— The Ritual Of Taking On The Sins Of The Dead

Ritual of eating the sins of the dead

by Andrei Tapalaga

Throughout history, various cultures have developed unique rituals and practices surrounding death and mourning. One such intriguing tradition is sin eating, a ritual in which a designated person consumes food or performs a ceremony to symbolically take on the sins of the deceased. In this article, we delve into the history, cultural significance, and psychological implications of sin-eating.

Origins and Historical Context of Sin Eating

The origins of sin-eating can be traced back to ancient civilizations. In many cultures, death was seen as a transformative process, and the belief in the transference of sins to another person or object emerged as a way to cleanse the departed soul. Sin-eating rituals were prevalent in societies where the concept of sin and the afterlife held significant religious and spiritual meaning.

Sin-eating rituals varied across different regions and cultures. In some instances, a designated sin eater, often a marginalized member of society, would be called upon to perform the ritual. In other cases, family members or close friends would partake in the symbolic act of consuming food or engaging in ceremonial practices to absolve the deceased of their sins. These rituals served as a form of catharsis and a means to ensure the spiritual well-being of the departed.

Symbolism and Beliefs Associated with Sin Eating

At the heart of sin-eating is the belief that the sins of the deceased can be transferred to another individual. The act of consuming food or engaging in ritualistic practices symbolizes the assumption of guilt and responsibility for the sins committed during the lifetime of the departed. Sin eaters were often seen as sacrificial figures, taking on the burden of the deceased’s transgressions to facilitate their journey into the afterlife.

Sin-eating rituals also had a communal aspect. By absorbing the sins of the deceased, sin eaters played a vital role in purifying the community and maintaining social order. The ritual was believed to restore harmony and balance, ensuring that the sins of the departed did not linger and cause harm to the living. The presence of a sin eater provided solace to grieving families and served as a means of closure and reconciliation.

Psychological and Societal Implications of Sin Eating

Sin-eating rituals offered a way for individuals and communities to cope with the emotional and psychological impact of death. Engaging in symbolic acts of absorbing sins provided a sense of closure and relief, allowing mourners to navigate the complex emotions associated with loss and guilt. By externalizing and transferring the sins to another person or object, individuals could process their grief and find solace in the belief that their loved ones had been spiritually redeemed.

Sin eaters often occupied marginalized positions within society. Their role as sin absorbers ostracized them from mainstream communities, yet they were simultaneously valued for their spiritual service. This duality highlights the complex dynamics between societal norms, beliefs, and the need for spiritual guidance during times of death and mourning. The presence of sin eaters reflects the intricate relationship between outcasts and the communities that rely on their unique services.

Contemporary Perspectives and Legacy of Sin Eating

With the passage of time, sin-eating rituals have declined and become increasingly rare. As societies modernized and religious beliefs shifted, the practice lost its prevalence. However, sin-eating continues to be studied and analyzed for its cultural, psychological, and anthropological significance. Contemporary scholars and researchers delve into its historical context and attempt to understand its enduring legacy on funeral customs and the human experience of death.

The legacy of sin-eating lies in its ability to shed light on the intricate relationship between death, guilt, and spiritual redemption. As a historical and cultural artifact, sin-eating serves as a testament to human attempts to grapple with the complexities of mortality and the quest for spiritual purity. The rituals associated with sin-eating offer valuable insights into the diverse ways in which different societies have confronted the existential questions surrounding life and death.

Sin eating stands as a captivating and thought-provoking practice that invites us to explore the multifaceted aspects of human culture, belief systems, and our eternal quest for understanding the mysteries of life and death. While its prevalence has waned over time, the rituals and symbolism associated with sin-eating continue to captivate our imagination, reminding us of the profound significance of rituals and customs in shaping our perception of the world and the afterlife.

Complete Article HERE!

Learning to live

— Dementia brings ‘unofficial loss’ and often leads to grieving alone

By Lauri Perman

When my teenage sister died in a car accident, friends and neighbors blessed our family with oodles of food. The large dining room table, used only on holidays, was covered with food, enough to serve all the out-of-town family members who crowded in the living room. In the aftermath of a horrific death, community support was abundant and healing, a source of comfort, both emotional and practical. Our family’s grief was recognized and honored; it was “official” grief in the eyes of the world.

This is in sharp contrast to what happens when a spouse develops dementia. In her November 2019 New York Times article, “The Loneliness of Frontotemporal Dementia,” Dr. Sara Manning Peskin quoted a spousal caregiver as saying:

“This grief is not official … Casseroles do not appear at the front door, flowers are not delivered, condolence letters are not received.”

