Grieving Process Newly Widowed

DANGERS OF HAVING SEX WHILE GRIEVING (AND WHY YOU SHOULD WAIT)

Dangers Sex During Grief - The Jolly Widow

This article was originally published on 08/09/2017.  I’ve made recent a recent update towards the end of the article on 04/02/2020. I hope you find the update pertinent. 

In a previous article, I proposed that we should refrain from engaging in any sexual activity with others during bereavement.  I will go over the reasons why in this post.

Sex. The most primal, and vital need to the survival of our species.

After losing our loved one, it is only natural for those with even the strongest primal urges to lose all sexual desire.  Or you may find yourself strangely answering the call to a relentless need for sexual pleasure, only to find yourself splattered on an empty bed, plagued by feelings of hollowness and the overwhelming urge to cry after climax.

It’s okay.  These jumbled feelings are entirely normal after experiencing such a tremendous loss.  It’s extremely important for us to practice non-judgmental observation (aka. Mindfulness meditation) of our strange desires, or lack thereof, at this time.

ENERGETIC EXCHANGE DURING SEX

During sex, we are not only literally “opening up” ourselves on a physical level, but are also practicing vulnerability on an energetic and emotional level.  Allowing all sorts of jumbled energetic vibrations to enter our already wounded terrain.

Essentially, engaging in sexual intercourse with anyone is equivalent to allowing an open energetic, physical, and emotional exchange between you and the other party.  In most cases, the vibrational exchange may be full of bliss.

But for some, the energetic exchange during sex may deliver some not so positive energy right into your womb – your most intimate space (not just physically – but also mentally, emotionally, and energetically).  Especially if you’ve felt some sort of lusty attraction towards them.  Or if you are seeking a temporary high in hopes that it would numb your pain of loneliness.

You will discover that some of their core wounds might be similar to yours during this energetic exchange.  Attraction between two people takes place when either their core values are congruent with one another’s, or when they have similar core wounds that needs resolving.

THE EFFECTS OF TRAUMA BONDING

During grief, it will most likely be the core wounds – not the core values – that catalyzes the attraction between the both of you.  It’s known as trauma bonding.

Once a relationship based upon trauma bonding has begun, it will take years of a combination of intensive cognitive, emotional, and somatic therapy to heal from.  The devastating effects of a trauma bonded relationship will permeate other areas of your life and quite possibly destroy them.  You do not want to get yourself stuck in that situation.

Engaging in sex during grief might give you momentary relief, a temporary high – but it will do more harm than good in the long run.  For both parties involved.

So, in addition to the existing pain that you have yet to heal, you have now invited more unnecessary burden into your energetic field.  Or you will have dumped your emotional garbage onto the other person, causing both of your wounds to tangle into one huge ball of energetic and emotional mess.

Doing so is just asking for impending drama and turmoil that you will have to work so hard to resolve.

EMBRACE THE GRIEVING PROCESS

Quite the opposite, I actually strongly advocate shedding the shame and guilt surrounding sex that society has taught us to believe, whether it’s sex through self-exploration, or with a partner.

Sexual bonding is not only a vital biological and emotional necessity, but can also be our portal to experiencing spiritual bliss. It is one of the highest forms of expressing love and appreciation for another human being.

I only recommend you staying away from sexual intercourse until you have tended to your wound.  Don’t expect to gain some sort of empty satisfaction of the flesh at this time.  Because it will be empty. And it will leave you more drained than you already are, more likely than not.

Don’t run from your pain, or from your loneliness.  Instead, embrace the pain and loneliness because it is a natural part of experiencing loss, and of the grieving process.  There is no need to always be “okay” or “perked up” as we’ve been conditioned by societal norms.  Allow yourself the space and time to properly grieve.  Only then will you be able to regain the emotional intimacy with yourself.

