Grieving Voices

Q&A | The Grief of a Midlife Crisis

June 20, 2023 Victoria V Season 3 Episode 147
Grieving Voices
Q&A | The Grief of a Midlife Crisis
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Show Notes Transcript

Did you know that the term "midlife crisis" was coined by Elliot Jacques, a psychoanalyst who came up with the term in 1965 after noticing significant changes in one of his middle-aged clients?

A lot has changed since 1965; the way we eat, how we eat, what we drive, societal views about marriage and children, etc. It's as if Mr. Jacques saw the writing on the wall back then. Fast-forward fifty-eight years, and the "midlife crisis" has become, in some respects, a societal joke. Hit forty, and you might have an affair, buy a sports car, or make some other radical, life-altering change due to aging panic...or is it due to something else?

In this episode, I explore the idea of a midlife crisis, or rather, a midlife unraveling, and the accompanying grief. Which comes first? Grief or the midlife unraveling?

I believe that we all experience a midlife crisis to some degree. The question is: what do you do about it? Well, you'll find that there's more to a midlife crisis than meets the eye. 

Listen, reflect, and connect with me on social media - I'd love to continue this conversation!

🎙 Do you have a question you would like addressed on the podcast? Message me on social media or email me at victoria [at] theunleashedheart [dot] com with "Grieving Voices Q&A" in the subject line.




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Victoria Volk: This episode is sponsored by Do Grief Differently™️. My twelve-week in-person or online program that helps grieving who have suffered any type of loss to feel better. In Do Grief Differently™️, you learn new tools, education, and a method you can utilize the rest of your life. In this program and with my guidance, you remove the pain of grief. The sadness will always be there because even in complicated relationships, we love, but it's the pain of grief that keeps us stuck.

Victoria Volk: Hello. Hello. Good morning, good afternoon, or good evening, no matter what time you're listening. Thank you for being here. And tuning in to grieving voices. I am your host, Victoria Volk. And today's episode is number 147 and it's a Q&A episode talking about a topic that I think hits a lot of people. And it's the grief of a midlife crisis. This topic came up, I believe it was during a podcast interview I was guesting on. And I want to bring up a article that I came across and I'll put the link to it in the show notes. It was on HealthLine. And I'm just gonna I mean really this article kind of talks about midlife crisis as as we age. As being like this issue that you have when you're aging. And there's a part in here that says a period of soul searching is relatively common but only about 10 to 20 percent of people actually face some kind of crisis in middle age. Experts mostly consider the midlife crisis, in air quotes, a cultural phenomenon, a western myth fueled by tired media tropes. I don't know about you but I think I personally believe that we all experience a mid life crisis or a midlife unraveling, whatever you want to call it, to some degree in our lives at some point. Their phase in our lives.

Victoria Volk: And so let's define a midlife crisis. Typically, it is around ages forty and sixty with ten years of wiggle room according to this article. New roles and responsibilities not to mention changes in your career, family life, and health can create a perception of middle age before you reach the momentous, big four or birthday. Maybe you've had children at a young age, so you're still in your thirties, when they leave home or perhaps early success prompts you to retire early, leaving you financially secure but somewhat dissatisfied at loose ends. In short, midlife can begin at a different point for everyone.

Victoria Volk: And actually the term midlife was developed by Elliott Jaques, a psychoanalyst who came up with the term in 1965 after noticing significant changes in one of his middle aged clients. According to Jacques, this crisis prompts feelings of depression, anguish, and loss related to the approaching end of life. He also noted that it often involved a loss of creativity and confidence along with the first inklings of mortality, the transition of middle age is often suggested to involve other emotional turmoil. Such as declining happiness and life satisfaction, aimlessness or loss of life purpose, self-doubt, frustration with changing life roles and responsibilities, boredom and dissatisfaction with your relationship career or life in general, concerns about your appearance and how others perceive you, thoughts about death, the meaning of life, and other existential, that's a hard word to say. Existential concepts, changes in energy levels from increased restlessness to unusual fatigue, less motivation or interest in pursuing goals and activities you use to enjoy. Mood changes, including anger, irritability, and sadness, and changes in sexual desire.

