Finding Pleasure While Grieving

Grief is a significant part of our lives that tends to spend it’s time brewing inside until we are a slurry of sorrow, gratitude, grit and if we are lucky, grace but love for ourselves often gets lost inside that slurry. Not surprisingly, it is as the core of it all, but it certainly takes time to weave our way back to those loving and nourishing roots. It is often why even the idea of feeling pleasure so difficult to process. The mere idea of enjoying touch and taking pleasure is often riddled with guilt or shame. It’s why desire, sensuality and any sexual pleasure is often so far away for so many.

It also is one of those topics that seem almost offensive to bring up when someone is grieving. Sexual responses are dulled and even if there is an awkward glimmer of turn on, it is guilted or shamed back into its corner. The idea that we would forego the heaviness of what we carry and spend time luxuriating in pleasure feels selfish. We are ashamed to forget.

Many don’t see this as a relevant topic, however in all of my time working with those that are grieving, it is clear that pleasure absolutely needs to have a seat at the table. We need to know how to hold sorrow and pleasure.

We need to know how to be so full of grief and sensuality. We need to understand that both things can exist at the same time. This means that we need to have the conversation.

We need to have the discussion about what it means to masturbate after a partner dies. What it means when we are crying and feeling pleasure at the same time. What does it mean if someone winks at you the same way your partner did. Or what if you forget and flirt back?

There is so much guilt surrounding this, we often hear the only advice we know – take it slow. But slow how?

For many, pleasure is painful. Finding pleasure in pleasure is often one of the most difficult universes to travel across because we as a society have demonized pleasure and made a deity out of trauma. Trauma trumps pleasure every time. So if you mixed some intergenerational trauma, along with your own, swirl it with a little dissociation and then cover it in a thick layer of deep grief, you are left with a sense that living alone in a forest with 4 dogs and a garden is a great plan.

There is something, however, deep inside us, that knows. We know that we can feel pleasure, that there is a faint hint of desire if the winds blow in the right direction on the 3rd Sunday. It just feels like such a significant leap forward and we have been made to believe that pleasure is well…unnecessary.

So how do we turn our attention to that warm wind of desire when skims the surface of our skin? How do we say yes and more please?

Feel it

For just that quick second. Feel the moment it amuses you. When the warm wind wraps around your ankle…feel that. When a spoon of ice cream coats your tongue…feel that. When a wink makes you smile…

Hold on to that feeling for just a second longer and know that this warmth, that decadence that secret special moment is deserved. It is because of you. It is for you. That while grief will always be a part of you. So is beauty, and so are touch and desire. That in fact, pleasure exists inside you. Hold onto it for a quick moment.

Take a bath and luxuriate in slow touch. Slow down and feel the bath oil slip around you. Take time and feel lotion sink into your skin. Lavish praise on the parts that are hard to look at. Those knees still get you up every morning, that belly birthed your babies or didn’t, and those arms wrap around you when you are cold.

Feel all of that and know you are worthy of every second.

Seek it

This idea often gets an immediate frown, or a rigid posture the moment I mention it, but I implore you to go slow with it. Seek it doesn’t mean with other people, it means seek it within yourself. What are you able to feel when you smell a fresh flower? What pleasure does it bring into your belly when you smell something delicious? A client of mine would wear her partner’s deodorant to bed every night. She would pleasure herself smelling the way he did. She thought it was such a stupid thing until she started to learn more about how her body craved the pleasure rather than the smell of him.

I often ask clients to go to the grocery store and only buy things that bring them pleasure. To buy things that evoke their five senses in a delicious and scrumptious way. The smell of fresh tomatoes, the texture of strawberries, The packaging on that cheesecake, the sound of oranges peeling and being juiced. Now, for a full day eat only things that make you feel fucking amazing. Avocado for breakfast, warm soup for lunch and snacking, a dinner of milkshakes and strawberries, a warm bath, and then a piece of chocolate that feels utterly sinful.

Seek it inside yourself and know that you are worthy of deliciousness.


Once pleasure becomes a little more present in our days, we start to feel something blossom. Not always, but that walk through the grocery store may start out with a mission, but often, we find ourselves strolling with less purpose and more wonder. We look down into our baskets and see all the beautiful deliciousness and know that we deserve it today. We often use busyness as a reason to ignore hard things. I’ve seen it in so many ways. From marathon runners to business moguls…many are ignoring hard things. So if you get the urge to dismiss this basket and simply walk away, please don’t. Just this once…try it. Keep going.

I find walking with pleasure does a really good job of reminding me just how powerful and worthy I am. The walk is unique to everyone and if you are paying attention, you can certainly pick out women who are walking with their pleasure. You can see it in the way their foot lands on the ground almost as a prayer, the way their arms swing like a song, and the way their eyes are deep with desire.

Perhaps it means putting on some lingerie for the first time in a long time and wearing it grocery shopping. Wear red lipstick to clean the house. Strolling in your lingerie on Sunday morning, seek what you want to feel and feel it.

This process of feeling it, seeking it, and strolling with it, is the beginning of really connecting into the desire you still have burning inside. It is holding onto you to remind you of just how beautiful and delicious you still are. I don’t care if you are 25 or 95 – this idea of finding pleasure inside the dusty nooks and crannies is where life begins again.

Then honestly, take a break from it. It doesn’t have to be always but it needs to be sometimes. It doesn’t mean going out and exploring your sexual fantasies with strangers…yet. It means rooting yourself into the deeper sensual need of feeling desire inside of your grief. A desire to feel how much you miss touch, the desire to feel pleasure come from your body again, and for your pleasure to be worthy of attention, love, and nourishment.


Sarah Hines
Sarah Hines
I met a man one blurry night in Manhattan, and little did I know, he would be the soil in which my passion for grief work was to be planted. He had been rejected by his family for his life choices and was preparing for death without them. Helping him through his struggle to come to terms with his love for them and in turn his forgiveness while going through treatments, rejection, and coming to terms with his own death and grief was an unimaginable amount of stress and it literally set me in activism mode. It was shortly after his death, I completed training in Palliative Care Home Hospice. I volunteered in men’s homes for 5 years before the medications became reliable and being gay wasn’t always breaking family ties. Some of the most amazing times I have had in my life have been in the homes of dying. Strange, yes.. but so beautifully honest and raw. I then completed the Children’s Palliative Care Training and dove into the heartbrokenness of dying children. It is in these years I really came to understand just how fickle death can be and how much we embrace death and our grief. It seems that in times of what we would consider the most unimaginable, we are able to find glimmers of beauty, cracks of light and the nourishment in tears. Over the last 20 years, I have carried on with my education in a variety of ways including Coach and Leadership Training, Orphan Wisdom School and Grief Groups. My connection into corporate grief has been slow. It’s something that most organizations do not want to think about. I am inspired by those that see value in bringing grief work into the way they lead teams through uncertainty and the trust this work builds.

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  1. This is an interesting post Sarah Hines and challenging one too,

    I lost my mother few days ago and yet I know that she be happy only if I am happy. Life must continue. Grief will not bring back the grieved and beloved ones.

    You have a great style of writing. In particular, I fine these lines quite interesting
    “The idea that we would forego the heaviness of what we carry and spend time luxuriating in pleasure feels selfish. We are ashamed to forget.”
    We are ashamed to forget- this is an expansive idea that merits further elaboration, and
    “For many, pleasure is painful. and
    “For many, pleasure is painful.”
    Again, this paradox is interesting