Intimacy After Trauma

Is it possible to have intimacy after trauma and what does that look like?

I was 47 and living life to the fullest until I wasn’t. I kissed my husband goodbye as I went off for a straightforward surgery which would have me home the next day to recover and continue with my life. 

So why did I wake up 8 hours later with my husband crying at my bedside? He was given the news during my surgery that they found a tumor in my colon that had spread to multiple organs throughout my body, and he then was faced with the decision of me needing an emergency ileostomy surgery. 

The team of surgeons, nurses, and residents surrounded my bedside telling us what our immediate future would consist of and then our in-sickness and health vows kicked in on a level we never thought we would face in our then 25 years of marriage. 

So, there we were with the news of stage 4 colon cancer and a permanent ostomy. The recovery was long and hard but the strong foundation we had built over the last 25-plus years was guiding us through and also testing us on every level. 

My husband became my caregiver, my protector, my appointment keeper, my everything all while he was digesting and processing what was to become our new normal. 

I was to start treatment immediately after my 8 weeks of recovery from my surgeries. We met with the oncologist and were given the plan of attack. I started my chemotherapy in hopes the tumors would shrink. 


What does all this mean for intimacy? Well to be quite frank it meant that all things intimate related were on the back burner. With my hysterectomy ostomy and chemotherapy, I had no desire for any contact sexual or otherwise. 

I mourned the life we had and was so unsure of what was to come. How can I be attractive with my intestine sticking out of my stomach not to mention the bag of poo stuck to it. 

My husband was terrified to touch me, and I was mortified by the thought of it. How are we going to ever be intimate again? 

The treatments were harsh, and I struggled to keep a positive attitude about everything, but we were not quitters and our vows meant something to us. We fought to get anything that closely resembled intimacy back. 

We learned patience is key to finding what intimacy would look like for us as it is not defined by one thing or action. What if it was cuddling on the couch watching a movie? What if it was taking a trip to our favorite place? What if it was a walk on the beach with the simplicity of holding hands? 

It's been almost 2 years since our lives changed forever and by no means have we figured it out but what we did learn was that intimacy is whatever works for you and your significant other and not by society's standards because at the end of the day, love is more powerful than any bump in the road you may incur. 

By Joanna Creamer