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woman suffering

Suffering in Silence: 5 Things Women Don't Talk About

empty nesting healing infertility menstration motherhood pregnancy rape red tent sexual abuse sexual shame sexual trauma std women's community women's health Apr 30, 2022

When I first wrote this article, I quickly realized WHY women don’t talk about these things. These topics are raw and vulnerable at our most basic primal level. I have been fortunate enough to have a sister who is also my best friend and a skilled intuitive coach and healer like I am. We share every dark, dusty thought with each other and help each other heal and process these things, and know we’re not alone. We’ve also had the privilege of holding a similar space for thousands of women throughout our coaching careers.

This article is meant for anyone who was born a woman, desires to be a woman, currently identifies as a woman or any man who loves a woman. It is not an exhaustive list, nor is it meant to suggest that a woman’s only role is to have children. Quite the opposite, actually. It is meant to highlight a collective pain that every woman alive shares, yet carries alone and close to her chest. It is meant to say, 

“I see you, whatever your story might be. I know that it is personal, and painful and glorious and I think it should be celebrated and shared.” 

If it is true that “Shame disappears when we wrap words around it,” (thank you Brene Brown) then the more we share our inner worlds, the more we can be free to share our healthy divine feminine energy with the planet and help it to heal. I encourage you to share your story, whatever it may be, with at least one other person or find an intimate space where it can be fully witnessed and celebrated. Allow these 5 categories to inspire you, rather than wondering if you fit into them. They are only a starting point and a conversation starter.

1. Sexual shame and masturbation 

While statistics say that 1 in every 6 women has been sexually abused, based on the intimate conversations I’ve had with women, I’d argue that nearly ALL women have been marked in one way or another by sexual shaming. 

The collective shame of the very nature of our womanhood runs deep in our bones, our blood, and our DNA. There is a low-lying vibration of knowing that we “could” be stripped of our power to say no at any time. 

It’s a main reason why women have to be so “tough” instead of allowing ourselves to be the soft, supple, nurturing divine feminine beings we were designed to be.

Whether women are dealing with miscarriages, STDs, HPV, female cancer, rape, attempted rape, unwanted pregnancies, painful sex, bleeding, cat-calls, inappropriate groping or any other sexually related trauma (no matter how big or small), the reverberations live in our bodies and are passed on from generation to generation.

While boys are expected to pleasure themselves and have sex at the earliest age humanly possible (with their friends high-fiving them), girls fall prey to “slut-shaming” as early as middle school (if not before). Add the pressure to have sex before you feel ready, periods and the ever present potential for pregnancy or rape to the mix and sex gets real complicated, real quick for girls.

As adults, masturbation and sex seem easier for men to compartmentalize as well. It’s a moment of pleasure and not a lot more complicated than that. They are able to have sex and talk about sex without collective anxiety, fear, and shame compiling in their abdomens. Instead, they are revered for their ability to have sex. They get to “put out” their sexual energy while women “take it in” and carry it with them always. 

Ask any woman you know and even if she doesn’t tell you her sex-shame story, I can nearly guarantee that she is carrying one inside of her.

2. The pain of menstruation and birthing

I grew up watching my mother in pain monthly, suffering from endometriosis and desperately needing a hysterectomy, but unable to stop caring for ailing parents, 3 children, a job and a household in order to take the time off to get one and heal. It looked normal to me for periods to be painful and to cause a great deal of emotional distress. 

It wasn’t until recently, in my 40s, as I was researching help for my own uterine fibroids that I read in big bold letters: IT IS NOT NORMAL FOR A WOMAN TO SUFFER DURING HER PERIOD. Say what?!?

I have suffered nearly every month for the last 30 years and in nearly every dimension: physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, energetic. I know I’m not alone, yet we are given the message that because every woman bleeds every month, the discomfort of it is somehow irrelevant. Like we’re supposed to just get used to it and “man up.” Again, we suffer in silence, month after month after month, literally “bleeding” for our children, (or for our lack of children). 

In the garden of Eden, God told Eve that she would “always know the pain of too much loving,” as the consequence of “original sin.” This is what we are taught from the origins of time, that the pain of menstruating and childbearing is a curse that will never be lifted. 

What if we were taught that this is not a consequence at all, but a sign of our own power to create and sustain life in a way that only a woman can do?

I’m often envious of hearing stories of the “Red Tents” where women who were bleeding were able to gather while other women in the tribe took care of their children and households. They were able to truly rest, release, shed, cry, feel and share with each other their experiences. 

In our hustle culture, women are expected to “hide” the fact that they bleed and continue working just as hard, even though her body is literally preparing to create a human life. We feel guilty for taking a bath or a few hours off. We constantly fight the story that we have to work harder, do more, take care of everyone else and put ourselves and our own sacred bodies last. Perhaps it’s our duty to rewrite this outdated narrative for our daughters and granddaughters.

3. Infertility and miscarriage

A few years ago, when a coworker sheepishly announced that she was pregnant and that she and her husband had been trying for 2 years to get pregnant, I apologized for being such a bad coworker that I had no idea she was going through such a major life event. She looked me in the eye and said, “you couldn't have known, I don’t talk about it. It’s too painful.”

Since this exchange, I have had the privilege of having many conversations with private clients about their desire to become a mother. Whether they are: 

of a certain age and still looking for “the one”

trying again after a miscarriage

questioning their worthiness after a previous abortion

deciding not to have kids in order to stop ancestral cycles of pain

spending tens of thousands of dollars on fertility treatments

For those of us who had children naturally, it is difficult to imagine what it feels like to want children and question whether you-a-woman-are going to have the experience of motherhood in this lifetime. I can’t speak to this based on direct experience, but I have held space for women around these topics for years.

