Sexuality after perinatal bereavement

by Claudia Ravaldi

This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian)

Sexuality after a perinatal bereavement is a topic that is rarely addressed in Italy because, like death, sex is also a taboo. Especially after a perinatal bereavement.

In perinatal bereavement, the parents’ body, heart and mind are all equally overwhelmed by an experience that is very difficult to understand, process and integrate into one’s life path. This work, which involves both mother and father, woman and man, on several levels, due to quite marked cultural and gender differences, sees each member of the couple engaged in a substantial part of solitary elaboration. Differences in experiencing, thinking, and reacting to the facets of mourning are often marked, and frequently a source of conflict. There are many physical interferences, especially in the body of women, which come to recall traumatic memories and previous experiences. It is impossible to pretend that having given birth to a dead child or a serious premature baby does not have somatic and sensory consequences in the short, medium and long term. We know they are there, we know we experience them. Let’s try to start understanding how to deal with them, without them becoming an additional burden on our already uphill journey.

It is intuitive that when the couple has to add work on the couple conflict to the work of mourning, this double aspect makes an experience that is already transformative and all-encompassing in itself very heavy.

Offering couples a good amount of information that explores bereavement and its derivatives, physical, psychic, emotional should therefore be the practice of every loved one.

The sexual sphere and the intimacy of the couple are very neglected topics when reading documents, works, books on perinatal bereavement. They are also neglected at congresses and training courses for specialists.

Sex in perinatal bereavement (as in infertility …) is a taboo. Completely free from the medical aspects related to any pathologies underlying the bereavement, completely free from the emotional aspects.

Still, bereaved couples are expected to “try again” to have a baby shortly. For some, this path is immediate and natural. For many others, sexuality becomes yet another mountain to climb.

How can I try again, if I no longer know who I am, I do not trust my body and I no longer recognize the person I married, because he processes mourning in a way that is incomprehensible to me?

In our self-help groups the topic of sex, love, and when to try again has always been very popular.

The reason is easily understood: the love that binds couples pre-exists mourning, and often after mourning this love takes two opposite paths: either it explodes and strengthens, or it freezes, because mourning takes place. he eats. Knowing how the couple adapts and is reacting to grief and its expressive differences is therefore a priority over the big question: When can we try again? And its multiple corollaries: why do we always postpone? Why do we feel like crying? Why am I afraid and I freeze and feel nothing?

Can love be made again after a perinatal bereavement? Can we go back to feeling something that comes from our body and is not just the emptiness of loss?

It can.

You can regain possession of your body, with a little trust and tenderness towards us, and towards that of your partner.

You can touch the cesarean wound or the pelvis that hosted and welcomed the passage of our baby, without being overwhelmed by traumatic and unpleasant emotions that also turn sex into a nightmare.

Starting again from your body and your health is a CiaoLapo mantra, and it is a mantra of all those who deal with physical, mental and biopsychosocial well-being.

Starting again from a body passed away by perinatal death and feeling pleasure through that body, and not just the echo of pain, physical and mental, is a consistent piece of grieving.

Regaining possession of oneself, of one’s intimacy, respecting oneself, requires a gentle and non-judgmental dialogue between the two members of the couple.

It requires starting from the basics of love: attention to little things, gradual physical contact, caresses, listening.

It requires patience.

It requires not expecting everything to go back to the way it was before, knowing that it can never be the same, because in the meantime the tsunami has passed. But it could be even better, because being aware of your body and welcoming it as it is and protecting it and keeping it healthy, and pampering your partner’s body perhaps opens up access to a more conscious sexuality.

Sands UK has published a small handbook with the experiences of English parents, which you can find here .

A reading that I found right and necessary. I hope one day to be able to give voice to the stories of Italian parents as well.

Because our children are love, and from Love, it is right to be able to leave again. All time.

I wish couples fresh from mourning to rediscover some of the beauty that has brought to this world, even if for a short time, those great beauties of your children.

Valentine’s Day is upon us, and it’s time to retire the taboo.

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