Victoria Volk: Well, I don't know about you, but I think all of us experience some of this to some degree. So the fact that experts air quotes believe that this is that a midlife crisis is a cultural phenomenon and a western myth ought to wake up and smell the coffee because why do we see people resorting to behaviors to feel better if they were so satisfied with their lives. If they did not feel self-doubt, if they didn't lack purpose, if they didn't have thoughts of death in the meaning of life and purpose, or if they're bored, not dissatisfied with the relationship career life in general. Like, are these surprising reasons? Like, are we surprised that most people that we know, maybe even new or ourselves, like, I know I have experience this sense of a midlife crisis or midlife unraveling, which I like to call it. Because I think, especially like turning 40. It is like this midphase. Like, you're you're looking to the past you're thinking you're reflecting on the past, you're thinking about all the life that came before you, all the experiences, maybe there's been a lot of hurt and a lot of pain and a lot of sorrow and grief and loss. And you're thinking ahead, well, what do I have to look forward to? What do I want my last however many years to look? What do I want to produce in the world? How do I wanna show up for myself or my loved ones or my family and friends? What legacy do I want to leave? Like, it's overwhelming when we think about having maybe thirty years left to live or twenty years left to live in the fact is that we don't know how many years we have left to live.

Victoria Volk: And so especially as we get into the 40s, what happens when we start to get into the 40s? We're almost we become like this sandwich generation. We're still raising kids and yet we have aging parents, so we're taking care of the young and the old. We're having to transition from being the child, to being the caregiver and the caretaker, and the responsible one for the care of our parent, an aging parent maybe. We're having to make big decisions, big changes possibly in our lives. This is a huge transitional period. And for anyone that says that the midlife crisis is a myth I do wholeheartedly wholeheartedly wholeheartedly absolutely disagree. I think it's something that we need to talk about more. I think it's something that we need to less stigmatized as being something that this period of time, or you have an affair, or you spend all your money, or you buy the race car or the fancy car or you go have liposuction or BOTOX and it's not just an aging. It's not just about aging. Yes, that has a lot to do with that, I think. But at the same time, like, what is the bigger picture? What has happened to you in your past that makes you reflect and bring into your future. Like, what has happened in the past that you're bringing into your present moment that you will take into your future. That is affecting you right now.

Victoria Volk: Because I guarantee you you've had experiences in the past that are coming up again, especially if you have become the caregiver to your parent. I can bring up a lot for someone. It can be a very difficult position to be in. When maybe it was a less than loving relationship. Maybe you're struggling with your child. Maybe your child is struggling. So your relationship is struggling. Maybe your marriage is struggling. Like, there's so many things. This is the period too where you know, the friendships might change. As your kids get older and maybe move off to college and things, like the things that connected you with your friend group, the children. Right? You connected with these people because of your kids and now your kids are gone or now your kids are older and leave the house and go to college and what have you, those friendships can change. You can lose friendships because now there is not that commonality, that common ground that brought you together in the first place.

Victoria Volk: And so it's a really huge time of transition. And in all of these signs and symptoms of a midlife crisis that I mentioned earlier, decline in happiness, self-doubt, frustration with changing life roles, responsibilities, mood changes, changes in sexual desire, etcetera, etcetera. It is par for the course. Like, these are things that we will experience in our lives, all of us, no matter what your gender is or how you identify or what have you. Like, we all go through these things. Not all of them may be necessarily, but many of them. Right? Like, we can have boredom and dissatisfaction with a relationship career or life in general because maybe we're looking back and the things that we used to love to do we haven't had the time or made the time because maybe we are that sandwich generation of now caring for small children or getting children that are growing and a parent at the same time. So it's we're put in these different roles as we get older and our roles change. And with change, can comes grief. Because grief is a change in familiar pattern of behavior. And so during this huge time of change, in midlife, we're going to experience grief. No doubt about it.

