I tried to explain to a friend what Widow’s Fire initially felt like. I described a numbness while desperately wanting to feel something and all the mixed emotions and cravings. I tried to put it eloquently. I didn’t want it to sound like I was just some horny mess. (I was.) (wait…still am.) And when I had finished trying to put some of the thoughts and feelings into words, she looked at me, nodding and I waited to hear the reaction of a person who has not been through what I went through.
“I get it. It’s like… how do I just get fucked and feel OK about it?”
Well. That is Widow’s Fire stripped right back. At its very core, we are human. Individuals with our own sets of needs. We share a story, an intense story, with another human being who had their own set of needs, too. We wrap ourselves up in the history we shared with the person, the relationship we built, the memories we made and then stand alone, staring blankly at an empty looking future that we now have to figure out how to fill up again with new hopes and dreams. Alongside that, we are animals. We have instincts, urges, genitals, and chemical reactions to sights, smells and so forth. When our bodies go into shock, some of us can’t imagine moving, eating, breathing or living in general ever again. I expected a grief-stricken life like one out of a movie. My references were of hiding, crying, throwing things and then maybe a montage where I finally come out from under the covers, clean my house and go for a walk and read a book. These things were part of it, too. It’s all part of it. Anything that happens in daily life is still a part of grief. You find yourself scrolling through headlines on your phone while you sit on the toilet, walking to the store for milk, and filling up the tank at the gas station. Anything you would do before they died, you still do those things. It’s odd. It makes me wonder how many people I pass on the street have just suffered something devastating, but they still need to go get some milk for their coffee or tea.
Widow’s Fire is an exaggerated version of whatever level of a regular need you used to have for sex and intimacy. You used to have sex, however many times, at whatever times of day. That was a part of your normal life. You still do lots of normal life things even while in a grief hell. BUT... Maybe you always held their hand while you walked to the store together to get some milk. Maybe they always greeted you with a hug and kiss when you came through the door. Maybe you had a special, kinky, naked way you got into bed at night that kick started your own way of cuddling, kissing, and more. Doesn’t matter how or how often. The details don’t matter because Widow’s Fire is not a competition. I'm all for bragging about the great sex life you had and being proud of your relationship. (Shout that from the rooftops! I wish more people would!) Widow's Fire is not about who is sadder or hornier and naming all the things that cross our minds. Those things can still stay private. The term is there to help us understand this thing that exists. This aspect of grief.
We have our own reference points for what we are now missing out on based on the ins and outs of the relationship. We have our own natural Widow’s Fire urges that are tailored just to us. We are experiencing intense loss and that loss includes any and every physical aspect of your relationship. I strongly believe it is what is missing the absolute most from our lives once they are gone. Intimacy. You still walk to the store for milk but you can’t hold your own hand. You still hop into bed at night and watch TV but you can’t put an arm around yourself and give yourself a kiss on your own forehead. The touching, the kissing, the whatever-sexy-thing that you all did with your love… You don’t have that anymore. And yet, Widow's Fire catches us by surprise. Daily life continues in so many of the same ways but this sensual, sexy bit of it in particular is lost forever with the one we lost.
Widow’s Fire is extremely confusing and frustrating. It is misunderstood even by those experiencing it. I get a lot of messages about not knowing how to deal with Widow’s Fire and feeling ashamed or weird about urges of all kinds. What is weird about these urges? They were always there all along. They don’t disappear with the person who died. Your needs have always been a part of you. Your desires are present, heightened, and they are real and they have the right to exist. What you choose to do with it is entirely up to you.
How do we just get fucked and feel OK about it? Let’s change this question slightly. How do we get the kind of intimacy/touch/physical comfort we are seeking? While feeling safe, but also while at risk of guilt, shame, judgement? It’s a fucking minefield. Who can we confide in about it? What is it exactly that we want? To close our eyes and imagine it’s the one we lost? To escape? To fulfil a fantasy? We are married but not married. We are cheating but certainly not cheating. We are alone but what if they’re watching?
Widow’s Fire is simply thinking about or doing something about getting what we desire and feeling OK about it. What do we do first? How do we find it? Do we suppress it? Do we share it? How soon is too soon? Turns out, exactly like grief, there is no road map. No answers. No real solution. There is, however, self-compassion, freedom to choose, massages, counselling, groups, dating apps, escorts, and sex toys. Or, call it a night, go to sleep and escape it all for a little while.
Wishing you a sweet and sexy dream.