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Welcome to the Womb Wisdom Blog!

Hello lovelies! I am Hannah - a menstrual cycle coach, qualified social worker and the CEO of Womb Wisdom, here to support women and girls to learn about their natural rhythms and reclaim their cycles.

I invite you to listen to this song while you read - click Spotify link here.

Grief and the menstrual cycle

* trigger warning, this post contains descriptions of death and personal experiences of grief

I have been writing this piece in my head for ages and today, the 5 year anniversary of my Mums death, felt like the perfect time to get in down and share it with you all. I hope you are able to find something that resonates within these words.

Pants with a view! My fav period pants drying in the Scottish air.

Grief before menstrual cycle awareness

When my Mum died peacefully at our family home at 2.10pm on the 23rd November 2017, I howled in a way I had never heard myself howl. I remember involuntarily doubling over quite often, in a devastated folding, returning to a foetal position. I didn't know that grief was so physical. The first few weeks after her death are a blur of sickness, tears, collapse, admin, ceremony and utter shock.

She had been ill with cancer for 18 months and we knew she wasn't going to get better but the speed at which she was swallowed up by this vile disease took us all by surprise.

I have learnt that we all experience grief, its part of the human experience and so inextricably linked to love, one can't exist without the other. The light and the dark, death and rebirth, all of these cycles we are part of. I remember someone telling me that grief is love with no place to go, and remember thinking 'shit, this is going to take a long time, as I loved her so much'!

I recall driving to and from work in those early weeks and months and the world looked different, like I was looking through a different lens, things were in technicolour. I was equally grateful to be alive as I was sad that my Mum wasn't. The sunsets were more intense, the breeze softer on my skin, all my senses were hyper aroused.

And then came the 'happy-sorrow'. A word shared with me by a grief counsellor, that isn't used any more, to describe the mixed emotions of feeling happy and sad at the same time. I felt so disappointed by the lack of language available to describe how I was feeling, I really struggled to find the right words. But happy-sorrow worked for me, and was perfect at times when my children did something delightful, and my heart was close to bursting, and then swiftly followed by a pain in my chest, when I remembered that my Mum wouldn't see them.

After my Mum's death, I had to learn to mother myself. Something that I am still working on. Sometimes this feels too big a task, when I am exhausted from mothering my two children, and feeling the weight of other adulting responsibilities, I think 'what, I have to look after myself as well?!'. But overtime, as the waves of grief have become smaller, less frequent and turned into ripples, I have internalised my mother role, and have learnt to care for myself fiercely. And this is where menstrual cycle awareness has served as the best tool in helping me learn to mother myself through my grief.

Grief after menstrual cycle awareness

I discovered menstrual cycle awareness the year after Mum died while reading Period Power by Maisie Hill and its safe to say this was a real 'aha' moment! I was stunned that I had got to 36 and had no idea about the natural hormonal ebbs and flows that we experience. I knew that I had PMS the week before my bleed and then my period and the rest of the month felt 'normal'! The seasonal framework blew my mind (menstruation - winter, pre-ovulation - spring, ovulation - summer and the pre-menstrual phase - autumn. Coined by Alexander Pope of Red School).

I shared this knowledge with as many of my girlfriends that would listen and started to embed the practice of menstrual cycle awareness, which is literally the daily process of being aware of how your menstrual cycle affects your life. This has given me different ways of looking at and managing my grief.

I often dream about my Mum on day 4 of my cycle (day 1 being the first day of your bleed), as I emerge from my period cave into the real world. This is a time in the cycle that is associated with winter, the new moon, midnight, where the veil between the worlds is thinner and where your intuition and powers of visioning are sharpened. I am often comforted by the visits she pays me in my dreams as I wake feeling like I have seen her.

My cycle coach (yes cycle coaches have their own cycle coaches!) asked when in my cycle do I experience grief the most and having looked back through my cycle journals I have learnt that I am more vulnerable to grief in my inner autumn and winter. I noticed at these times I am often teary about Mum or aware of her absence. Those times of overwhelm where the world feels too heavy and you want a real grown up to swoop in and rescue you!

I have been delving into archetypes as I have been going deeper into menstruality (the word to describe the arc of experience between a woman's first and last bleed, coined by Jane Catherine Severn), and have learned about the link between the menstrual cycle and the life cycle (*more on this in another post) and have been exploring how different parts of the cycle are related to different archetypes e.g. winter and the crone or summer and the mother. This knowledge has allowed me to mother myself more, as I am able to call in my wise woman - associated with inner autumn, when I am feeling vulnerable for example.

I feel a sense of grief that I only discovered this knowledge late in my life, and a sadness that I didn't get to share this with my Mum. However, I am so fired up about sharing it with other women and girls and feel so privileged that I am able to share it with my own daughter.

I will be visiting my Mums grave today at the exact time of her death, with my maternal grandmother who is nearly 100 and in the winter phase of her life. I am struck by how my Mum died in the autumn, when the leaves have mostly dropped, when she was in the autumn of her life.

Closing message

It is new moon tonight at 11.58pm GMT. I invite you to think about what you are letting go of at this dark point in the moons cycle?

If you would like to talk about how I could be your guide as you delve deeper into menstrual cycle awareness please click here

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