At a time when a spouse has lost a partner, the community often retreats rather than rallies around. It’s well known that spousal caregivers end up isolated. What is less well known is that in their isolation they are grieving alone.

Their spouses are alive and yet no longer present. It is what family therapist Pauline Boss calls an “ambiguous loss.” During my husband’s long years of decline, it often felt as if someone had kidnapped him. I’d look at the stranger in the familiar body and ask myself, “Who are you? And what have you done with my husband?”

Friends disappear. At first I wondered what was wrong with us that our friends had disappeared. Then I realized it was normal and happens to most people. I learned to treasure those rare people who stayed or re-appeared. When my husband was in skilled nursing care, it was a great comfort to me when other people recognized his existence by visiting or sending him a birthday card.

To engage in conversation with someone with dementia it helps to let go of expectations. The person we once knew is no longer present. If we recognize that loss and acknowledge our grief, we are better positioned to engage with the new person before us. Visiting with someone with dementia can be an opportunity for creativity and to practice cognitive flexibility. It can be good for us, a different form of exercise and meditation.

When my husband was still well, he had a lovely dinner with his mother at a Chinese restaurant when her dementia was quite pronounced. They ordered two entrees to share. My mother-in-law took some of the first dish, declared it excellent, and then did the same with the second. Next she returned to the first dish and said, “Oh, I haven’t tried this one.” And try it again she did, once again for the first time. Each dish she tried, no matter how many times she’d tried it before, was for the first time. By the time dinner was over, my husband estimated she’d enjoyed a full Chinese banquet. He exercised cognitive flexibility in not correcting her.

If you know someone whose spouse has dementia, please reach out. Take the person to lunch and listen, really listen. Ask the spouse what he or she misses the most. Acknowledge that their life has changed, that they have had an “unofficial loss.” Sometimes it may be more helpful to take the person with dementia out for lunch or for a walk, to give the caregiver some precious alone time.

It can be especially hard to comfort a caregiver who denies their loss, and many do. This semi-heroic stance seems admirable, but the pain is present nonetheless. It’s a delicate balancing act to acknowledge both the presence and the absence of the person with dementia. Of course dementia is a gradual loss not a sudden death and the caregiver’s needs change over time and sometimes even from day to day. Staying in touch helps you know what kind of support is most helpful.

What happens when the person with dementia dies? Does the community rally around the bereaved spouse? Unfortunately no. Often the community consoles the bereaved spouse with words such as “It’s a blessing.” Or, “I know you wouldn’t have wanted him to live much longer.” Or, “He didn’t really have much of a life any more, did he?” “Now you’re free. You’ve been so burdened with caregiving.”

The spouse is denied support when the person with dementia is living and denied support again when the person with dementia is dead. We can and must do better. When someone with dementia dies, the bereaved spouse has still lost a beloved person whose death merits the same compassion any death does.

Complete Article HERE!

What is a dog, then?

— On the unbearable death of my dog, Polly

Robert Dessaix’s partner, Peter Timms, and their dog, Polly. ‘Our tiny mortal family. For a moment in time, together and happy.’

After 14 years, Polly was a part of Robert Dessaix’s family. One day after her death, the writer grapples with grief and what it is to love a dog

By Robert Dessaix

We are a threesome. The most wonderful thing in the world for me – the most joyful, vivifying, meaningful, precious thing in the world – is my tiny family: Peter Timms, the dog and me. We are the only family any of us has. The dog is not a child, of course, nor a mere companion, nor even our “best friend”. The dog is our dog. The dog is our anchor. We love each other, Peter and I, anchored by our dog (we’ve had four). I can see that now. It has taken me all my life to see this. And I held out my arms in front of me in utter impotence with my fingers touching to try to hold us all in.

Polly died yesterday, you see. It is unbearable. I am not saying this for the sake of it: I cannot bear the acute sadness. I cannot bear the memories of yesterday before three o’clock or last week or ten years ago or 15. I cannot bear saying goodbye to Polly Timms forever. That’s the point, as it is when we kiss or wave or say goodbye to any loved being: it’s for the rest of time.

So you will forget, while frantic to remember everything forever – the rattle of her bowl, the bed she was asleep on every morning, how she turned that corner over there every morning on her walk, squatted on that lawn, pricked up her ears at “tummy rub” and “people coming”. Yet remembering any of it causes acute anguish.