Read: The Healing Power of Self-Exploration

EDIT:  (04/02/2020)   I would like to reiterate that the purpose of this article was not to spread fear, or to create any standards by which you “should” or “shouldn’t” operate from.  It [temporarily withdrawing from sexual intimacy] is something that I’ve found on my own healing journey that can be implemented to lessen the duration of the grieving process, and to avoid inflicting unnecessary emotional wounds onto yourself, or onto others.

If by any chance, you feel like you’ve taken any inappropriate actions, just remember that you’re not making any mistakes on this healing journey, everything you do brings you one step closer to complete healing, even if at the moment, it appears as if you’re taking two steps backwards.

HOW TO KNOW IF YOU’RE HEALED ENOUGH TO HAVE SEX AGAIN

You will know that you have healed to a certain degree when you are no longer looking to sex as a means to “fill the void”, to avoid unpleasant feelings, or to escape the current reality and circumstances you find yourself in.  The more you practice being present with your feelings and identifying the specific emotional state you’re in, the more you will become attuned to your inner being to know whether or not you have healed enough to engage in sexual intimacy with another individual again.

But ultimately, you are in charge of your own choices, nobody can tell you what the correct decision is for yourself.  If at any point, you choose to have sex during this bereavement process, don’t shame yourself on that decision.  Because shaming yourself is just another way of unconsciously inflicting emotional self-harm, further adding to the healing work that needs to be done.

We should NOT perpetuate the story behind the feeling, as that would only further anchor it in place, causing the potential for us to be addicted to self-shaming.  Instead, we should listen to the feeling of shame or guilt, or whatever feeling that arises and allow it to guide us.  Our emotions are our most trustworthy internal GPS system – if and when a negative emotion arises after you have carried out an action, our body is telling us the action we took might not be the best for us at this point in time.  Vice versa, if a positive emotion occurs (i.e. lightness, joy, fulfillment, etc.), then that would signal a green-light from your body.

A word of caution, however, when we are blinded by our biological needs and the dopamine release of “finally” having physical intimacy with another individual, our bodies may flood us with a surge of feel-good hormones. We may feel especially elated and bonded with that individual (thanks to the hormone oxytocin), however, those positive feelings may only last a few hours at most.

Pay attention to how you feel afterwards, if you feel any unpleasant emotions at all, then it might be a good-idea to cease sexual intimacy with another individual until you know you are not using sex as a means to escape from your current painful reality. 

What are your thoughts on engaging in sexual intercourse during grief?  Leave us a comment below to share your thoughts.

dangers of sex during grief - the jolly widow

24 Comments

  1. Reading your article really gave me a perspective that I could not find anywhere… and feel connected to. I recently lost my partner of 8 years. It has been 4 months since his sudden death, and I am still pretty fresh in my grieving. I very recently re-connected with an old friend who is a widower, and we went for a walk and grabbed some light lunch. I found myself feeling very attracted to him… so much so it was physical for me. I was honest about how I was feeling, it felt easier than to keep it from him. I discovered he felt the same way. There was an immense attraction. I wanted to kiss him but he stopped us from doing anything. It has been 4 years since his wife (my co-worker/friend) passed, and he is doing excellent work within a group and with a trauma therapist. A part of me wants to so much to experience a release and have someone to hold me. He was the first person to deeply hug me… and it aroused me. I feel confused. We started talking on the phone for 5 days straight, and over the phone at night, where we would both have a release. I met up with him and his two daughters for a bite mid-week and I was nervous and so was he. He kissed me, but I didn’t feel the same way I did when we first met. But, then he would be across from me and I would have glimpses and moments of him that turned me on again. I ended up staying a bit longer and we made out a bit like in high school, and it got too overwhelming for me. I felt pressure and confusion. He would be the first man who has touched me since my partner passing. Its just so lonely sometimes, but I am also scared of being intimate. I had a breakdown shortly after… with him over the phone and then another male friend… I have taken some distance with this widower, but it feels really nice to be desired, and to be thought of…

    1. Hi Sonia,

      Thank you for your heartfelt comment and vulnerability in sharing a part of your healing journey. My deepest condolences for your loss. I know it hasn’t been easy. I’m glad you were able to be open and honest in communicating your feelings to him. Often, when we grieve the loss of a long-term partner, our close family and friends tip-toes around the topic of sex, or worse, shun it because “Your husband just died, how dare you even have the thought to get physical with anyone else?!” Our society forgets that we also grieve the loss of a stable, sexual intimacy with our long-term partner.

