A Husband’s View: Sex and intimacy after loss of a child

by Gary

Males are different psychologically and emotionally. My wife and I lost our 17-year-old son after he died by suicide on Nov. 7, 2019. The grief is overwhelming, strangling, choking, 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 psychological attachment, reaffirmation, 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.

So how does this loss of intimacy impact the male, after the loss of a child?

A good male can completely understand the lover’s withdrawal… yet the incessant need for a male is 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 a psychological uproar, cast adrift, cut loose, 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, as it relates to women. It is absurd to go from 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 mentioned that she would down some alcohol in order to ‘get through’ the ordeal of sex with her husband? A very intelligent woman and I’m glad they remained married. 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, citing 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 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 undertake, or attempt to undertake, the acceptance of the deep emotional complexity resulting in psychological chaos among males. Said males eventually fall 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) 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 *ss 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.

A man feels 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.

Note from Anne Moss: I think it’s important to understand the father’s and mother’s needs after loss of a child to any cause of death. My grief facilitator told our group that men and women actually do grieve the same. The only difference studies showed was sexual interest after the loss. Below, a story mostly from women on the subject.

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.

13 thoughts on “A Husband’s View: Sex and intimacy after loss of a child”

  1. I found this commentary to be very frustrating. More sublimating feminine perspective to the needs of a male counterpart, even in the throes of grief. Why is it the woman must always deny her path to make it easier for the man?

    1. I can understand your point of view. And appreciate it. For me it helped me to understand the male perspective and what intimacy means after grief to men. Right or wrong I definitely think in this situation it is best to hear one another out without judgement and then come to some sort of compromise.

      I appreciate your comment and point of view. And thank you for just saying exactly how you feel.

  2. Thank you so very much for speaking so honestly. I am struggling to understand my husband’s needs and after the loss of our son this was suddenly amplified.
    I do respect and love him though and wish he too would see that engaging in intimacy despite not needing or wanting it is indeed an act of love and generosity. I can’t feel what I don’t feel. Your letter explained clearly what can be lost in the midst of emotionally charged arguments. I hope it can help us get through this, I am so scared we are never going to find our way back from this terrible point. With the immense grief of losing v our boy, I really feel I don’t have the capacity to deal with this too.

    1. Dani- I’ve been there. I know what you mean. This letter from Gary helped me at a time when we were in the midst of the raw loss of our son. And while it’s never “like before” I just want you to know, we’ve found that intimacy again. And some of it’s age, and in some ways it’s more special. I really appreciate your candidness.

  3. After my own marriage started falling apart, I gave this subject a lot of thought and would like to share my experience for the benefit of others. I was very upset that I kept being pushed away and felt like I had been used as a sperm donor and now she had the children she wanted I was being discarded.

    I discovered the answer to why intimacy is so important within a marriage whilst reading the bible one day.

    Matthew 19:4 – “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”

    Whilst we are intimate and having sex then we become ‘one flesh’ and without this a man is not joined to his wife. There is nothing more comforting than simply being able to cuddle up to your wife naked. The truth is that men need women more than women need men. Even though we have experienced such a great loss such as a suicide, our self-preservation also takes over and tries to hold together what we have left. This is why a man needs intimacy and sex so much despite the problems that surround him. It is reassurance and hope that we do still have a future and can rebuild our lives. Every night I am desperate for somebody to cuddle up to but it never happens but why is this not a problem for women?

    1. This is so helpful. So many nuggets in here. Things I knew but maybe weren’t able to put into words. Thank you so much for sharing. It’s really important we hear from men and I really appreciate your sharing your soul. The comments are read more often then the posts many times.

    2. Women seek the same affirmation after a loss of a child, but can’t and don’t want to ask for something they believe the man to already know they need..likewise for men in thai area of topic. My significant other and I are currently facing these inti.ate challenges.. it is hard for both..but this article has opened my eyes more to see he too is grieving …..thanks for this …

      1. Thank you so much for your comment. I want you to know that article is read often and the comments are also read. That means you are helping others by being brave enough to write it. Thank you for that.

  4. Gary , thank you for the insight into a males perspective and heart. We are so very different… but both need deep understanding of the other and the compassion to meet each other’s needs …

  5. Gary, your insights are so incredibly helpful in understanding the totality of the impact of losing a child. Thank you for sharing what I’m afraid many men would be hesitant to share. All sides need to be heard, understood and valued.

  6. Anne, I’m so glad you didn’t shy away from sharing this topic. We don’t talk about it enough and marital intimacy is one of the biggest emotional challenges to overcome after the loss of a child. Thank you to the writer – and thank you for sharing it!

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