I have to say this next thing (sorry) because it is at the heart of my grief today. Polly had stopped eating – a prawn here, a biscuit there, and even a sliver of salmon three days ago at a restaurant up on a hill above the sea where you can sit outside if you like, with your dog. But really she had stopped eating. And she was retching now and again. And tired easily. I thought we could cajole her into eating. But we couldn’t. Love is not all we need at all.

So when the vet said we might want to consider if it was time to say goodbye, I started bawling. How unmanly. I was shocked. Polly was right there, bright-eyed, I stretched out my hand, she wagged her tail and came over to me. She was given two weeks if we did nothing. I had to leave the room. I sat outside the room where Peter waited with her, crying loudly and disturbing everyone in the waiting room just round the corner. And when she was being led away past me, she turned and looked at me and gave me a last wag of her tail. And then she ceased to exist. Forever. Forever. In a second.

Robert Dessaix’s dog, Polly, in front of the couch.
Robert Dessaix’s dog, Polly, in front of the couch.

This memory is unbearable today. You know why. It makes me feel sick.

It is the trust, even “unto death”. She trusted us to do the best thing for her. Why was what we did the best thing? What sort of universe is that? We had to coax her into the car to take her down to the vet’s to her death. The memory is beyond painful.

Nothing is the same today. I have never woken up in this house without finding Polly waiting for a pat. I have never spent a day here without hearing her, seeing her, moving about, going in and out of the garden. Now nothing. Just yesterday we strolled around the block, sniffing things and peeing here and there as usual. The day before she went for a walk beside the river in the sun. The day before that along a wild beach on the east coast (after that slice of salmon at the restaurant on the hill). The day before that … but it is painful to remember, it’s a kind of anguish.

Our family has lost its glue. That’s the first word I said, apart from “No”: “The glue has gone.” Peter and I are left untethered in the emptiness, we have come unstuck, for now we are sickeningly adrift.

We will recover. We all do. Just an ache will be left when we see think of Polly. And then, in some form, it will happen again.

Dogs are not people. A dog may be playful and dependent, not understanding simple things, just like a child, but a dog is not a child; a dog may always be beside you or in the backyard, with nothing to say but with a ready pleasure at seeing you come in the door, at being close, yet is not just a companion; a dog is not one of your friends, you can’t chat – although you can joke with her sometimes – nor share anything beyond the moment.

What is a dog, then? What is this being that is not really a child, companion or friend but … WHAT? Something I now see there is no word for because a dog is a different order of being – not better than a cat or parrot, but different. A soulmate, I suppose. Is that enough? A heart to give your heart to. To lose this soulmate, to surrender her to a needle one Tuesday afternoon, is indescribably painful. There is no remedy. She’s gone. My love, you see, was not enough.

It’s all too short, too fragile – and the ending is incomprehensible. How can a loved being cease to exist? There is hardly time to love a dog as you’d like, as the dog would no doubt like. I must concentrate now on noticing and loving what is present – not live in the present like a blowfly, but focus on what I can see and hear and touch and hold, not worrying about what it will all add up to mean. Magnify it somehow. But how?

Polly was a gentle dog, a self-possessed brown dog found on the street across the river from our house and taken to a refuge. When we went to the refuge all those years ago, what caught Peter’s eye was the independence of this dog in her cage, her take-it-or-leave it attitude to us, not barking or asking for attention or to be taken home, please. The morning after we took her home, before she even knew her name, I popped out of the front door to pick up the Sunday newspaper. She didn’t bother saying goodbye or thank you, she just took off up the street, looking for something more to her taste. No hurry, just determined. I rang after her in my pyjamas in a panic, calling her name, but she didn’t know it. Finally, just before we came to the main road, she hesitated and I caught her and took her home. She stayed till yesterday – 14 years, 14 years of beauty.

We all have these stories, but I can’t bear it.

She never put a foot wrong. She was kind and considerate. She didn’t bark, except at the moon when we were up at the shack in the bush. She was beautiful. She bound us together.

I am beside myself with grief, to be honest. What grief does is split you open, letting all sort of other sadnesses and dreads spill out. For instance, I don’t know what today is for. And I am crying over Peter’s coming death as well as my own, not just Polly’s death. The universe didn’t even notice my dog. Why would it? It doesn’t notice us. I can see that. We are each of us utterly of no account. I can hardly breathe.

She knew about thirty words. She wasn’t Einstein, and said nothing back, but for a moment in time we were three beings tethered happily together, knowing what the other two were feeling and wanting.