      Yes, it’s quite natural for us to crave the actual physical embrace with another human being. Physical touch creates a feel-good hormone called oxytocin, which is also the same hormone released during orgasm designed to encourage “bonding,” and “connection.” Especially if you’ve had consistent sex for the past 8 years, and then have it suddenly snatched away. We are creatures of habit, and chances are, your body has become quite used to experiencing that regular release of oxytocin, and it’s craving that next “hit.” So it’s going to try to bond with any next person you develop any slight emotional attachment (trauma bonding) to. The choice is not mine, but if you do intend to stay celibate for now, the trick is to recognize that your overwhelming urge to seek physical intimacy with this widower is only a product of the body’s biophysical response to “withdrawal.”

      You mentioned that as soon he kissed you, you lost the attraction. My guess is that you’re not actually attracted to him (your true emotional body speaking). But when you look at him from afar, it turned you on again because that is the body wanting what it can’t have. Hence, the battle between your physical and emotional bodies is what’s creating this confusion. I do feel that you already know this deep down. I believe you have the inner wisdom to navigate through this challenging period as you are quite aware of your own emotional states. I hope this helps!

  2. My husband passed recently from a neurological disease. The last couple of years he felt more like my sweet toddler then my husband. I now have thoughts all day long of how he was when we first got together and the intensity of the urges and emotions and how fun it was. It’s like I’m enjoying our love affair all over again, only he’s not physically here. I miss who he was to me before his illness. I love him so much that I am actually grateful for his sake that he is released from his mortal body that was so diseased.

    1. Thank you for sharing your story Vali. The love that you both shared will always be present and it’s certainly normal to long for a loved one whom you’ve established such a strong bond with. I hope you are able to find peace.

  3. I am in my early 40s, and my husband died in an accident 4 months ago. We were high school sweethearts, and still very intimate physically and sexually.

    I live in a very small, religious community which has been extremely generous and supportive. However, I am finding that I crave the physical/sexual intimacy of which I am suddenly deprived. What ideas might you have as to how to satiate such desires in a healthy way? Certainly a hug, massage or getting my hair done, though nice, does not seem to relieve these desires. I am not ready for a committed relationship.

    In this tiny town, just going out for coffee alone with a male other than my father, would create “talk.” Also, I believe what you say about “trauma bonding.” A widower of five years has recently reached out to talk to me, but I feel his ultimate desire is long-term partnership. It frightens me that I seem to immediately respond to him with a sexual yearning (though I have not shared this with anyone), yet I also know that I am not ready for a commitment or interested in him ultimately.

    Ideas regarding coping with this loss of sexual intimacy and desires while avoiding hurting myself or someone else would be very much appreciated.

    Thank you

    1. I’m so sorry to hear about your loss Lynn. I understand it is difficult to have the physical intimacy taken away along with the passing of our life partner. Ultimately, it is your choice whether or not you engage in physical intimacy with another individual, or how long you should wait – so long as the other party also understands that you are not looking for a long-term relationship, and that you both come to a mutual agreement as to how you should proceed. The best thing I’d suggest is to be clear about your intentions on what you are, and are not seeking – an upfront discussion should eliminate any possibilities of misunderstandings and unsaid expectations, which will prevent anyone getting hurt in the process. Hope this helps.

  4. This is my first experience with grief. My Mom passed away just 3 week ago and I’m now the guardian of my 10 year old brother. I feel numb and immense pressure to juggle all the responsibilities. My partner does not know to show empathy. He confessed this and frankly I don’t know what to tell him to do. I told him I want him around more often to hold me and provide comfort but he can’t due to his busy work schedule. For the few days I saw him I was just silent 98% of the time. His absence makes me feel angry. Is my anger towards him a misplaced emotion? Is it fair to expect him to be their for me more than ‘normal’?

