This month, I thought I’d touch upon one of the hardest situations to cope with as we approach the holidays: loss, grief, and saying goodbye.
The message that this is the happiest time of year to be spent surrounded by family and loved ones is pounded into us from the earliest age. But many of us don’t have any support for managing the feelings of missing those we’ve lost through death or estrangement. For many of us who work in camming or other areas of the sex industry, the grieving process can be complicated by secrecy, anonymity, or not knowing what happened to those we care for.
Before I talk about that, let me mention that I believe in extra self-care during winter, when our bodies and minds experience added strain. To learn more, check out my previous articles on navigating sex work during the holidays and cold winter months, including staying physically and mentally healthy, dealing with the burden of extra emotional labor from fans during the holidays, and staying connected to nature even when it’s freezing outside. Also, because gift-giving is such a huge tradition of this time of year, two articles on receiving gifts from fans and spending mindfully.
Now let’s turn our attention to the special challenges of grief during the holiday season.
Loss During the Holidays
If there’s one piece of advice I can offer for surviving the holidays in the face of personal loss, it’s to check in with yourself about what activities connect you to what you’re authentically feeling. For many of us, the end of the year is stacked with pressures to be social—to attend parties and family get-togethers. Allow yourself to be honest with your energy. If the thought of attending a big reunion dinner doesn’t sound fun, but instead feels draining, it’s okay to say no. It’s far gentler to make plans in the new year with folks you’re eager to see, and to avoid socializing with whoever you find draining.
To take that a step further, you might consider taking the holidays off. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with sitting this year out – there will always be next year.
Another way to cope is by pursuing your own path of honoring your grief.
One thing you can say about loss – it has a way of helping us get clear about what works for us and letting go of what doesn’t. Giving yourself permission to explore new rituals or rediscover old ones can be powerful heart medicine. Maybe a long walk in nature talking to the person that you’ve lost can bring you some comfort. Perhaps you haven’t been to a religious service since you were a kid; revisiting that tradition might reconnect you to an older part of yourself. Maybe attending a grief meeting and hearing other people’s stories can help put your situation into some perspective. You might try writing your loved one a letter telling them all the things that you miss and are grateful for – perhaps you may find some closure there.
Loss of a Favorite Fan or Client
I want to talk next about a rarely discussed aspect of working in the sex industry, which is losing a fan or client we’ve become fond of, through death, distance, or moving on.
Although sex work interactions are transactional by their very nature, that doesn’t mean we can’t develop genuine affection, curiosity, and even love for our fans. We can get attached to people we’re sexual with, even if we don’t know them IRL or are only spending time with them because they pay us. When someone you’ve been excited to see popping up in your texts or chatroom is suddenly gone without explanation, it’s a genuine loss. It’s confounding when we don’t know what happened to them. It’s sad when they have been ill, and we know that there is no way we can ever be a part of society’s rites for saying goodbye.
If you find yourself grieving the loss of a fan, with or without knowing why, you are not alone. Allow yourself to feel sad about it. It doesn’t mean you’re soft or a bad businessperson; it doesn’t mean you’re foolish or pathetic. It means you’re human. Just like any other ending, if you find it weighing on your heart, it’s good practice to honor them as you would anyone else you care about.
Since the beginning of time, during the darkest time of year, we light a candle for those we love. It’s a reminder that without fail, the sun will roll back around again, and to give thanks for the warmth the departed gave us.
Until next time, be sweet to yourself.
Lola Davina is a longtime veteran of the sex industry and author of “Thriving in Sex Work: Sex Work and Money,” her follow-up to the formative “Thriving in Sex Work: Heartfelt Advice for Staying Sane in the Sex Industry,” is available wherever books are sold. You can find audio versions located at Audible, iTunes and Awesound.