Losing your partner, the person you love and maybe planned to spend the rest of your life with, is one of the worst pains imaginable.
The shock may leave you reeling in disbelief, and then the weeks, months and years that follow will be a difficult, painful journey through the many ups and downs of grief.
However, there may come a point after your partner dies that you feel ready to be intimate with someone again.
This may be a purely physical, sexual thing, or maybe you find yourself falling for someone with a deeper, emotional connection. When this happens is different for everyone. There is no ‘right’ amount of time to wait before connecting with somebody new. And meeting a new person or having sex with someone else doesn’t mean you are no longer grieving, or care any less about your loved one.
However, having sex with somebody new after your previous partner has died inevitably throws up complex and challenging emotions.
‘Loss changes you and grief takes you to unknown places where the future feels uncertain,’ says Corinne Laan, a grief specialist and author of The Art of Grieving.
‘The key to embracing a new partner in your life is by getting to know the changed person you have become since the loss. Give yourself the space you need to explore the new you first.’
Corinne believes that even though the life you once had changes forever after loss, you can still live a joyful life.
Take your time
‘There is no rush to get intimate if you do not feel like it,’ says Corinne. ‘Intimacy with a new partner can take time and in the case of a traumatic loss you may need even more time. Take all the time you need to explore this new relationship.
‘If you do feel sexual desire, embrace the fear and doubts with self-love and compassion. You can still grieve the loss of your partner while embracing this new relationship.
‘Sadness and joy can co-exist.’
It’s normal to think of the person you lost
When you are with your new partner, you may think of your past loved one. Corinne says this is completely normal because the love you once shared is still there.
‘Love lives on,’ she explains. ‘Try to relax, breathe, calm your mind and be present in the moment.’
She adds that healthy communication is essential when building a new relationship after a loss.
‘Express what you need emotionally and physically from your new partner and listen to what your partner needs from you by having an open, respectful and honest talk,’ she adds. ‘Communicate with compassion.’
Be kind to yourself and seek help
If you feel resistance when it comes to intimacy, Corinne says it’s important to explore the reason why and the emotions and feelings behind it.
‘Get help from a coach or counsellor to help you move past the obstacles you are experiencing,’ she suggests.
Let go of the guilt
‘Guilt at moving forward too fast is very common and normal as you may feel you are betraying the memory of your loved one,’ says Corinne. ‘Let go of the guilt.’
She adds that keeping the memory of your loved one alive while embracing a new relationship can be tricky, especially when it comes to anniversaries and holidays.
Corinne says: ‘The key here is to do what feels right for you and find ways to blend memories of the past and new experiences into your life.’
Keep working on your grief
‘This is a major life transition and making time and space to reflect on the loss and working through your grief is crucial,’ says Corinne.
‘Keep working on your grief as it will help you gain greater awareness of your strength and ability to build a future you did not think was possible.’
Others may have opinions of what you should do, but Corinne reiterates that it is important not to allow these opinions to influence your decisions.
‘Doing what is right for you is vital when building something new with someone new,’ she adds.
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