Loss & Fetish

January 29 2015 | by

DEAR FRIAR RICK: A year ago Trevor, our widowed next-door-neighbour, lost his only son to suicide. This loss was made all the more painful for him because he left no note – nothing to explain the cause of such an extreme deed. Because we were close to Trevor’s wife, my husband and I tried to give him all the comfort and companionship possible in this difficult period.

At first Trevor showed great appreciation for us being there for him, but one day he suddenly shut us out completely. He has become so reclusive that he only leaves home to do the shopping at the supermarket. We really don’t know what to do for him. We have alerted our parish priest to the situation, who advised us to give him time to “elaborate his grief,” but we fear the worst.


In brief I would say that your pastor’s advice is sound. Give him time. Grief does not confine itself to easy and clearly defined stages as was once popularly held. Like much of life our experience of grief does move forward, but with many repeating cycles of peace, pain, regret, despair and hope. Grief is a natural part of life, and although unpleasant, cannot be avoided or resolved prematurely. Most problems, in fact, come when people try to supress, bury or deny their feelings, and then these same feelings suddenly erupt.

Sometimes grief can lead to depression. It’s important to remember that depression is different than ‘feeling’ depressed. Someone who is grieving will experience sadness and emotional or spiritual disquiet. But overtime it will take on a somewhat roller-coaster quality. Feeling sad most of the time and then occasionally having moments of levity when playing with a child or remembering a joyful memory. Over time the person moves to mostly doing okay with the occasional moment of deeper sadness. In clinical depression, on the other hand, the person has an extended period (minimum two weeks) where they have lost all interest in what used to motivate them; they often can’t get out of bed, experience weight change and are continuously feeling sad with no break in the sadness.

In the specific case you mention I would encourage you to be supportive of your neighbour. Do not take his distance personally. It’s not a rejection. It sounds like he needs his space. Keep your eyes open, and perhaps from a distance let him know you are there if he needs anything. If you notice that his self-care and hygiene deteriorates, or that he becomes even more isolated, you may want to reach one of his family members. At the very least keep your parish priest informed.


DEAR FRIAR RICK: I found your response in the January 2015 issue to the woman with the gay husband very enlightening, so I am submitting my own personal situation, which is somewhat similar. I have been married for a number of years to a very kind and affectionate man. We have three children, of whom I am very proud because they are model students who attend Mass and their parish regularly.

My problem is that a few years ago I discovered that my husband likes dressing up as a woman. At first I though he did this only to make us all laugh during parties and Halloween feasts, but one day I discovered that he also does it when he is completely alone at home. So far, I have pretended not to know this, but I am very confused by this situation. What should I do?


Your husband seems to be involved in transvestism. This is a paraphilia or ‘fetish’ whereby men find it sexually stimulating to dress up in women’s clothing. Women transvestites are very rare. In the vast majority of cases the men are clearly heterosexual. It can be a clinical problem when the person can only find sexual satisfaction with this ‘fetish’ and this obsession becomes a compulsive behaviour. It can make for awkward situations in the relationship between husband and wife.

The causes of transvestism are not clear and the prognosis for change is poor, regardless of how much the spouse insists. In most cases the person engaged in this behaviour is also able to function ‘normally.’ Therapy is not really going to help unless the person involved is personally distressed by their actions. This is rarely the case. Our sexuality is a mysterious and complex gift from God. My basic stance would be to always respect the person and support your husband in living his sexuality in way that strengthens the relationship between the two of you.

Updated on October 06 2016