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Sexual Bereavement: When a Spouse Dies and You Miss Sex

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The death of a spouse is not just the loss of a life partner. It also is the loss of a sexual partner. Unfortunately, most widows and widowers must cope with the emotional impact of that loss of sexual intimacy alone, and the isolation only deepens their suffering. Cultural taboos and personal embarrassment often prevent them from raising their feelings of what is called “sexual bereavement.” But there’s a way to help yourself psychologically if you are in this situation…or help a loved one who is.

Recent finding: A survey of 104 partnered women age 55 and older published in Reproductive Health Matters found that 72% anticipated missing sex with their partners after their partners died, and most said that they would want to discuss this feeling of loss with a friend. But the majority reported that they would feel more comfortable about the conversation if the friend raised the subject. The problem: Most of the women surveyed also admitted that they would not raise this topic if it were one of their friends who had been widowed.

What to do: If you are the close friend of someone who has been widowed, raise the topic of the loss of sexual intimacy. If it makes you uncomfortable to ask your friend about his/her sex life, you could mention that you would grieve the loss of your sex life if you were widowed…or you could say that someone else you know who was widowed experienced these feelings. Don’t assume that your ­recently widowed friend is too old to have had an active sex life—many couples remain sexually active into their 80s.

If you are recently widowed and are experiencing sexual bereavement, understand that these feelings are perfectly normal. Raise the topic with a friend or relative without shame. If you are not comfortable doing this, you could raise the topic with a therapist or support group…or with a friend by mentioning a recent sexual-bereavement article you read about (such as this one).

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Source: Alice ­Radosh, PhD, research psychologist and coauthor of the study “Acknowledging Sexual Bereavement: A Path Out of Disenfranchised Grief,” published in Reproductive Health Matters. Date: July 1, 2017 Publication: Bottom Line Personal
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