Sex and intimacy after loss of a child

One of these is from a mom whose child has suffered previous suicide attempts and it still alive. Having a child struggle is also a damper to one’s sex life. Unfortunately, no dudes responded so it’s only moms for this one. This is as honest and emotionally naked as it gets. (A dude did respond and wrote this.)

Finding the energy to whip up passion after loss is a challenge. Thank you to the tribe for your submissions on the subject. Due to the intensely personal nature of this post, identifying information has been removed.

From a mom who lost her son to suicide a little over a year ago.

For me, or us, it ruined our sex lives. Our son died by suicide and nothing was the same. Not even that.

It’s like we weren’t alone in bed anymore. There was my grief and my husband’s grief and the ghost of our dead child.

There was also something broken in me. Something deeply broken that made it impossible for me to even seek anything that was formerly pleasurable. This included things like my favorite meals and sex. I didn’t want anything to feel or taste good. I didn’t want to enjoy anything so much ever again.

Slowly this changes I think. But only with lots of work. I find peace in strange places these days. Joe and I have worked back to each other a little bit. It’s little kindnesses that seem to work. Getting our sex life back is peaceful to me. I don’t know why. Probably something about connecting.

From a younger mom who lost a 12-year-old to suicide

My husband needed intimacy very soon after. Maybe a few days, maybe a few weeks? It’s a blur. He felt very lost and needed that connection. I could barely take a hug, let alone intimacy, so we agreed to meet in the middle by my using a lot of alcohol, and he didn’t take offense when I didn’t respond enthusiastically. He is my only husband, we lost our son at 12, to suicide.

Over 6 years later we are still married. Intimacy eventually was less difficult for me, maybe 6 months later – but alcohol made everything a lot easier for the first year or longer. In my defense, I never took benzodiazepines to help manage the pain, so alcohol could give me some distance for a little while and make some room for my spouse in the bedroom.

We chose to have two additional children, so right now our sex life is very limited due to a 15 year old, 3 year old and 18 month old. 😂 But otherwise I think it would be pretty normal. I still use a drink to help me not think about my boy during sex- but not nearly as much and not all the time. Many parts of our marriage got better after our loss – trivial stuff was much less important. Of course I also lost the ability to work any more- so some of that improvement could come from my being his servant and asking nothing for myself . . . 🙁

A mom now in her early sixties whose son died by suicide

So, we’re been married since 1982. Our sex life was great.

After our son’s suicide in 2007, dismal.

First several years, I couldn’t get into it at all and since I’ve struggled with chronic profound depression since his death, I think my husband no longer sees me as a sexual being. He’s been my “caregiver” for so long. 🙁

At this stage of the game I don’t know it that’s a part of our life we’ll ever get back. 

Intimacy is such a challenging thing. We have a grown child who struggles with mental health issues – bipolar 1 – and has struggled since high school with depression and anxiety. After a suicidal threat last summer, it also became obvious that she was using alcohol and marijuana to “treat” her illness.

Mom of a child with mental illness and suicide attempts

This has had a big impact on us as a couple. From an intimacy standpoint, it often feels like there is so much energy spent in thinking, worrying, and praying for my child that there’s nothing left to share with my husband.  I fall into bed at night, craving sleep but then am unable to turn my brain off enough to fall asleep.

I know that I should spend more energy and time on our relationship – but that is often just too tiring to think about. He then feels neglected or ignored. While he has tried to understand – and honestly, has been very patient – I know that there are times when he just wants to yell that he needs attention too. With physical touch as his “love language” (and not mine), I know that this is how both receives and gives love but at times it can feel more like a chore than an expression of emotion and love.

I imagine that other parents experience this same thing, especially after the loss of a child. I will be interested to hear what other feedback you receive. Thank you for being emotionally naked.

Mom of in her mid sixties who lost a child to suicide

Our son, age 28, took his life 12/7/15 by jumping from his father’s pickup at a speed of 65 mph. We “celebrated” our 42nd wedding anniversary two months after his death. We have been intimate exactly twice since we lost him.

The last time was when we traveled to the beach for Christmas 2016. We had an especially active sex life prior to this, particularly for a couple in their mid-sixties! My husband has not kissed, hugged, held me or my hand since this ordeal began except the two times previously mentioned. We continue to sleep in the same bed each night but he has made it clear I am to remain on my side.

From a mom who lost a son to suicide

The day after we found out, I actually made the move and we made love. I was so desperate to feel something other than the excruciating pain I felt. I was in agony–sorry I even woke up. Amazed I fell asleep at all. I don’t even know what came over me. Connection I guess. 

It was lackluster after that for a very long time. It’s still not fire and brimstone and I’m the one that struggles the most with becoming interested. So we maintained some level of intimacy throughout. Right before our son killed himself he had suffered from depression and we had years of hell related to that. The mental health system was always so challenging and shaming. So our sex life suffered then, too.

It’s improved and no one is pushing the other. Connection in the bedroom has happened because of connection outside the bedroom. When my husband clams up, I am definitely not into it. I don’t want to feel I’m the only one grieving or talking. I need to hear him talk about it, too. I think that was hard for him to do. I’m thankful we have each other. I really can’t imagine going through this hell alone.

How to stay married after loss of a child

Published by

AnneMoss Rogers

AnneMoss Rogers is a mental health and suicide education expert, mental health speaker, suicide prevention trainer and consultant. She is author of the Book, Diary of a Broken Mind and co-author of Emotionally Naked: A Teacher's Guide to Preventing Suicide and Recognizing Students at Risk with Kim O'Brien PhD, LICSW. She raised two boys, Richard and Charles, and lost her younger son, Charles to addiction and suicide on June 5, 2015. She is a motivational speaker who empowers by educating and provides life saving strategies and emotionally healthy coping skills. As talented and funny as Charles was, letting other people know they matter was his greatest gift. And now that's the legacy she carries forward in her son's memory. Mental Health Speakers Website.

