these feelings and concentrating on the well being of our family as a whole. What happens to these emotions? They don’t just melt away just because we have buried them and ‘moved on’ with our lives. These feelings store up in our bodies along with the other “stuff” labelled “not to be opened.” I believe that ritual could play an enormous part in this. A ritual that can be done alone or with others, but that enables the emotion to be expressed. It is like giving them time for expression. Sometimes the initial ritual acts as a catalyst for the emotion. It might surface in dreams or in a range of emotions, over a few weeks. During this time we need to find time to be kind to ourselves ( I don’t mean buying anything or going to a spa), just allowing this emotion – or the energy of it, to flow through us, until it has gone.

There are many tools that can help with this e.g keeping a journal specifically for feelings; looking at old photos can be very cathartic; using paint on a large piece of paper. After the initial phase has been completed, another ritual can be performed to release that phase in our lives and help us to walk into the next one. We will be lighter and I believe, less prone to ill health in later life.

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