How does grief affect your sex life? How does it affect intimacy when you’re hurting?

On Mondays I like to take a reader question and try to answer it on video (and I’ve had great fun filming some upcoming ones with my daughter Rebecca!).

But today’s a significant day for me. Today my son Christopher would have turned 22, had he lived.

And recently I had a reader write in about grief and intimacy. I read her whole question on the video, but to summarize:

A few years ago we lost our baby girl when she was only 36 days old. Our oldest was 19 months at the time. A few years later we had a stillborn. We went on to have two more healthy children, but we also had a miscarriage. I know that you say grief comes upon you in waves, and I’ve certainly experienced that. But for me, grief and sex are really intertwined. It makes our sex life really difficult. Any suggestions?

That’s a hard question! I related in the video something that I shared in The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, about how making love ended up being very healing for me the night that my son died. And that was not something that I had expected (and I didn’t mean to tear up in the video!).

For those of you who don’t like to watch videos, or who want more info, let me summarize some of what I said about grief and intimacy.

We tend to experience grief differently. This month we’re talking about personality types (really how the MBTI relates to marriage). Every Wednesday we’re looking at a different facet. But my personality type loves talking about our thoughts and figuring out plans and ideas by talking out loud. Feelings, however, are different. When I’m feeling grief, I tend to put a wall around myself and like to be by myself.

My husband, on the other hand, is far more extroverted with his feelings. He has no trouble sharing them. And that means that we don’t always help each other the best.

Sometimes a couple may simply process grief differently, and that has the potential to pull you apart.

It’s important, though, to recognize that making love can actually be a healing part of grief even if you don’t talk about what you’re feeling. You don’t need to talk to touch each other’s pain. And often we carry our pain in our physical bodies. When we can share that, it can be tremendously freeing, if you’re not able to vocalize what you’re thinking.

So I’d say: even if you can’t talk about it, don’t shy away from each other. Try to even say just one sentence aloud, and then hold each other, and don’t be afraid if it goes further than that. Deep intimacy tends to fuel desire, but that doesn’t mean that you’re ignoring grief and just getting sexy! No, it means that you’re trying to connect on the deepest level. You’re truly making love. And that’s okay.

My son Christopher’s handprint.

My son Christopher’s footprints

Some other posts on grief and intimacy that may help you today:

  • Grief: You Don’t Just Get Over It (do we understand what grief looks like over time)? This was the post that the reader was referring to in her question, and the analogy about the hole in the floor came from a comment on this post, too.
  • Why I’m Okay 20 Years After My Son Died. A little more about my own journey with grief
  • 10 Ways to Nurture Your Marriage Through Grief
  • How Big Is Your Umbrella? My little book to help people process grief. It tells my own story of loss, but it really focuses on the things that we yell at God when life is difficult, and what God whispers back. And the ebook version is only $2.99!
  • Fit2b.us – The exercise program I was referring to in the video that helps you release some of the physical tension that grief can cause in specific areas of our bodies. It’s very calming and soothing. (Fit2b has a ton of great videos on exercise and activating your core and dealing with tummy issues, but it also has a video specifically for grief, though the whole program isn’t designed just for that).

My favourite picture of me with my son.

I hope that that helps you today. I don’t know how I’m going to spend my day yet. Hubby and I may go for a drive in a beautiful part of the county near where we live, or may go for a hike (though it’s stinking hot). But I’m going to try to not pull away from him today!

Our family around Christopher’s grave in 2017. Keith and I with our two daughters and their husbands.

What do you think? Have you ever gone through a period of intense grief? How did it affect your intimacy with your spouse? Let’s talk in the comments!

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