Where Grief Meets Sexuality
The intersection of grief and sex(uality) is profound. In my clinical sexology practice, my clients exhibit a multitude of sexually related issues: sexless relationships, painful sex, shyness/inexperience, toxic shame, inability to orgasm, erectile or ejaculatory challenges, body image dysphoria, recovery from affairs, hunger to explore beyond the monogamous bond, overall longing for something they do not or cannot attain to make themselves feel whole as sexual beings.
One barrier to “sexual self-realization”, a term I coined years ago, is the intersection of sexuality and unresolved grief. I find that so many of my clients, especially those who are over 65 years, or who have separated or divorced, or worse yet, have lost a partner through death, suffer a deep sense of loss. Under that crust of loss lie the lurking layers of massive unresolved griefs. Grief about losing the hopes and dreams of a different outcome for an intimate relationship. Or grief about the empty nest or empty bed they lie in. Or grief about not having the sensual pleasures they seek. Or grief about missing the centerpiece of romantic love in their sexual forays. Anything that can touch the volcanic center that houses the tissues of unhealed grief, (that often lies unspoken and as it relates to our own sexuality) can prevent us from being the fulfilled sexual person who we can be. The essence now of my work and my passion is to help my clients to unblock those solidified or shifting layers of grief and facilitate their pathways for freedom. Moving beyond grief, I want my clients to be able to love themselves and others, live fully, feel passionate connectivity and experience unfettered sexual pleasure.
My own recent acute grief is now a constant companion, as my monogamous life partner of 17 years (Robert) died suddenly at age 74 in a foreign country while we were on a teaching tour. My grief has affected me in all ways, including facing the gigantic hole where my life partner used to occupy grand space in our partnered human existence; and embracing a terrible sense of deeply felt emptiness. Such is the path of grief as it connects its tendrils to our sexual selves. I do see the emerging of new life from these tender shoots, as they bloom forth, but it’s a long road ahead to heal the intersection of grief, love and sexuality for me and for all those who share the hope for the inevitability of healing the whole self.
Love & Light, Dr. Patti
Patti Britton, PhD, Clinical Sexologist; Co Founder of Sex Coach U; co-author of Designing and Leading a Successful SAR…