    Morover, now, I’m very horny but I have no desire to have sex with my guy. I have a collegue who lost his parent too and he was there to help me lift my mom as she took her last breath. Now I feel even more attracted/connected to him. When I think of intimacy, it’s with him. How do I make sense of all this?

    1. So sorry to hear about your loss Mary. I know it can be overwhelming to juggle responsibilities along with all the jumbled emotions that may arise with losing a loved one. It’s great that you’ve expressed your needs to your partner. And it’s perfectly normal to feel angry after experiencing the loss of such a close family member – but yes (as you already know), the anger, however justified it feels, is most likely a misplaced, projection of your upset associated with losing your mother more than anything. You desire physical intimacy with this colleague because women typically create bonds on the basis of shared experiences and emotional intimacy before they can be physically and energetically open to another individual. The shock of losing a loved one is enough to throw our mental, emotional, and physical bodies out of balance. Before taking any actions that you might later regret, I do recommend just sitting with your desire and openly discussing it with your spouse under the guidance of a licensed counselor. Hope this helps, take good care.

  5. Fantastic article – thanks for alerting me to trauma bonding. Having lost my wife of 19 years, I used alcohol and sex (with sex workers) as a distraction. I felt intimate with one or two (clearly they saw me as a simply a client). I see how it may simply be my oxytocin withdrawal as you point out, but the process (finding, contacting, meeting, orgasm) all provide something – over and above the usual work, talking, drinking, crying – to occupy my time. (It’s not cheap)

    1. It’s not uncommon for us to submerge ourselves in the use of alcohol, pornography, sex, drugs, to escape from the pain and the reality of losing a loved one, as we have not been given the proper tools to know how to process grief in this fast-paced, capitalistic society. These are, after all, easily-accessible coping mechanisms that floods our pleasure centers with feel-good hormones, if only for a moment. However, in the long-run, they are not only physically and mentally damaging to use, but will most likely erode your sense of Self and your spiritual nature (your Soul). But you are already aware of the effects, we all are. The choice is ours, in the moment.

  6. I have recently lost my beloved partner to suicide, we had a wonderful intimate relationship and I miss it, and him so so much it hurts.
    Reading the above makes me feel a little more ‘normal’ I miss our cuddles and closeness as much as ‘him’ as my best friend.
    I wondered if this was ‘normal’
    So thank you 🙏

    1. Thank you for sharing Rebecca, very sorry for your loss. Yes, craving physical intimacy is part of being human and is perfectly normal. Hope you have found peace ❤️

  7. I am so glad I read this article as I genuinely thought I was going mad and it explains my urges to fancy someone physically who I know would be hopeless as a relationship prospect. I lost my partner of 17 years 3 months ago . I know I am not ready for a relationship but feel a compulsive need for physical attention. My partner was perfect to me and I miss her so much , this need was actually taking me away from the grieving process that I really need to embrace to get passed it It helps to understand the reason for how I feel . Thank you

    1. My condolences for your loss Brian, I know it’s tough to have to manage the pain of the loss as well has having to deal with our most primal needs that comes with inhabiting this biological meat suit. It seems like you already have a clear understanding of what you need right now, and it is to place the focus back on yourself to embrace this healing process. You might find that once you’ve healed to a certain degree, your compulsions may also lessen in intensity, because you will be offering yourself the love that you are looking for from an external source to fill the void that is left by the passing of your partner. Hope this helps. Take care.

  8. My husband of 15 years passed away 2 months ago and I recently had sex with a man who I’ve been friends with for about 15 years as well. I know it’s very soon to do this, but do you think I’ve ruined any chance of us having a relationship in the future? We’ve decided to not have sex anymore and just stay friends, but I would like to have a relationship with him someday.