I have two photographs in my study here where I’m sitting that show Peter and Polly and, in one of them, me with them. Our tiny mortal family. For a moment in time, together and happy. I’m looking at them now.

Everyone goes through this kind of raw misery, I know, not just on battlefields but in the house across the street, and much, much worse. Nobody escapes. I first went through it when I was a toddler and a butcher-bird killed my canary in its cage on the front verandah.

Mortality and love. But I never seem to learn.

Thank you, Polly. I know you can’t hear me. But thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Complete Article HERE!

A Year in Uvalde

— How grief has warped the lives of the Uvalde shooting victims’ families and friends.

Uvalde, Texas.

By David Leonhardt and

The United States experiences so many mass shootings that journalists do not usually linger long after the attacks. Reporters and photographers move on to other stories, while the families and friends of the victims continue to grieve.

One year ago today, a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. Tamir Kalifa, an independent photojournalist based in Austin, traveled to Uvalde shortly after the shootings — but he kept coming back. Tamir temporarily moved to Uvalde to live alongside the victims’ families, renting a 320-square-foot shipping container converted into a home.

We’re devoting today’s newsletter to some of the photographs Tamir has taken over the past year and to excerpts from his interviews with families.

“The grieving cycles do not match the media cycles,” Tamir told us. “We move on, but families don’t.”

Marking the holidays

Xavier “X.J.” Lopez, 10, loved Christmas. He loved going to Uvalde’s annual extravaganza, an event with light displays, decorations and holiday music. So this past Christmas — their first without XJ — his parents, Abel Lopez and Felicha Martinez, and his siblings went to honor him.

The soundtrack of a children’s choir played as they walked through the event. Then, they heard a loud blast that sounded like gunfire — an overloaded transformer had burst. Felicha had a panic attack and collapsed on the grass.

“These days are supposed to be happy,” she said later that evening. “But they are just reminders that our lives are torn apart.”

A distressed woman on the grassy ground being comforted by two others as a child stands nearby.
Felicha Martinez having a panic attack.


The weekend before Tess Mata, 10, died, she told her older sister Faith that she wanted to learn how to swim. Faith was about to begin her senior year at Texas State University, where students jump into a river on campus as a graduation tradition. Tess wanted to take part with her big sister.

On her graduation day this month, Faith walked with her family to the river. Then she jumped in, clutching a photo of Tess. The photo was a sweet symbol — but also a painful reminder.

“Tess looks exactly like Faith,” Veronica Mata, their mother, said. “So the other day she came and she told me, she’s like, ‘I’m so sorry that you have to look at me every day and think of Tess.’”

A woman in the water holds a photograph to an outstretched hand above her.
Faith Mata

Visiting their graves

The cemetery where most of the victims are buried has become an anchor in the lives of their families and friends. They have gathered together for graveside birthdays and holidays. They mow the lawn, decorate the headstones and lie on the lush grass that has taken hold.

Caitlyne Gonzales, 11, who lost many of her friends in the shooting, comes to the cemetery to visit them. On a recent evening, she stopped by Jackie Cazares’s grave and played Taylor Swift music. She sang and danced and took selfies. For a moment, it was as if they were all together again.

A girl dancing with a phone near memorials.
Caitlyne Gonzales dancing.

Protests and vigils

Many of the parents have found purpose in activism. Brett Cross, the uncle of Uziyah Garcia, 10, who was raising him as a son, spent 10 days camped outside the school district offices in protest, alongside other family members and supporters. They demanded that school police officers be suspended over their role in the delayed response.

The protest ended when the district halted its school police department’s operations and placed two officials on leave.

A man on a makeshift cot outside.
Brett Cross protesting.

Family members have also testified before lawmakers on both the state and federal levels and protested beyond Uvalde. Tamir said that an image of Jackie Cazares’s parents, Javier and Gloria, at an annual gun violence vigil in Washington, D.C., surrounded by other survivors of gun violence, was one of the most powerful moments he’s witnessed.

“It’s important to see each of these family members as part of a nationwide network of people intimately affected by gun violence,” he said. “It’s one that is growing each day.”

A crowd of people with solemn faces holding candles.
A vigil for victims of gun violence.

Complete Article HERE!

What should I do on the death anniversary?

