Widow’s fire describes the (sometimes) uncontrollable and all-consuming desire for sex following bereavement.
When we lose our partner, particularly when we lose a partner young, we lose a lot of things. And one of those is the sex life that we had with our partner, either throughout the relationship or prior to them being ill. But it’s not just about losing the sex life we had. Grief and bereavement leave us with a void, and our libido can kick in to fill that void and provide us with the kick of feel-good neurotransmitters and hormones we need. Sex is also a distraction from grief, a way to take control back in our lives, a comfort, and something that makes us feel alive.
What to do when widow’s fire strikes? Masturbation releases the neurotransmitters and hormones, such as oxytocin, that make us feel good, and also helps sleep. But it’s not enough for everyone.
If you want and need sex, do what you want to do, what you need to do. Just remember that you are vulnerable. Be careful. Take steps to protect yourself, sexually, physically and psychologically. Don’t be affected by other people’s opinions or judgements. And whatever you do, understand that it does not make you a bad person, or have any reflection on the relationship that you had with your partner.
For some people, it’s not so much a craving for sex as a craving for intimacy. It’s the lack of touch. I remember going to a Pilates class and nearly crying when my tutor put her hand on my back to readjust the pose. I know it's not the same, but hugs from friends or family, or a good massage can help to fill the gap.
Other people can shut down completely, with their bodies blocking all sexual feelings, or they can feel disgusted at the idea of sex. If you don’t feel widow’s fire, or the thought of having sex ever again turns you off, you’re not doing it wrong, because everyone grieves in a different way.
I had widows fire at 4 months after my hubby of 18 yrs died. I felt a great need for sex, tried to solve problem thinking I'll just pick someone up in the pub, but safety? Can't come back to mine, can't go back to theirs, disabled toilet perhaps in pub? Gosh I'm too old and respectful for this. So then I thought about paying a professional, a male prostitute? Did you know that you have to book for 2 hours, as they think women need more time to relax and talk a little first, whereas a man can book just one hour? Equality? I just needed an hour, believe me!
Woah surprised a women would pay a guy for sex however I guess no different than a guys desire for sex. I will pose a hypothetical question? If a married guy said his wife wasn't servicing him under the sheets would you feel guilty if you ran in to him and he admitted that then you take advantage of the situation and have sex with him?
I had widow's fire as soon as my partner passed away. We had been separated for a month prior. I ended up going and seeing an ex 2 days after his ceremony and stayed with him for 2 days before going home. The amount of scrutiny and judgement didn't matter to me, the amount of peace and joy in such an aweful time was worth it.
I believe I have widows fire but it is ongoing. I don't remember but apparently I went after a friend of ours right after my husband passed and he hasn't left my side yet. I feel guilty but I can't be without him. I'm so confused and my heart hurts everyday. I miss my husband so very much but I've fallen for our friend also. 😭😭I wish my hubby had never left me. I miss him so much
I have exactly the same thing. I feel terrible guilt and grief, and love and passion at the same time. I question every thought running through my head.
I understand Amy
Steph, this friend sounds like he or she has a lot of love for both of you. It can be so difficult to navigate a new relationship while mourning the old but it can be healing too. Your love for someone else doesn’t mean you didn’t love your husband. You still do and always will. It doesn’t mean you can’t love your friend because you still love your husband. It means that love doesn’t follow a metric system. When we lose a loved one they are not replaced - your heart grows stronger and larger to hold them, the grief and your ongoing life and new loves. Think about when people have a child and then another. Love grows to hold everything new (it doesn’t shrink). And if you really consider it - would anyone who loved you, truly, ever want you to close off your heart? No. We must navigate the world with open hearts - even when those hearts are wounded. You will find great compassion for others doing this. And an open heart leads to understanding and often love. Continue to honor yourself and your husband by leaning in to all the feelings of living with your open heart. There is no black and white - only gray.
I am currently seeing a widow of 9 mo's. Her husband was a wonderful person. She is pressuring me to start a long term relationship after only 9 days. I really enjoy her company. But I just want/ need a friend first. We have not had sex. She is conflicted about her desires for sex but her christian beliefs say no. I am perfectly fine not having sex. I want her to know me as a true friend first. I do not want to rush her grieving process in any way I am afraid she is trying to rush our relationship because of her age(45). Or she desires sex but her beliefs dictate married first. All I know is she is a wonderful person and I care for her. I also didn't join a dating site to hook up quickly. I need a friend first. I need to know we know each other better. I grieved 12 years before I dated anyone. And I am not a widow. My partner and I simply separated. My new partner was married over twenty years and is already to proceed towards marriage. We also vary greatly concerning our religious beliefs but she doesn't seem to care. I want to be a good friend. Is there any way I can say we need to slow down because I fear she is still hurting deeply without hurting her? I know I wrote a lot. I just don't know who or where I can talk about this.