Victoria Volk: They say that this that happiness is a you. Research has found some evidence this article says to suggest that happiness or general satisfaction with life takes the shape of a you. It begins to decline by early adulthood, eventually reaching its lowest point in the mid to late 40s. But then it begins to rise once more. This finding is pretty much universal. It holds true for people in a hundred and thirty two countries around the world independent of any outside factors that might affect life satisfaction and happiness. Experts don't yet understand why this dip happens, but some believe it could represent an evolutionary stage. In any case, it may help explain some of the distress you experience in midlife. And offers some reassurance that these feelings aren't permanent.

Victoria Volk: I would agree with that too. They don't have to be permanent. But I think that a lot of these things that people experience self-doubt, aimlessness or a loss of life purpose or declined in happiness or life satisfaction. These things can take root. They can take hold and they can impact the remaining years of your life. If you allow it because I think too, coming back to reflecting on the first half of your life, maybe a lot of loss and grief. And all these things can resurface with life experience and midlife. Again, with aging parents, it can bring up a lot of stuff. Even having kids can bring up a lot of stuff, especially getting when they get into the teenagers, kids bring up all of our insecurities. Maybe you're venturing into entrepreneurship and that can bring up a lot of insecurities and things from your past, belief systems. Again, I'm going to say that I believe all of us experience a midlife unraveling to some degree or another. And I do believe that it can be something that can help you evolve and grow if you're willing to embrace the change. Embrace the transition because it really is a phase of transition and transformation. It can be. And it can really knock you on your ass at the same time.

Victoria Volk: This article goes on to say, well, how long does it last? Well, there's no set timeline for supposed midlife crisis. There's no timeline for grief either is there. Everyone experiences it differently, processes it, differently. But at the same time, everyone has different stressors. Everyone is experiencing a different trigger, I guess in their lives that catapults them into this midlife unraveling. And So I think everyone's situation is very unique to them. But again, I will say that how you respond to that midlife unraveling, definitely I think plays a role in how quickly you rebound from it as well. And that's the same for loss. If you've experienced a lot of loss in your life and you've never really looked at it and never allowed yourself to feel everything that you've experienced, processed it emotionally and with your body, you're probably holding on to some junk. In there, and it's probably manifesting as some physical symptoms, fibromyalgia, or hypertension, or migraines, things like that.

Victoria Volk: But a midlife unraveling can also lead you to behaviors that kind of exasperate those things that are already existing. Those behaviors that you already are participating in, a midlife unraveling can exasperate that. You can, like, go deeper into the alcohol. You can dive deeper into prescription drugs or promiscuous behavior or risk ski behavior or gambling or shopping, it comes back to the grief. Again, the grief of a midlife crisis, the grief of a midlife unraveling. It's all tied together. And so, like this article says, how do you handle it? Well, how do you handle grief? Right? You gotta acknowledge it and acknowledge your feelings. I like how this article says to remember that your life is expanding and not shrinking. And I think it can be really easy to look at our age or if we're looking at a midlife crisis as an age-related issue, which I don't necessarily fully believe it is. I think we can have a midlife unraveling kind of at any point. I mean, you can be 30 years old and have had a really traumatic life up to that point where it feels like you've lived five lifetimes. Where you've experienced more in your life than most people experience in a lifetime. And so I think it is unique to you. I don't know that I don't fully believe that it has to be that it would be in your 40s necessarily. But again, it comes back to that societal just how society looks at midlife and the midlife crisis and the getting the fancy the midlife crisis car or things like that. But I like how this article says how you recognize that your life is expanding and not shrinking. And I think that's where gratitude comes in. It's really looking at the past for what it is and looking ahead with hope. And not like that with this idea or this belief that the best years are behind you.

Victoria Volk: And it reminds me of a guest who said Quandell. He was a recent where are they now episode and he had shared. What if everybody lived their lives as if the best years are yet to come? And I think that's where this whole idea of when we think about the midlife crisis or midlife unraveling is thinking about our lives in that way, that the best years are yet to come. It's not in the past, it's and not necessarily the past was may be good to you either, you know. So I think it's giving gratitude for the lessons of the past. And looking ahead to the future of asking yourself those big questions, the deeper questions, getting more curious about what you want your life to be like at the end of life. There's an opportunity there to expand rather than look at your life as if it's shrinking.