— More are asking as US mass killings rise

Damone Presley sits next to a memorial area in his house for his daughter, Nitosha, Thursday, May 4, 2023, in St. Paul, Minn. Nitosha and her three friends were found shot to death inside an SUV in the middle of a Wisconsin cornfield, though they were killed in St. Paul, Minnesota.


On a September day that he knew would be hard, 51-year-old Damone Presley marked the occasion with barbecue and balloons.

He was commemorating the one-year anniversary of the day in 2021 that his daughter and her three friends were fatally shot in Minnesota by a man who left their bodies in an abandoned SUV in a Wisconsin cornfield. Presley gathered 50 friends to celebrate the life of his daughter, Nitosha Flug-Presley, who was 30 when she died. He went big on the anniversary because he felt sure that’s what his daughter would have wanted.

“She would always do stuff big,” Presley told The Associated Press.

There have been 553 mass killings in the United States since 2006, and at least 2,880 people have died, according to a database maintained by The Associated Press and USA Today in partnership with Northeastern University. Those include killings where four or more died, not including the assailant, within a 24-hour period. So far in 2023, the nation has witnessed the highest number on record of mass killings and deaths to this point in a single year.

As the number of people who die in mass killings in the U.S. continues to rise, thousands more are left to handle the trauma of losing someone they love to a senseless act of violence. They struggle with a special kind of grief, haunted both by the loss and by how it happened.

One of the hardest days they confront each year is the anniversary of the killing.

This Wednesday, families in Uvalde, Texas, will have to face that one-year anniversary — transporting them back to the day when a gunman entered Robb Elementary School and fatally shot 19 children and two teachers as they gathered to celebrate the end of the school year. And last week, families of 10 people in Buffalo, New York, crossed the one-year mark from the day a white supremacist shot and killed them in a supermarket.

People cope with these anniversaries in different ways. Some throw a party to get through the pain. Others prefer to be completely alone. Many fall somewhere in the middle, adopting little rituals to help get them through the day.

But they all grapple with the same question, sometimes after many years have passed:

What do I do with myself on the date that changed everything?


On the same day Presley gathered with friends and family at his home, Angela Sturm — whose children, Jasmine Sturm and Matthew Pettus, were killed in the same attack — chose to spend the day alone.

“I turn down invites to ‘celebrate’ because it’s not a celebration to me,” she said.

Instead, she honors her children privately by looking at their photos and remembering how their life together used to be. She writes, cries and practices self-care by reading a good book or taking a hot bath. She hopes people will understand that she wants to be alone, and that they shouldn’t worry or be upset if she turns down invitations or doesn’t respond to texts.

Everyone deals with grief differently, said Jeffrey Shahidullah, a pediatric psychologist at UT-Austin Dell Children’s Medical Center.

Shahidullah was part of a team that stayed in Uvalde for months after the shooting to operate a crisis walk-in clinic for first responders, community members, family and friends of victims.

In the short and long term, mass shootings can traumatize entire communities, Shahidullah said. That can lead people — even those who didn’t know the victims personally — to avoid situations that remind them of the event, feel constantly unsafe and experience intrusive flashbacks to when they first heard about the killing.

“A lot of these symptoms could be exacerbated or worsened around the time of these anniversaries,” Shahidullah said. “Over time, those symptoms do tend to subside. But everyone has their own timeline.”


By cruel coincidence, the first anniversary of the Buffalo supermarket shooting fell on Mother’s Day. That made things especially hard for Wayne Jones, whose mother, Celestine Chaney, was among the 10 people killed by a white supremacist that day.

Jones said some friends came over on the anniversary, and they talked about other things.

“5/14 is every day to me still,” he said. “I watched my mother get killed on video.”

The video and a photo of the shooter — standing with the gun he used, a vulgar racial slur scrawled on its barrel — are “ingrained in my brain,” he said.

Tirzah Patterson and her 13-year-old son, Jaques “Jake” Patterson — who lost his father, church deacon Heyward Patterson, in the supermarket shooting — left town altogether for the anniversary. They have not set foot in Tops Friendly Market since it reopened last summer and did not attend the memorial events in Buffalo for her ex-husband and the others who were killed.

“We don’t want to go through that again,” Tirzah Patterson said before the weekend. “We’re going to be gone.”

They spent Mother’s Day weekend in Detroit and attended a church service there.


While some are just crossing the one-year mark, others have been dealing with these anniversaries for years.

Topaz Cooks marked the 10-year anniversary of her father’s death last September. She was a month shy of her 21st birthday in 2012 when her dad and several others were shot and killed at work by a man who was fired from the company in Minneapolis.

