The Power of Mourning Together: Intimacy after Trauma

Recently, I went through a period where I was thinking about my miscarriages a lot. I had made a short film about Emma, and I was grieving some other people who had died, and I had to work through some leftover anger at God for what happened with her.

It is very hard for my husband when I talk about miscarriages, especially Emma. He copes with things by focusing on the good, and talking about Emma is not a helpful way to do that, because there’s not much good in that situation for us. Unfortunately, I heal and process what happens to me through talking it out, so that sucks for him sometimes.

So of course, when I was suddenly processing all of this stuff about Emma, it was very difficult for him to handle. We had some Grade A, level 5 fights going on. I was bogged down by the problem of evil, and he was just trying to live life.

One day I wrote several pieces about Emma, one after another. I felt like he completely blew me off once I convinced him to read them. We had a history-making fight over that one. It ended in us feeling hopeless about resolving it collapsed on the floor in the bedroom.

I was so angry, but I took a second to tell him that I know how hard it was for him, and that I’m sorry. He came over to the rocking chair I was sitting in and laid his head in my lap. We had a completely honest conversation about how painful losing Emma was, and how hard it was that our marriage started out like that. We talked about how much we had stuck together through, and we cried together about how much it hurt at times.

And then, we had pretty much the best sex that has ever been had, ever.

There has been so much pain from the beginning of our marriage, and dealing with the loss of a child at the most hopeful time in your life is devastating. Our hopes and plans were destroyed and we were flailing trying to find each other and ourselves again after going through a severe trauma, but in a different way. He struggled with religion and wanted nothing to do with it for a while, while I bounced back and forth between clinging to Jesus like a life raft, and raging out about how hateful the Church is and how I wish I had never been a part of it, and raging at God.

We had these amazing ideas for making movies together, and being artistic and talking philosophy, but when the only philosophy you can think about is the philosophy of grief and the problem of evil, eventually survival instinct takes over and forbids you think about it anymore.

So we grew apart in some ways for a while, because neither one of us were being ourselves. We stayed close deliberately, but there was this space between us that kept coming up. Over the years, we have had little healing moments like this recent one, and they are getting deeper and deeper. Healing through a tragedy like losing a child, at any age, is incredibly difficult, and it comes out in many ways.

The reason I mention sex is that I think a lot of people may not think about how much unresolved issues can play a part in intimacy. Especially men, I think don’t realize how much of a difference emotional intimacy makes for women.

Women’s bodies physically respond to feeling emotionally heard. My body responded to that, I could feel nerve centers of my body that had been dead sizzling back to life, and I was able to breathe in a way I hadn’t been able to, for as long as I could remember. I was as hungry as a teenage boy. Every touch felt like he was a master of contact, where I had struggled with feeling the awkwardness of sex at times. I wasn’t afraid to tell him where to touch, what to do, but it wasn’t because I was bossing him around but because the heat of the moment swirled around us. It was so natural, and carnal, it was really and profoundly “making love.” We were making love out of trauma, love out of tragedy, and it was incredible.

We connected in a way we hadn’t for a long time that night. I tell you this because my husband and I are very open and emotional people, and we still struggle with this. I can only imagine that people who are not this way would struggle even more, first to find the words to talk about this stuff, but even more to work through it no matter how hard it gets. I believe though, that nights like this are what make marriage work. So, maybe see if your husband will talk about anything you think might be blocking you from enjoying intimacy with him. If you need to, let him read this to understand how much of a difference it makes. We need to be heard, and our body responds to that, and your relationship will respond to that too.

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