Victoria Volk: And I think this is where too as the article shares, to take stock of your relationships, how important relationships are, friendships are. I'm gonna mention in this episode again, I've ahead and episode. My guest shared this and I'm gonna share it again about the four people to have in your corner. This refers to women women friendships, but men can apply this to their lives as well. But you always want that wise person. You want the wise friend. You want the emotional support who only listens. And you want the go-getter. And four, you want the late-night talker. So those are the four types of friends or four people to have in your corner. The wise person, emotional support, the go-getter, and the late-night talker. And I think that's an important aspect to have in relationships as a part of your life especially when you're going through a challenging time such as grief or loss or midlife unraveling, right, which can be triggered by many many number of different things. And the importance of your taking care of your mental health. And I think if we're addressing the relationships and we're addressing gratitude in looking at our past with thanks and appreciation for what it was and what it gave us. And what we experienced and looking ahead to the future with opportunity, with opportunistic eyes and potential, seeing the potential that we yet have to bring joy and light and love into the world. I think the mental health will follow suit. I think that life becomes more like. So be the light, be the love, and you'll get more of that in return. And maybe that's the cure for a midlife unraveling is making those things a priority. And seeking support wherever you need it.

Victoria Volk: And I'm gonna have an episode coming up or I'm gonna talk about more about life satisfaction as it relates to grief. I'm finishing up with a Do Grief Differently client and we had our second to last session recently, and she was sharing all of these amazing basically testimonials of what she's experienced the past eleven sessions with me and through the program itself and the importance of having Youmap as a part of the program. It's not just about working through your grief. It's looking ahead to the future, which she does now, which she does now. And it's such an important topic to talk about because what I do, it's not talk therapy. It's taking action. And action is where it's at. Action is where transformation happens. And so I'm gonna be talking about that in a future episode coming up real soon.

Victoria Volk: And in the meantime, I want to leave you with something that I've never brought to the podcast before or shared, but I kinda like Oracle cards. And I don't read them, you know, like, it's not a session I offer. Like, I don't, like, pull a card for people as an offering or anything like that. But when you work with me, it is something that if I feel called to, I will ask if you know, at the end of a session, energy healing session or end of a, you know, Grief Recovery, Do Grief Differently session. I'll ask if the client wants me to pull a card. And generally speaking, I don't choose the deck that I pulled the card from. I let my pendulum decide. But today, just for funsies, I decided to pull a card for you, my audience, and it's from postcards, from Spirit. It's a 52 Card Oracle Deck by Colette Baron-Reid. She's the bestselling author of the map and Uncharted. I have not read the books, but I absolutely love this Oracle deck. And so I'm gonna read this card. I'm gonna leave this with you today because this is it's absolutely perfect for what I've just shared, which I pulled the card, and then I recorded, so this is interesting. But perfect for the topic today.

Victoria Volk: And the card is reads. Dear you, There are times in life when taking a risk is better left for another day. Other times are perfect for taking that leap. No matter how dangerous it might seem. Well, hold on to your parachute strings for today is leap time. Realize that no matter what, we will not let you fall, drown, get lost, or hurt yourself in any way on this one. Even if it may feel like you are in a free fall, we are here for you, and you can stop freaking out about getting hurt and relax into this transition to something new. All the elements are in place and your soul is ready for a new experience. No matter what you're asking about, it's time to take the risk and do that thing that scares you. No matter what happens, you will land softly right on target. Don't worry about the outcome. Spirits got that covered. It's taking the leap itself. That's the point. We love your courage, embrace it.

Victoria Volk: And thank you so much for listening to today's episode. If you loved it, I would love to hear about it. And if you would like more cards, shared with you at the end of these episodes. Let me know. And remember, when you unleash your heart, you unleash your life. Much love.