Wednesday, November 19, 2014

On wombs, grief and talking to children about sexuality

Last night I sat in a room filled with parents, mainly mothers, who had come to hear me discuss how best to talk to their children about sexuality. Studies show that children who report having easy, open conversations about sex with mum and/or dad are more likely to do what most parents want for them; delay sexual activity, have fewer partners, and use contraceptives when they do have sex. However, when parents feel discomfort, shame or embarrassment on the topic, young people are left to learn about sexuality from friends, television, music, advertisements and the internet. These are sources which can present a skewed and at times even dangerous perspective. 

So how do we create the environment for these conversations, especially when most of us had very little effective modelling to draw upon? For many of us this calls us to attend to whatever remains of our discomfort around our own sexuality. More on this later.

This morning I've been reading an excellent book called Wild Feminine by Tami Lynn Kent. I'm at the chapter on mothering and the womb and, as with much of what Tami writes, her words resonate beautifully with my own understandings and experience. 
She speaks of the capacity of the womb to hold (create) and release energy and also of the depth of grief that she has encountered while working with women in their pelvic bowl. I'm well aware of the capacity of the sensitive tissues of the pelvis to hold and store unprocessed memory and emotions and the possibility of release with tender, loving touch, focused attention and breath.

The light that went on for me was when she spoke about the lack of grieving rituals in our culture. Not only do we not have a time or place set aside to grieve the small and the large losses of our lives, most 'modern' women do their best to ignore, cover up or minimise their body's monthly release of her womb's lining. And in doing so we miss this natural opportunity for grieving and letting go of whatever has passed in the previous month. Little wonder that so many of our bodies respond with pelvic and uterine issues, both those that involve heaviness, holding and unwanted growths and those that result in weakness and excessive release.

How would things change, I pondered, if we devoted just one hour of each menstrual flow to allowing ourselves to grieve for the losses and deaths of the previous month, both our own and those of our family, our nearest and dearest? For women after menopause and for people without wombs the natural timing for this would be the dark moon. The human body responds to the moon's cycles even without a womb lining that waxes and wanes.

Which brings me back to the parents meeting. I find that a good part of what colours our views on sexuality and thus what we present to our children is determined by our own experiences. Often the bad ones. The process of cleaning the slate so we can be clear about what we want to pass on can be well served by reviewing and taking time to grieve and let go of losses and disappointments in our own sexual history.

Although, for some this can be a more lengthy journey, a simple ritual with a clear intention can be very helpful. Here's a suggestion, that could be used, both for this process or as regular monthly ritual.

Take some time to reflect on and write down those events from your sexual experiences (or those of the past month) that are unresolved within you. Allow yourself to feel the feelings that arise. Give your self permission to grieve these losses. Self soothe with gentle touch and let the tears flow if they are there. When you feel complete then simply take the pieces of paper and throw them into a river or stream of moving water or burn them in a fire and watch them being released or carried away. 

And if you are considering how best to talk to your children about sex then I recommend that you give yourself a couple of days and then ask yourself the question 'What does my child need to know to have a happy and fulfilling sexual life?'. Guided by this reflection, your conversations will be more likely to contain what kids say they want from their parents - honest guidance about values and feelings. 

I'd love to know if this is useful - do let me know how you go.

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