“I still cannot believe that happened to my family,” she said.

On the anniversaries, she likes to do things her dad, Rami Cooks, enjoyed. Last year, she went on a hike and ate dessert — because her dad loved rugelach, birds and wind. She loves that her friends send her photos of their dessert that day each year with the caption: “For your dad!”

She also has a journal she writes in once a year on that day, filling her dad in on the highlights, challenges and thoughts from the year that she wishes she could share with him.

Seven years after the killing, Topaz Cooks said she experienced PTSD while working as a theater stage manager. She was surprised because she didn’t expect it to hit so late. The production’s plot may have triggered it — the play was about a woman avenging her father’s death.

She said she would get exhausted at the end of rehearsals, lie down on the floor of her office and feel like she couldn’t get up. At times, she felt like her skin was vibrating or that she was outside of her own body. It took months of therapy to feel like she was back in control.

Talking about the loss isn’t for everybody, but Cooks said it’s important to her.

“I wish that people talked about it more and normalized it,” she said. “Grief is just so lonely.”


A hint of fall hung in the air on Sept. 12, the day Presley threw a party to mark the day his daughter and her three friends were killed and left abandoned. He said he wanted to think about who his daughter was rather than how she died.

She loved to throw exciting and glamorous birthday parties for her kids, friends and family.

Presley placed a life-size cardboard cut-out of his daughter smiling in a pink outfit by the door. Guests wore T-shirts with photos of her and phrases like “Never Forgotten” and “Daddy’s #1 Angel.” At Presley’s request, guests gave speeches about the funniest things they remembered his daughter doing.

Late in the afternoon, they gathered around the front steps of his home, clutching red, yellow, pink and white balloons, some embossed with words like “Forever in Our Hearts.”

Wide-eyed children, following the lead of the adults around them, listened quietly as a woman sang the gospel song “Take Me to the King.” Presley recited a poem his father had written years before, words Presley’s daughter had adored.

“I meet the sunrise daily on the way to get mine,” he recited. “I don’t play myself ’cause I don’t got time.”

When he finished the poem, Presley gave the signal to release the balloons. They soared straight up, gently rising above the rooftops and disappearing into a clear blue sky.

Complete Article HERE!

‘I miss the sex’

— Why are the sexual needs of the bereaved still a taboo?

A woman mourning the loss of her husband was advised to take up gardening, another was told to get a dog… But intimacy and desire among grieving people is something we all need to know about


Pauline and I first met at a book event last year; a small gathering in a London arts club that marked the paperback release of the memoir I’d written, chronicling my young widowhood in my 30s. Pauline sat inconspicuously at the back of the darkened room and, when the Q&A was over, she quietly introduced herself, quickly drawing attention to the section she’d most connected with, the chapters where I explored self-pleasure and sex in the early months of my grief.

Younger people like me “got it more”, she told me, referring to her thirst for physical intimacy as a newly widowed 72-year-old. More often than not, people didn’t get it: “They don’t imagine that you’ve had a sex life.” But why, she asked? And what did that signify for others her age? A few days later, she sent me a Spotify link to an early 90s Bruce Springsteen song – Human Touch – describing how his melodious yearnings for “somethin’ to hold on to” summed up her recent frustrations as a more mature widow, a year after her husband’s death. The electrical wires were humming again, but she was increasingly feeling as if she had been put on mute by everyone around her.

“In the first few weeks, people recognised that I was bereaved, they came at me with all sorts of platitudes,” Pauline tells me, months after our first meeting, over the clatter and din in a central London café. “But I soon realised nobody recognised that what I was missing was the physicality of Peter as well as the psychic and emotional sharing that we had. The feeling of him, and his solid body, was what I craved.” We’re meeting again, in a noisy coffee shop, because Pauline feels like her sexuality, in her early 70s, is being silenced in ways she’s unhappy with. And if Pauline is feeling this way, then perhaps others are, too.

When Peter, her husband of 31 years, died of leiomyosarcoma – a rare type of soft tissue sarcoma – after a short illness in 2021, Pauline was left grieving for many intimate things. A dog-eared Sunday supplement left out for her on the kitchen table was one. But the physicality they shared was undeniably another – and not something she felt encouraged to share. “We enjoyed an active and happy sex life throughout our marriage, which was only cut short in the weeks prior to his decline,” she recalls. And yet when he died: “I couldn’t say, ‘Oh God, I wish I was in bed with him, entwined together, with his arms around me, kissing, and doing the things we used to do.’”