4 thoughts on “Sex and intimacy after loss of a child”

  1. You can’t possibly know that I have been suffering for two years over this subject. You just don’t know where to start to get help. Do you deserve help? So much I have been through to know this is part of it for everyone as well. I don’t know why it makes me feel better to know I’m not the only one. Thank you.

  2. Father’s are different. We are males, different psychologically and emotionally. My wife and I lost our 17 year old son after he completed suicide on Nov. 7, 2019. The grief is over-whelming, strangling, choking, vomiting at times. I’ll not attempt to convey the grief. One understands, or one does not. The intimacy of coitus with my wife is the deepest of (the many of) my connections with her, encompassing my love, my emotional and psych attachment, reaffirmation, etc, on every possible plane you could imagine.
    Males are always subconsciously tense, on guard. The old stereotype complaint, his falling asleep after making love? Criticized… some women never understanding it’s the male basking in that rare, totally chill, beloved absolute state of inner calm. Which only his ‘she’ can induce for him; no another! Most can never understand it, but should cherish it, as if it were a lesser love, a casual woman, his zipper is hoisted quickly and the male is gone, out the door and down the road. So how does this loss of intimacy impact the male, after the loss of a child, as your ladies have written above? A good male can completely understand the lover’s withdrawal… yet the incessant need for the male is still to connect sexually. It is critical for a male’s healthy psychological state of mind, remaining emotionally grounded to his soul mate. Remember that he, too, is in psych uproar, cast adrift, cut lose, terrified of losing more than the child, but his most profound love, also: you. What is said of men? They are ‘the forgotten grievers’?
    Sex is neither right, nor wrong, after the loss of a child… just different, I suspect, with re to women, as I clearly read above. It is absurd to go from an incredible sex life, to self induced orgasm because your wife has emotionally abandoned you. Yes, I use the word ‘abandoned’ here correctly, as the fear and uncertainty of the relationship grows in magnitude as the weeks pass without intimacy, re-connecting, sex. I find myself questioning everything, suspecting everything, a perverse, negative feedback loop self perpetuating itself to fantasy proportion. The abandonment is ‘perceived’ to be true, eventually. Deal with it, as that’s how your spouse is going to see it in the long term, even if his perception is wrong… it will become his new reality and belief.
    The woman who replied above, who would down some alcohol in order to ‘get through’ the ordeal of sex with her husband? Very intelligent woman, glad they remained married (my assumption is that he wasn’t simply some redneck abuser of women, but a good man). She was neither right, nor wrong to engage in coitus while not in the mood: it was what HE needed to stay connected, grounded, loved, not silently grieving both the loss of his child, and then the emotional loss of his true love. Most women in society today are, I believe, unlikely to understand. We are different, we ‘flawed’ males: young and ignorant women are quick to judge, jumping to degrade the male simply because of the differing ‘right brain, left brain’. It is much easier, at times, to ridicule, than to attempt to understand, or simply ‘accept’.
    Everyone I know, has seemingly mentioned their concern, siting the high level of divorce among married couples when a child completes suicide. If a detailed study were ever completed as to the underlying issues of the high divorce rate… and assuming enough introspective males would be honest… I believe (generally speaking, of course) the ‘surface’ cause is lack of intimacy received from the wife over a prolonged time span. Most female society (and lying males) would likely be quick to condemn the man as a sub-human beast, rather than undertaking, or attempting to undertake, the acceptance of the deep emotional complexity resulting in psychological chaos among males, said males eventually falling into the realm of false thinking and, if allowed to continue for ‘X’ length of time, near psychotic thought processes regarding the partner and the continuation of the marriage. If the male feels that he is losing the woman he loves… because she ‘refuses’ (as he comes to wrongfully believe it) to see to his emotional needs, connection via coitus (and yes, our emotional needs ARE at times driven by sexual contact). If the woman fails to understands this, or refuses to accept it, deeming it beneath her… well, eventually that woman who continues to remain disengaged from her husband has a high chance of living alone, likely with several cats, until such time as she decides she wants to start looking for a ‘new & improved’ model. Yes, you have, through no fault of yours, validated his wrongful perceptions which will become his new reality.
    I know I express myself poorly, but what I have said here could be coined as ‘male truth’… yet be completely ignored by so many viewers who would rather hold disdain for the male viewpoint, or question the love of the male for his partner, or assume a low I.Q. of the male.
    In point of fact, who gives a rat’s ass if the partner understands it or not? If he needs it, give it! My God, that’s what a good person does for his love throughout his life: whatever pleases his wife.
    Whether male or female, how utterly pompous to disregard their needs, simply because ‘disdain’ of it. I believe the woman/mother, lost in the loss of her child, fails to see the male isolated, now grieving through loss of child AND loss of life love. And the emotional safety doors and pain gates slowly start closing, sliding into place, slowly blocking her out.
    As he fells blocked out.
    And the doors grow stronger, the walls higher.

    We are males. We are different. Accept us for who and what we are, not what you would wish us to be.

    I’ve also been awake for about 36 hours, likely not making any sense, lol. Sorry.

    1. I do appreciate your comment Gary and point of view. I can’t tell you how long I have pursued a make point of view on the topic and I would like to publish this as a blog post. I do t have to use your last name. Just your first. It’s an important perspective.

      Our grief group leader said that men and women do grieve similarly but the one difference was sex. Most the men needed the connection you mentioned. Quite frankly I think we women need you to push after loss of a child. And I will tell you that the day after, I was the one who needed it and made the move. That raw open wound and my soul cried and I needed that love. Let me know if I can publish this a little but edited for grammar.

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