    1. I’m very sorry to hear about your loss Virginia. I’m not qualified to answer your question as I’m not a dating coach. Ultimately, it is your decision on how soon to engage in physical intimacy with another individual. But a good way to gauge is to tune into your emotions – if you experience any negative emotions (i.e. guilt, shame, loneliness, sadness, etc.) before, during, or after sex, then it would benefit you to stay away from any physical intimacy for a while. Hope this helps.

  9. I lost my partner of 17 years to cancer in march ?(I am a Male in my early 50s and my partner was in her early 60s .
    . We had always had an active physical relationship so I agree with what you are saying about the body craving contact . I have been almost obsessive at times but realise that it is a chemical thing and am not ready mentally. So I have concentrated on sorting my life out and dealing with all the aniversarys etc and a positive thing is I have started writing down my thoughts which is helping me understand the patterns to my feelings . One of the key things is I was shutting people down and not interacting outside of work or necessary family commitments. So now I am making an effort to socially interact. This helps a lot . I do feel now nearly ready to maybe interact with someone on a more intimate level but realise that in itself could present problems if I don’t take it at a pace that is comfortable for both partys . While recognizing that you are right about not rushing into a sexual relationship I do not think there is a hard and fast rule on how long . For me 9 months – a year doesnt feel very long but if I feel comfortable to be with someone I like then I will go in that direction . But only if it feels right. I feel an inner calm about the prospect of dating now which even though I mourn the loss of my partner , we talked a lot and she would not have wanted me to be lonely.

    1. It seems like you already have a pretty good grasp on the healing process Brian. You are right, there is no “hard and fast rule” on how long you should wait to begin an intimate relationship with another, as long as it feels right to both parties and you both come to an agreement on a comfortable pace. Thanks for sharing, take care.

  10. My husband’s mother passed away March 31 of this year. It was unexpected. I have been taking care of the funeral arrangements, as my husband isn’t too ‘organizing anything’ savvy, and I’m sort of taking control of that situation so he can focus of grieving. I’m experiencing something that I have never felt before, and it’s an emotional distancing from him. And my insecurities suddenly are at an all time high. “What if he doesn’t want me anymore?”, “What did I do?”, “Am I’m not doing enough?”, are just a few of the rambling questions in my mind. I know I am selfish for making this about me, but I just can’t help feel like this.

    When it comes to sex, do I just wait until he’s ready? If I let him wait, will things grow cold between us? Or is there (as a spouse) something that I can do to bring it up and not make it seem like I just need to get off? Because lack of sex and the distancing is a bit too much, along with having to be strong and take care of everything.

    1. I’m sorry to hear about your loss Ale. It’s not uncommon for someone to become emotionally distant and “shut off” after losing a close loved one. I know it can seem like unfamiliar territory, especially if this is the first time one of the two of you have experienced the death of a loved one during your marriage. I know it can be a challenge to be practice patience at this time, but the best thing you can provide your husband is the space and time for him to grieve and to process the loss. Ultimately, these are questions for a discussion between you and your spouse. I do recommend enlisting the help of a grief, or marriage counselor if you don’t feel comfortable with initiating the discussion on your own. Hope this helps.

  11. Wow. This is amazing.
    I as well have recently lost my fiance of 8 years in a tragic accident.. I feel so lost and confused I know I am still grieving but I try and stay distracted almost like I’m pretending it didn’t happen. It’s been 2 months and I’ve recently connected with an old work colleague. He has been super supportive but the messages have started becoming cheeky and I have been fantasising about it becoming more but only sexually. I know I’m trying to cover the pain with something that makes me feel good and this article has opened my eyes on why that is not a good time to do so because it will cause more pain for me. My fiance and I had a very active sex life, we are only 26. I’m honestly craving something more so bad but I want him no one else..
    the exchange of messages have kept me occupied but is having them cheeky texts something I should continue doing?

    1. Sorry to hear of your loss Samm. I feel you already know the answer to your question, as you seem to possess a healthy level of self-awareness. It’s only natural to crave physical, human connection. There is no golden standard as to how long one should wait. As long as both parties are taking actions based upon mutual understanding and agreement, you do what you feel is right for you.

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