One friend recommended she take up gardening more frequently, wholly unaware that what Pauline was most in need of wasn’t a pair of secateurs. “Some of them seemed quite shocked when I said I wanted to buy a vibrator,” Pauline smiles as she talks. Masturbation soon began bookmarking Pauline’s days, morning and night; a welcome respite that briefly lassoed her out of her grief. “I looked forward to it. I found I could be quite noisy and I’d never been noisy before. I would liken it to that feeling of being transported somewhere.” She was owning her desires in a way she had never experienced before.

“There’s still something ‘funny’ about people having sex in older age, it’s like a joke,” neuropsychologist Alice Radosh says, on a Zoom call from her home in New York, as we discuss these intersecting lines in widowhood, and the ways in which they can convince older women like Pauline that their desires should be suppressed. “You’re up against a real brick wall in terms of making people feel comfortable,” she says, delving deeper into the taboo-ness, “because we’re not often given the message that we are able to talk about this, not only following the death of a partner, but just generally, as women and men age.”

Radosh speaks from experience. When her husband of 40 years died of multiple myeloma in 2013, she was perfectly capable of handling the bills and repairs, but what she really struggled with was the loss of sexual intimacy after decades of physicality with her longterm partner. To add insult to injury, the literature she sought for guidance totally missed the mark. One study suggested she get a dog. Another, to hug her grandchild. But the one that pushed her over the line was the sage advice that she should visit her hairdresser. “Anyone who thinks Bart was anything like my hairdresser really doesn’t know what he was like in bed,” she laughs.

In this void of research, Radosh did what any researcher in her predicament would: she decided to co-author her own study in 2016. Surveying more than 100 older women (55 years and above), her findings showed that she wasn’t alone in what she called her “sexual bereavement”. Not only did the majority say they’d definitely miss sex if their partner died, an equal number revealed they’d want to talk about it when the time came. And yet, in spite of this, 57% of participants admitted it would not occur to them to initiate a discussion with a widowed friend. “Before I did my survey, I spoke to friends and a number of them said, ‘Well that doesn’t matter any more.’ The feeling was that that’s in the past.” What Radosh’s survey proved beyond all possible doubt was that this was a myth and a damaging one at that: sex wasn’t a past tense activity – and it did matter.

“We had such a spicy and satisfying relationship that I thought, why is this a secret?” Joan Price, an author and advocate for ageless sexuality, says of her and her late husband’s marriage, on a Zoom call from California, echoing Radosh’s findings. “I never heard that people at our age could be so much in love and have so much exhilarating sex. Why was this under the covers?”

Determined to shake up this ageist narrative, Price started writing about senior sex at the age of 61. Head to her Twitter and she’ll introduce herself to you with an equally spicy: “Glad to meet you. I’m Joan Price, and I talk out loud about senior sex.”

She’s been doing it for more than 18 years now: writing books (The Ultimate Guide to Sex After 50 and Naked at Our Age are just two), reviewing sex toys and giving webinars with the help of gynaecological props, such as the 3D clitoris she’s holding in front of her webcam right now. She uses this silicone aid to help her illustrate the vast intricacies of the female anatomy to seniors who come to her seeking advice. If knowledge is power, then there are many women out there who remain disenfranchised through a lack of basic anatomical understanding of how their own bodies work. Price is on a mission to change that.

When her husband died in 2008, Price was faced with yet another taboo that no one was talking about: sex after grief. “Men and women are being told they’re ‘doing grief wrong’ if they try to come back to partnered sex too soon,” she says. “We don’t stop being a sexual being when we lose someone. It may take a break. The break may be days, years or decades – but we can always come back to it when we’re ready. And dammit, people need to stop telling us we shouldn’t.”

Price’s tireless advocacy doesn’t come without its trolls and dismissals. “When I was starting out, I got a lot of what I call ‘the ick factor’,” she says. Which goes something along the lines of: “Ewww! Seniors having sex? Disgusting!” It’s raw and unpleasant – and she still gets this kind of feedback. Just recently, for instance, a journalist told her that despite respecting her work, he couldn’t imagine his own mother having sex at her age. To which she replied, “At what age do you plan to retire your genitals?”

