Intimacy After Loss
We do not pretend to be psychologists or therapists, but we do want to briefly touch on intimacy. Grief can have a significant impact on a person’s sex drive. You may find that intimacy with your partner after a loss is comforting and stress-relieving. You may also find it impossible to even think about in the face of your deep grief. Your libido may fluctuate in the weeks and months following your loss, and this is completely normal. Both partners can experience profound grief and have affected libidos, not just the partner who carried the baby.
If sex just isn’t on the table for you in this season, here are some other ways you can experience intimacy with your partner.
Spend time doing things you love
Play board games, watch silly TikTok videos, cook together, or take a hike.
If you have other children, try to get some time alone for just the two of you. See if a trusted family member, friend, or neighbor can keep the kids for a while so that you can get quality time to reconnect.
Go for a drive
This can be a great option if you can’t think of anything to do or if you have a small child who will nap in the car.
You could grab a milkshake on your way and play a car travel game.
Research shows that physical contact has numerous health benefits, including lowered cortisol levels (less stress), increased oxytocin levels (the “love hormone”), increased serotonin (more happiness and better sleep).
Hold hands, kiss, cuddle
Snuggling sans clothing can actually be a great substitute for sex if you’re just feeling overwhelmed or exhausted.
Also, taking intercourse completely off the table can sometimes help both partners feel more relaxed and able to be physically intimate through kissing and cuddling.
Intimacy is more than just physical. Both men and women have a need for emotional intimacy, and talking can help to foster that emotional connection. One way you can connect is through your mutual grief. Talk about your baby, call him or her by name, and remember together. No one else feels the weight of child loss as heavily as the parents do, so no one else can relate in quite the same way. Don’t just talk about the loss, though. Share other emotions and feelings you experience throughout the day. Talk about your dreams and hopes, and share what’s on your heart. Check in with each other at the end of the day by stating your highs and lows for that day.
Grieving together can help both partners feel like they are not alone. Even if it feels strange, holding each other and crying together can connect you to one another and to your lost little one. Remember your baby together.
Depending on the amount of time that has passed since your loss, you may need to seek professional help. Persistent low libido may be a sign that your grief has progressed into complicated grief, which may require treatment through therapy, medication, or a combination of the two. A great place to start would be seeing a licensed therapist, particularly one with experience in treating clients with grief (sometimes called bereavement counseling) and traumatic loss. You can see a therapist as individuals and/or as a couple. Note that couple’s therapy is often not covered by insurance.
Psychology Today is a large database for therapists and allows you to filter based on insurance, location, specialties, and more. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us
Also, if you are experiencing any sexual pain, talk with your care provider and get a referral to a pelvic floor physiotherapist. They can help with many post-pregnancy complications, including incontinence/bladder leakage, sexual pain, diastasis recti, and prolapse.
Sex is a very personal, intimate experience, and it should never be demanded of either partner. Coercion (“If you don’t do this for me I will do XYZ” or facing “consequences” for not complying) or demanding sexual favors is a form of rape and is never appropriate. Sex should be mutually pleasurable, and if one partner is not interested in sex or is unable to have sex, they should not be forced. If you are in a relationship in which you are being forced to have sex, please seek help from a domestic abuse hotline or sexual assault hotline. Below are resources for national hotlines in the U.S.
National Sexual Assault Hotline by RAINN: 1-800-656-4673
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233