Again, we go back to the shame of believing that we are somehow marked, scarred, or otherwise fundamentally flawed when something gets in our way of our most primal function of carrying children through to fruition. It’s not enough to say to a woman who is struggling that it isn’t “meant to be” or that it’s “not her fault.” We have to understand that the suffering she faces daily runs down to a human species survival level of awareness. 

If her body is unable to produce offspring for whatever reason, her genes carry the trauma of being rejected, discarded and ostracized from the tribe.

Of course this doesn’t actually happen anymore, but understand that this is the level of fear and pressure that a woman literally feels and amasses in her bones based on thousands of years of conditioning.

4. Children not thriving, or rejecting you 

One might think that once a woman crosses the threshold of becoming a mother, the pain of birthing dissipates. Yet, the “pain of too much loving” and the primal pressures of motherhood continue on behind the veils and filters of Instagram-worthy snapshots of the #joysofmotherhood.

Nearly every waking moment of a child’s life is phased with growth, and with growth comes pain. There are frequent and consistent recognitions parents face that they will never get to see this particular version of their sweet little child ever again, triggering 'Mom Guilt' that can be a hard train to get off of once it starts moving.

There are not enough photographs or videos on the planet to prepare a mother for the constant loss and grief she feels as the child she labored and toiled to bring to life changes, in front of her eyes and in quiet preparation of leaving her.

We change our entire identities, values, routines and priorities to keep our children safe and thriving and ready to enter the world as “functioning adults.” The sheer amount of balls we have to juggle in the air seems impossible, yet the moment one drops and one of our children is hurting, crying, getting bullied, failing a class, skipping school, coming in last, dealing with depression or anxiety, suicidal, addicted to video games, gets sick or is weak, gets injured in sports or is in one way or another not a Harvard Poster Child, we place all the pressure, shame and fear on ourselves.

Why didn't I do a better job?

Did I fail my child?

Should I have worked more and provided more for my kids?

Should I have worked less and been more present and nurturing?

These conversations seem to be saved for expensive and ongoing therapy sessions, doctors and school administrators. When other parents ask us how our kids are doing, we smile and tell them only about their latest achievement, not the rough patches.

Children are meant to learn by falling down and getting hurt. It’s not our job to protect them from anything bad ever happening, but to guide them to find their own resilience through trial and error. 

If we carry all their burdens for them, they won’t have the strength to hold them when they go out on their own or better yet, the wisdom to know that only they can choose to put their own burdens down. 

While the pain of seeing your child hurt is extremely difficult, them huring you through any form of rejection (low grade and passive, or all out refusal to speak to you), is downright agonizing. The women I've worked with tell me it feels like walking around with a part of your heart missing that no one but that child can fill.

And to anyone reading this who has lost a child, you deserve your own category of recognition that I simply can’t do justice to in a short article. You are the strongest people I have ever encountered. Ever. Period. End of story.

5. Empty nesting

One of the most common things women seek private coaching on is the big fat question of “What’s Next?” 

Eve’s apple-bite-curse strikes again. The pain of the finality of your child’s childhood is perhaps the cruelest part of it all. We spend twenty years becoming a mother and women think that they “should” somehow figure out how to “unbecome” a mother before their children even leave home. 

The fear of the unknown is so paralyzing for women, that especially those I’ve worked with who have 3-4 children begin dreading it when their youngest is in middle school. They’ve had a chance to taste the pain, but still have the younger ones to keep them going. They still get to live for someone else and are not yet responsible to remember who they are at their core without the oh-so-comfy and familiar cloak of motherhood protecting their identities.

To be stripped of this title and lifestyle after rearranging our entire cellular structures in order to earn it, is far more vulnerable than women care to casually share with each other. It’s a place we protect within ourselves. It’s something we somehow feel we are supposed to get over quickly or carry alone. 

It has been my distinct honor to help women find the confidence to know that they deserve motherhood when they are doubting their fundamental role as a woman. Likewise, it has been such a pleasure to help women remember their true nature and retrieve their inherent gifts as a woman separate from motherhood. 

Our children definitely and painfully pass through us, but they do not belong to us. We get to have the experience of being their mother, but we must remember that we are that…AND SO MUCH MORE. 

I believe it is vitally important, as women, to uncover and name our own pain, shame, and hidden fears, so that we can begin to heal the collective. Because these topics are not typical cocktail hour fodder, it can be challenging to find that one person who also wants to discuss the things “women don’t discuss.” It’s even more challenging to find a coach or therapist who is fully equipped to help you uncover and process the emotions that are buried deep in your body so that you can write a new story and expand into a new version of you consistently.

My sister and I have this in each other, so we knew part of our life’s work was to make it available to ALL women. If not us, then who?

If any one of these topics affects your quality of life, consciously or subconsciously, and you’d like help moving through them with grace and support, your own answer to “What’s Next?” might be to give and receive a brand new type of support inside our SisterCoachTM Community. We hold online and live trainings. See our homepage for the most up to date info.

About the Author

Lisa Freitag is a Master Coach and Healer with over a decade of experience helping people STOP self-sabotage so they can live a life of ease, enjoyment and alignment with their gifts and purpose. As a highly empathic and intuitive healer, she is committed to helping sensitive souls master their emotional and energetic states so they can do their unique work in the world. Lisa is the co-creator of The Expansion MethodTM, and SisterCoachingTM, along with her sister, Jamie Dooley. Their YouTube Channel The Sister Coaches breaks down big topics like spirituality and neuroscience into digestible lessons and actionable strategies viewers can implement right away.