Explore Life Coaching, Patti Phillips

The Weight of Losses at Midlife

I believe that one of the main reasons that life can be particularly challenging and stressful in middle life is that so many life losses and significant changes often happen in this life stage.

Think about it. The likelihood that we will experience more than one of these losses at the same time in our middle years is almost guaranteed. Children leave home. Parents get sick and/or die. Our bodies begin to change and the things we used to do with ease become more difficult. Friendships end. We retire or change course with our careers. More divorces occur in this life stage than any other. We move from one home to another.

Those losses can carry a lot of weight by themselves but when experienced all at once, they can be overwhelming.

One of the actions of the Grief Recovery Method (which I guide as one of my life coaching services) is to do a history of the losses we have experienced in our lives. When I did this exercise for myself in my mid-30’s, up until then my losses were spread out with many years in between significant life changes. They were emotionally painful experiences but I felt like I had the capacity to carry them.

But in the last 10 years, I have experienced a lot of loss, change and grief. I left my career after 20 years of working with youth at risk to start my own business. I lost a built in social network, I lost structure, I lost a secure income, I lost part of my identity. My mom was diagnosed with dementia. Both my parents died, in a span of 18 months. With the death of my parents, not only did I lose them but I also lost a huge piece of my social life. I stopped playing some sports as my body wasn’t up for the physical demand anymore.

I also notice I’ve started carrying grief for our Earth and all the suffering that is being experienced by human and more than human beings. For me, midlife has invited me to look beyond just myself. I was definitely more self absorbed when I was younger so this greater awareness of the world around me seems specific to this life stage.

I see many women around me carrying so much grief and loss. I sense they believe they have to be strong and carry that weight while continuing to support everyone around them. I wish for them that they knew how important it is to acknowledge the grief and loss that they are carrying in midlife, along with the weight that has built over a lifetime of losses.

I first learned about the Grief Recovery Method when a friend told me about it after I had a miscarriage. Looking at my history of losses made me aware that I wasn’t just experiencing the grief associated with the miscarriage but I was also carrying the weight of every other loss I had experienced in my life up until that point. I had never learned how to grieve in a healthy way when I was younger so I stuffed my grief into a metaphoric backpack. I had been taught to focus on the positives, look on the bright side, and to be strong by just pushing forward.

By the time the miscarriage happened, my backpack was getting pretty full. The Grief Recovery Method invited me to stop at the trailhead to see what was slowing me down on my life journey. At 38 years old, I unpacked my pack, had a good look at what was in it and let go of the hurts from the past. Not only did I lighten my pack at that point, the Grief Recovery Method also taught me how to make sure I didn’t keep piling unprocessed losses and grief into my pack. So when all my losses seemed to converge in the last 10 years, I knew how to make sure my pack didn’t get over stuffed. Or if it does start to feel too heavy when inevitable losses happen, I know that I have to slow down to unpack rather than expect myself to keep carrying all that weight and push forward.

If you or anyone you know is carrying a pack full of a lifetime of grief, it may be time to unpack.

I created the “Heal Your Heart Retreat” so women in midlife would have a safe space to unpack. Away from the demands and obligations of everyday life. Away from the distractions that women often use to cover up the emotional pain they may be experiencing because of grief.

The retreat is a place to be brave and strong in a different way than we’ve been taught. It takes great strength to slow down the speed of the life we’re encouraged to live. It’s a brave thing to acknowledge your emotions and be vulnerable enough to ask for witnessing from others.

The retreat also weaves in the healing power of nature therapy. Every day participants are guided on a nature therapy walk which invites a deep connection with nature and oneself. Unlike a self initiated walk in the woods, a guided walks facilitates mindfulness and holds nature up as a reflection of our own healing and growth journey. Because we are a part of nature, everything we observe in nature can inform our own lives.

Since I have personally experienced the power of both the Grief Recovery Method and Nature Therapy, I became certified to facilitate both of these practices. I couldn’t think of a better way to bring them together than to create the Heal Your Heart Retreat. I am offering it four times a year with the first in 2020 happening March 29-April 3.

If anything I’ve written resonates with you, you can do one of two things.

You can contact me to set up a call to chat person to person.

You can read more about the retreat here.

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