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Yes, Grief Can Absolutely Make You Horny

Don’t be too hard on yourself for getting a hard-on during grandpa’s funeral procession

Each person who goes through the grieving process does so in their own unique way. Some may fill the void in their heart by filling the void in their stomach with comfort food. Others may turn to alcohol and/or drugs in a desperate attempt to forget their sorrows. But grief may also manifest itself as an insatiable appetite for lust, transforming the mourning party into a sex-hungry beast.

These grief-induced sexual explosions are especially common among older people dealing with the loss of a long-term sexual partner — known as “sexual bereavement,” it’s specifically defined as grief associated with losing sexual intimacy with said long-term partner.

It makes sense: When an older person loses this partner, they also lose an essential part of their sexuality. This is something they may choose to mourn by embarking on a sexual odyssey to rediscover that part of their life. In fact, studies show that older folk hold their sexuality dear late into their lives: A 2007 study of 3,005 older American adults found that 73 percent of those ages 57 to 64 were still sexually active, while 53 percent of those ages 65 to 74, and 26 percent of those ages 75 to 85, were too.

The reasoning behind this kind of post-loss sexual eruption is relatively straightforward. “It’s really about filling the void — literally and figuratively,” explains clinical sexologist and sexuality educator Patti Britton. “Maybe in some ways it’s also about the missed opportunity.”

Losing a parent or friend (as opposed to a lover) may also set fire to the loins, but for slightly less obvious reasons. “The grief trajectory is about a loss of closeness — a loss of intimacy,” Britton says. “That’s why our libido kicks in: To fill that void.”

In the same vein, losing someone who once cared for you may also flood your mind with lamentable questions: Will anyone ever want me again? Will anyone ever truly understand me again? Will anyone ever lust after me again? For a person working through the grieving process, sex may momentarily provide a comforting answer to these questions.

That said, Britton warns that sex is rarely the real answer to your problems. That’s because many people believe that sex equals closeness, but that’s not always the case (especially when you’re having sex with randoms in an attempt to repair your broken heart). “Many people think, If my penis is inside a cavity of her body, we must be close. But that doesn’t mean you actually are,” Britton explains. “This is where sex is used inappropriately for connection and closeness when that isn’t really there.”

Even more damning for post-funeral sex, grief impairs your ability to make properly thought-out decisions. “It hijacks your brain,” Britton says.

A better bet, then, is to find yourself a therapist — though admittedly, they’re not nearly as much fun to spend time on the couch with.