Women who are diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer are all too familiar with loss -- losing hair, breasts, libido, and sometimes, self-esteem. Not grieving the loss of the body you once had can sometimes get in the way of enjoying the moment -- including sex and intimacy.
Here are some ways to manage feelings of grief:
- Acknowledge any losses you are feeling. Think about what you lost and how this makes you feel. Feel the emotions and let them exist without judging them.
- Grieve your previous body. The five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance (the stages often overlap). Do whatever you need to help yourself process each of these stages. You might consider writing in a journal about your feelings, making some art reflecting your previous body and your new body, or talking with a therapist.
- Stay open to new experiences and new ways of thinking. With any kind of loss comes a deeper understanding -- of yourself, of others, and of what is truly important to you. After a loss, some people reprioritize their lives in meaningful ways they never would have previously considered.
- Keep your perspective. Sex is but one bodily function, and it is temporary. What is your body is doing well? Can you feel gratitude for these functions?
- Understand that grief is temporary. Grief does not last forever. There will be a time when it starts to ease. If you are feeling stuck in grief, seek the support of a counselor or therapist to help you move through it.
- Listen to the podcast Sexual Health, Intimacy, and Metastatic Disease: Reclaiming Your Sexual Self with Sage Bolte, Ph.D., LCSW, OSW-C for Dr. Bolte’s advice on how to manage different emotions around sexuality and metastatic disease.