Updated: Mar 10
Last week, I received some unexpected and sad news. One of my yogi’s husband had passed away. Even though I knew that he was ill, it still came as a shock. I received and read her text as I sat in my driveway. I was stunned. With her permission, I broke the news to our group of yogis. The response from the group was immediate. It was loving, supportive and collaborative. Instantly on our WhatsApp group came messages of condolences and love.
It was the same when I had hit a low point last year. I had been having a bad week, and then to top it all off, my car had been stolen from my drive. Again, immediate responses of love and support. Offers of help, and offers to come and sit with me while I sat day-drinking. (I am not saying this is the solution to all problems, but a bit of something stronger in my coffee seemed more appropriate at the time.)
I call this group my tribe, and never has it been more apparent that they are just that then in this one moment.
This tribe is a collective of women all in their midlives going through similar experiences. There is no hierarchy; no chieftain, no leader. We are a clan of women, sisters. We come together often, not just for our yoga classes, but after as well. We go together for coffee and share and support one another with what is going on in our lives- the good, the bad and the ugly. We all have required some support or cheerleading at some point since our tribe began. We welcome new members into our group all the time.
Some of us have lost parents or siblings. Some of us have adult children whilst other have teenagers. We have been through divorce and death. We support each other’s highs and lows.
Being in our midlife can come with bouts of loneliness. Our children leaving, parents dying, relationships breaking up. However, that bond of female friendship is always there, like a big soft support blanket to wrap us and provide comfort when we feel alone or sad.
Our weekly coffee and breakfast sessions act as a type of group therapy. It’s a place where we can drop the mask. We allow tears and laughter. And we realise we aren’t alone in our struggle. The women provide empathy and advice. More often than not, the women who started off having a tough day or tearful, feel much better and lighter in spirit.
I’m not saying avoid going to a professional therapist if you need it, however, sometime just seeking out a group of women whom you have something in common with can be just as beneficial. Most midlife women have had similar experiences and can offer advice or sign posting if you want it. Other times, they are just there to listen, and that’s all you need. These women can also help keep you accountable.
As we grow older, our female friendships grow stronger. Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin are the queens of female friendship. Jane Fonda said, “I don’t know what I would do without my women friends. They make me stronger, smarter, braver.”
“Women are the fastest growing demographic in the world, especially older women,” she says. “If we harness our power, we can change the world. And guess what: we need to. We set the consumer standards, and we need to consume less.” (TedBlog, 29 May 2015)
I often feel sad for my husband and for men in general. They don’t seem to have the same friend group dynamics. Men tend to go out drinking beer and talk about general things. They very rarely have a brotherhood bond. I’m not saying it doesn’t exist, but I am saying it is more rare than sisterhood bonds. In fact, I often have to remind my husband that he should pick up the phone and call a friend to see how that friend is doing. He seems to think the friend will call him when he needs to. Why is that?
Well, according to Psychology Today (Fuller, K. December 2021), women tend to thrive more on intimate face-to-face relationships, which produces oxytocin. This is our ‘love hormone’. The hormone oxytocin helps us buffer our fight or flight response and encourage her to bond with other women instead.
Try it now. Go give someone a hug. Not a quick one, but a lingering hug, and see how it makes you feel, and them. (Be sure you have their permission first.)
Welcome Back! How was that hug?
Oxytocin is a hormone that not only aids childbirth and lactation, but also aids sexual arousal, recognition, trust and romantic attachment. Hence, it’s nickname ‘the love hormone.’ Oxytocin has other benefits including improving social skills, promoting sleep and boosting protective instincts. This could explain why in a female friendship group, we tend to ‘circle the wagons’ around an injured friend, and why we want to rescue them from whatever ails them.
So, if you aren’t part of a ‘tribe’ at the moment, you need to go out there and find one! It’s not always easy at our age. This isn’t school anymore. Where do you begin? Here’s a few suggestions:
An exercise class that you enjoy. My yoga classes go for coffee on a Wednesday, and breakfast on a Friday. The local theatre we go to coffee for also has a women’s exercise class, where the women go for coffee and a chat as well. (It’s very busy at the theatre café on a Wednesday morning!)
Your local Women’s Institute
Join a group that does a hobby or sport you enjoy. (e.g., Tennis club or quilting club, etc.)
Join a walking group
Google a local interest group for women. There are more and more popping up.
Take a course aimed specifically at women.
Join a women’s group on Facebook.
These are all starting points, and I do advise being cautious with some of the suggestions. But I would love to know how it goes for you if you do reach out and find a new ‘tribe’ of women to join. It’s ok to be a part of more than one.
One final piece of advice, message a friend today and see how they are doing.
And if you are dealing with grief, I have a guided meditation for you over on Spotify on my podcast ‘Moments of Zen with Michelle.’ Meditation for Grief