Tapping into our grief is both an individual and collective endeavor – and it is truly an act of courage. Grief is part of the human experience, but like many other uncomfortable feelings, our tendency is often to push it under the rug and simply wait for it to pass. We need lots of time to let it land and move through our bodies. The more vulnerable we can be in sharing our grief with others, the less of a grip it will have on us.
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross named five stages of grief – including denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. As far as I know, she mentioned nothing around sexuality. However, when we allow our grief to move, it makes room for all of the joyful sensations in life, instead of us getting stuck in the pain.
Grief is an Essential Part of Life – and Sexuality
Grief doesn’t always have to involve a literal death. It can be an emotional reaction to change or loss. Yet underlying the pain is always a source of profound love.
Grief is often felt when someone loses a job, a child goes away to college, someone dies – or personally, in my most recent deep-grieving experience, when separating from my partner. It can be noticed on more subtle levels when we tune into the aging process, the changing world climate on all its various levels, or even the change of seasons. We feel grief deep in our bodies: our throats feel tight, our hearts break open, depression shows up like a weight in our gut or as anxiety-producing nausea. And more often than not, we also notice our sexual appetites wane.
A Feel-Good Society Leaves out the Power of Sadness
Generally speaking, in our culture we are taught to focus on what feels good in any given moment. But I notice that when I accept something to which I was initially resistant to, I grow, flourish, and blossom. And when I resist, it persists until I pay attention.
Consider the birthing process. It can be extremely painful, and it’s tempting to clamp down on the intense sensations flooding the body. Of course, this doesn’t stop the process of childbirth; it only intensifies the suffering.
I know from personal experience with childbirth that the more I invited in all of the sensations, the more expanded and liberated I became. I transcended the pain by going through it, not around it. The ecstasy of birth is similar in many ways to the post-orgasmic glow after an amazing sexual encounter with a lover – flushed and red, throbbing with life force, and completely amazed by this new baby before you. Both are messy, raw, primal experiences that bring us completely into the moment.
From Heartbreak to Heart Breaking Open
Perhaps the same can be said about grief. The degree to which we surrender to it, is the degree to which we fully allow for all the feelings and sensations to move through us and have their way with us. This is when heartbreak evolves into the spaciousness of a heart breaking open. This is when we can open to sex more fully, because of the acceptance of grief and feeling it all – our sexuality included.
We feel most alive when we allow the feelings of grief to rattle us so completely, that we lose ourselves in rapturous despair. And when we open ourselves to the raw urgency of feeling all there is to feel. When we allow ourselves to be open enough to feel it throughout our body, we can be surprised to find ourselves able to receive deeper levels of pleasure than we ever thought possible.
The deeper we allow ourselves to go, the more pain and pleasure we become open to. Conversely, the more we numb ourselves in the name of staying calm, the more bland life will feel.
Personally, I want to see what is possible when I open myself to feeling all the way into my grief, my sadness, my anger, my despair… and my sexuality. When we choose to stay open, darker energies show up – sometimes unexpectedly – knocking us on our asses. If we can stay open enough to our grief, we can stay present to the parts of us that create new life… the parts of us that make life worth living.
Practical Tips for Experiencing Grief
Try erotic embodiment breathing next time you want to tap into a powerful way to move grief through your body. It will also help you connect to your sexual desire. Here’s how you do it:
Step One: Take several deep, relaxing breaths into the chest. Make space for the chest to gently open as you notice what feels alive in that area. Allow for any feelings to emerge and be felt fully.
Step Two: Allow the breath to move down into your stomach. Allow for it to expand and contract like a balloon. Notice and sink into the energy of this part of your body.
Step Three: Breathe all the way down to your pelvic floor. Allow it to open and for all your feelings and energy to move through your cock or pussy. Squeeze the muscles of the pelvic floor on the in-breath (like you are stopping the flow of urine when you pee), and release them on the out-breath. Do this several times. On the last breath, squeeze all the muscles in the body – and hold. When you release, allow all the sensations to flood through the body. Just be still and notice what is happening in the body and with your emotions. You may notice the second chakra energized and that grief has loosened its grip a bit.
Getting Cuddly & Attuning
Another way to move grief through is simply through cuddling and attuning. By maintaining eye contact with your partner while snuggling, you are allowing your nervous system to relax and sync up with the other’s. You allow yourself to be seen with whatever emotions are present which can be very liberating. The oxytocin that is created can bring about a feeling of relaxed arousal. Which in turn can lead to some pretty connected, epic lovemaking.
Using Grief to Deepen Intimacy
My personal journey involves grief around letting go of the 21-year relationship I had with my husband. I now know that for a long time before the relationship changed, I wasn’t acknowledging my grief around how it wasn’t working anymore. This denial only extended my silent suffering. While this coping strategy kept the wounds bandaged, the adhesive was always loose, and the pain was steady, reliable, and dull. Our sexual patterns were much the same, and we were both unsatisfied. At the same time, we were also unwilling to fully acknowledge and deal with the personal work we needed to do.
When I started the process of separation and started living my truth, the pain didn’t go away, but its quality changed tremendously. Instead of numbing, I dove into periods of crying and emoting, followed by deep lovemaking with a new partner who could hold space for that. I used the grief as a portal into a deeper dimension of me, and discovered an intimacy that arose from knowing and trusting myself to follow my truth. Even when that truth contained some dense and painful processes. And though it often hurt like hell, I found that sexual ecstasy was part of the package. The ecstasy was a reward for all the brave work I’d done by honoring my grief.
Grief is a Tool that Should Not be Ignored
We don’t need to get divorced or lose a parent to tap into grief. It could be a feeling of loneliness or lack of fulfillment in your career. Especially at this time in history – when policies are being put into place that don’t seem to serve the greater good – grieving can be a powerful catalyst for change. Shedding tears and finding ways to express anger, without projecting, can drop us deeply into our bodies. And if we choose to, also move some of the collective grief through our sexuality.
So next time you feel a heavy energy tugging at you, or you are pushing away a feeling, notice if grief is trying to get your attention. Listen to what it has to say. Life may be a roller coaster ride, but with love, awareness, willingness, and the torch of sexuality lighting the way, we are always on the right track.
Wendy’s mission as an intimacy coach is to help you free the energy in your body and beckon Eros into your life. She brings compassion, playfulness, and wisdom to her sessions, and empowers you to release shame and self-judgment, discover and claim your desires, and increase your self-awareness and self-love.
Wendy sees clients in Sebastopol / Sonoma County CA. Book a session with her now.