Why do we still treat seniors as if they’re some kind of alien species, asks Price: “We’re expected to be under a rock about our sexuality. We’re expected to keep it quiet if we’re feeling it. I say no. No, we don’t have to be done with it.” Like both Radosh and Price across the pond, Pauline isn’t done with it either. She’s having sex again. Not only that, it’s the best she’s ever had. Granted, it hasn’t always been “plain sailing” (her varicose veins, for instance, were initially “an area of embarrassment to be negotiated”), but she talks openly with her new partner and, as a result, the experience has turned out to be a life-affirming one.

The clock is ticking, she says – and she wants to live in the moment. “I never thought anyone would look at me without my clothes on again,” Pauline says – but she was wrong. “I’m on the crest of a wave and it’s no holds barred. I’ve always been very inhibited, but now I feel I can do anything I want…” she looks up at me with a smile. “I can even walk around naked if I want.”

Complete Article HERE!

How do I navigate grief in my twenties?

By Julia Presenza

Growing around your grief.

In your twenties, you’ll find some of your closest friends nursing hangovers from overindulging in vodka Red Bulls, overanalysing text messages and hoping no one saw them doing the walk of shame. On the other end, others are getting married to the loves of their lives, buying houses and having babies. We’ve all had these conversations before – everyone around you seems to be in different stages of life and needless to say, everyone is doing their best.

Still, there’s no how-to guide on ensuring you’re doing it all correctly. It goes without saying there’s no handbook outlining what to do when something major comes around and blows up your life as you know it, especially when it’s a life event you weren’t even considering could happen this early on.

Deep down in the back of our minds, we know eventually, one day in the far future, we will all have to deal with the loss of someone close in our lives. Call me naive, but dealing with grief wasn’t something I thought I’d have to add to the list of worries in my twenties. It seems almost unfair to be entering a point in life where I’m still trying to perfect the schedule of which night I should wash my hair and fake tan, to be then hit with the Earth-shattering experience of dealing with death.

Over recent years, I’ve had personal experiences navigating grief, from losing my dad to losing close friends of family members. As many self-help books will mention, the grieving process will be different for everyone. It’s one thing to try and navigate your own grief, and another trying to be the support person for someone else.

I experienced constant guilt of feeling someone else’s pain but never knowing what it actually felt like for them. I have three sisters, along with my mum, and while we all were experiencing my dad’s loss together, it was very apparent we had different ways of dealing with grief. With many questions circling in my head, I spoke to Carly Dober, psychologist and Headspace App’s Mental Health Expert, to get clarity.

How to navigate losing someone close to you while also being the support person for someone else

Carly acknowledges this can be incredibly difficult to navigate but states it’s important to honour and give your feelings of grief and loss enough time and attention. Often, people will jump into caretaker mode as a distraction from their pain but this can prolong the process of grieving for ourselves. Grieving is a shared effort. She mentions we can often find solace in others who are in pain, too. It’s important to be there to support your loved ones through this difficult time but also lean on your friends and networks so you’re also cared for and fully supported.

How to be supportive when multiple people are grieving the same person differently

Carly says this is very common, “We each have unique relationships with people, so how we will experience their loss is also unique. I’d recommend showing your support but also not lying”. Saying things like, ‘I know you had a very close relationship with them and I’m so sad that this is happening to you’, ‘How can I best help you through this?’ and ‘What do you need from me right now?’ are ways of showing your love for the person grieving while also honouring your relationship with the deceased.

How do you cope with the loss of different people within a short time?

Unfortunately, life isn’t fair. Carly recommends seeking support from a mental health professional early. Losing people is difficult enough, and the chronic stress of losing multiple people in a short time frame can be very destabilising. It’s encouraged to avoid any tempting but ultimately unhelpful coping strategies (such as self-medicating with drugs and alcohol) with helpful ones (such as routines, movement and rest).

Lean on close relationships, be social in whatever capacity you can and engage with pets and nature. Carly suggests clearly expressing your needs to others is also helpful in coping with the loss of multiple people.

What should you do about feeling guilty about moving on and not wanting to be sad anymore?’

Carly points out grieving can make us feel like life will never be the same again. Accepting that life goes on despite the difficulties can be the most challenging truth. Carly’s words were reassuring as she clarified that moving on from losing a loved one doesn’t mean we loved them or are hurting any less. It simply means we’re adapting to life without them and growing around our grief. Grief is a natural part of life; many of us experience it from a young age, while others learn this lesson later in life.

Just like the journey of navigating your twenties, there’s no correct or incorrect way to grieve. It’s crucial to express your emotions with those close to you and give yourself time and understanding to ease you through the difficult moments in life. It’ll make the grieving process a little less painful.

Complete Article HERE!