Throughout Western culture, menopause is not often celebrated. And, for years, it’s been a hush-hush topic that is often even hard to bring up among your own family. But that is changing.
“Until more recently, I would say that there was a lot of stigma around aging, and people didn’t want to shout from the rooftops that they were in menopause because there had always been this belief that it was the beginning of the end,” said Jenn Salib Huber, a registered dietician based in the Netherlands who focuses on nutrition for menopause management, and also hosts menopause retreats.
The idea that menopause is a negative milestone couldn’t be more wrong ― 30% to 40% of most people’s lives happen after menopause, according to Huber.
“As more and more people are feeling comfortable talking about being in menopause, they can shed some of the stigma and shame around aging and being in menopause, [and instead] they just take the opportunity to celebrate it,” Huber said. And one of the increasingly popular ways to do this is by throwing menopause parties.
What is a menopause party?
Recently, menopause celebrations — whether it’s a party, dinner at your favorite restaurant, retreat or trip — have gained publicity as a way to acknowledge this time in life and create much-needed support.
“For me, there’s two types of parties,” said Helen Bennett, a psychotherapist based in London who specializes in treating clients who struggle with menopause, fertility, hormone and perinatal issues. “There’s the ‘hey, let’s have fun and celebrate and make a bit of light of this,’” and this kind of party may include gynecological-shaped cupcakes, funny quizzes or games, and a general sense of joy as you have a party that marks the start of a new section of life — much like a divorce party or baby shower.
“And then there’s also the other side of menopause parties, which is where people might need to come together for support and information and to share ideas on [hormone replacement therapy] or ideas on how to manage reasonable adjustments at work or just to share how miserable they’re finding things,” Bennett said.
In these cases, it may be helpful to hear about your other people’s symptoms so you can know if yours align. You may talk about what products they use to alleviate issues like hot flashes or even have everyone come armed with useful research.
There is no wrong way to have a menopause party.
Jessica Barac, the founder of the Instagram community What The Menopause?!, added that these parties can also be thrown for perimenopause or menopause as a way to mark this important yet oft-overlooked-by-society time.
“Kind of putting a stake in the ground and just saying, ‘I’m taking up space,’” Barac said. “I think traditionally and from our kind of societal view, women have felt very invisible.” And this invisibility can become more pronounced in midlife.
“This generation is saying, ‘No, I am worthy, and I’m celebrating this,’” much like a rite of passage, Barac said.
Menopause parties can foster much-needed connection in midlife.
“Really, I think what draws a lot of people to [menopause parties] is this opportunity for connection and community that may actually just be anchored to this life stage, but that’s not necessarily about menopause per se,” Huber said. “But it’s really just recognizing that this is a new stage for us, and we want to get together with other people.”
Community and connection are often missing in midlife, Huber said, which is where these parties can come in — to combat any loneliness that can occur during this time. The average age of menopause is 51, but people go through it at all different times: their late 30s, early 40s and even late 50s or 60s.
“So, depending on your peer group, depending on your family members, you may be going through this alone. And the people that I talk to feel really isolated by that, they feel frustrated,” Huber explained.
The frustration can stem from the fact that folks don’t have someone to lean on for support or ask for advice. Menopause parties offer an opportunity to share your experience with loved ones and opens the door for future conversations, too.
“I think that the number one reason why people are interested in this is the community and the connection,” Huber added.
Menopause parties can also allow you to think about what you want in the next phase of life.
Barac stressed that menopause isn’t a sign of “the end.” “This is the beginning of a whole new chapter that can really bring you greater resilience, confidence and wisdom,” Barac explained.
This is a time when you can shift your focus onto you — instead of your kids, job, partner or parents. “Now is a really good opportunity to just focus on who I am, who I want to be and what do I want for the next phase of my life … and what can I do to make it happen?” Barac said.
Reframing menopause as a time of vibrancy, purpose and hope can set you up for a next phase of life that is vibrant, purposeful and hopeful, too.
They also celebrate something that should be celebrated: aging.
“What’s also good in this reframe is we should want to age, aging is the goal,” Barac said. “We want to all get older. We want to live for a long time. So why are we so ashamed about it?”
Perimenopause and menopause are part of the aging process and should be honored as such.
Barac said women frequently write to her and say, “I have lost a number of friends who would love to be alive and healthy right now.”
“So, why are we just shrinking back into the corner? Let’s just go and live our lives and continue living our lives,” Barac said.
If you want to host a menopause party, decide what you want it to achieve.
“Have a think about what you want from it — what do you want your menopause party to be helping you with?” Bennett suggested.
Depending on what your menopause experience is, you’ll want different kinds of support. You may want to go on a retreat with your sisters, or gather friends to hear about what products or tools helped relieve their menopause symptoms. Use the party as a way to establish a support network or have a holistic, spiritual celebration of this new phase in life, Bennett noted.
Or you may want something else completely — and that is OK. Much like a birthday party or baby shower, you can decide how you want to celebrate.
And set your guests’ expectations, too.
Beyond knowing what kind of party you want to have, it’s important to check in with your guests’ needs, too.
“One of the things to really do is make sure your guests’ expectations are managed to make sure they know how to prepare … because, also, people might feel a little bit unconfident about attending a menopause party, they might be unsure of the tone, they might be unsure of what to wear or what it’s going to be like,” Bennett said.
All of this to say, it’s important to make the focus of the party clear so no one — like someone who is going through a more difficult menopause — feels dismissed when they arrive at a celebration that is more playful than they expected.
“Perhaps check in with the people you’re inviting and see how they are coping with menopause so that you can get the tone right … and I think one of the keys is to not assume that your menopause is the same as someone else’s because we all experience it differently,” Bennett noted.
Menopause parties may not be for everyone — and that is OK.
“You don’t have to celebrate this. Some people feel really conflicted, especially if they’ve had challenges around infertility and pregnancy, there can be a great sense of loss for many people going to the stage,” Huber said.
While there is no wrong way to have a menopause party, you also don’t have to celebrate it if that’s not right for you, Huber stressed.
Bennett added that some people may feel like a menopause party makes light of their situation — especially if they are experiencing debilitating menopause or went through menopause alone (and did not tell anyone) years before.
According to Bennett, 1 in 100 people experience a natural menopause before 40, and 1 in 1,000 experience a natural menopause before 30. For those folks, a party may not feel appropriate.
If a menopause party isn’t enough support for you, there are additional resources out there.
Bennett said you can ask your doctor if they know of any local menopause support groups or even look online.
“There are some fantastic Facebook groups, for example, that support women dealing with menopause issues, because often just finding that support talking to others, realizing that what you’re experiencing is normal and that other people have managed it can be so healing,” Bennett said.
Menopause therapists and menopause coaches can also be valuable resources, Bennett stated. As can menopause-focused fitness and nutrition professionals.
“If your doctor or your gynecologist isn’t supportive, find a new one and find somebody who is knowledgeable about menopause,” which isn’t an easy feat, but is a valuable thing to seek out, Bennett said.
Finding specialists who can help with your symptoms and struggles is an important way to honor your menopause journey, too.