I met someone a month a half after my spouse passed away January 2022. I still feel guilt for it because I told myself and others, it would ve awhile until I get back into a relationship. Then this guy showed up. I still smile and blush when I see him. March 2022 will be 1 year for us. But not a days goes by that I dont think about my husband. Always will.. I love him with my whole heart still..
I have a very similar situation. Nothing has happened yet but we talk about it a lot. And actually I just want my husband back.
My wife Aimee passed away in November of 2022 I miss her immensely and struggle. Every day without her I’m 52 and hate being lonely but I know no one can replace her death of a spouse is so frustrating
Don’t feel bad at least it’s not your brother-in-law that has a wife… Unfortunately, both of us have linked into grief sex for our loved one… As our healing
After it was all over, 5 years since my hubby died I wonder if getting involved isn’t part of denial part of grief. My mind says never again, but I sure think of having a boyfriend sometimes. Hard to be solo all the time.
I became a 36 year old widow unexpectedly one day after my husband died of aortic dissection. No illness. No preparation. One day we were living a beautiful and fulfilling life and the and in an instant it was over. I have two kids. The shock, pain, grief and PTSD was overwhelming. I didn’t sleep for more than an hour a day for the first three months. Over 14 months later and I still don’t sleep beyond four hours a day. But as this article suggests I didn’t sleep until after taking a lover. I used to cry when my therapist would hug me at the end of my twice weekly sessions. I started taking to an ex from 20 years ago that had always stayed in contact and he provided me with a lot of emotional support. He stayed up until 3am and 4am on the phone talking to me everyday and night. With great trepidation I asked him to become my lover with a lot of ground rules. I discussed my needs so transparently and openly - like I had never done in my life before. Perhaps it was widows fire but also grief. There was no point - I thought - in not taking the risk to ask for exactly what I needed because living was so painful already. Please know before beginning this journey, I talked to a trusted family member, another widow, and a therapist to be sure I was staying safe. Their reassurance was so appreciated. I found that this was more common than I imagined and it could be healing. I asked my ex to performed several rituals (tests) to be sure he would be compassionate without compromising my grieving process. These were simple things like talking to safe people in his life to be sure he was considering this clearly, meeting at least three times without sexual contact to be sure I felt physically safe. An STD test. And some thoughtful discussions. Finally setting some boundaries and even writing each other letters about our motives for doing this to read when we would “uncouple” to hopefully maintain the long friendship we still had. Our physical intimacy coupled with his emotional support helped me survive. We did cross boundaries I originally set up. This was the downside and there were some difficulties and complicated feelings. We also found there was a lot of love still there from years ago. I have struggled with becoming a couple and other people’s opinions but grief stripped away all that’s really unimportant. I loved my husband and love him still and I love my boyfriend and that he understands my grief. For those who may be in this place - setting boundaries and being safe can be very helpful. Someone who understands your grief is very important. I leaned in to all I was feeling (good and bad) and had guidance from a therapist. This helped immensely.
I became a 36 year old widow unexpectedly with two kids. I felt like you were describing me at first. I’m almost 7 months in and still don’t know cause of death but my husband and I had a really good sex life and I miss it.
I first experienced this a year and a half after my husband died. It was like some kind of light switch one off. I can't sleep I can't concentrate I couldn't do anything. I started masturbating every morning just to be able to get through the day but that wasn't enough understand these feelings I didn't want these feelings I didn't know what to do with these feelings.
I lost my husband last year. I met a fellow cyclist on my bike trail (he bikes. There every winter, so see him occasionally or daily too). I have fallen head over heels for this guy. It's only been a month since we started talking at our respective cars at the bike parking lot but he's SO sexy and kind. I don't know whether he's even interested in me or just being nice. He said he's divorced a year ago. I feel like I'm going crazy. I loved my husband so much but can't get this guy out of my head. I dream about him, try to catch up to him on the bike (can't do it, he's too fast lol), trying to lose more weight, wearing makeup again, etc. It's been all consuming. I don't know what to do. I try to stay busy but he's on my mind even then.
I had the same about 6 months later. It was all consuming and morphed into an unhealthy cycle of trying to remember the last time we had sex before he died. I got it into my head that he might have reached out and I rejected/put it off as I was tired. I don’t think that was the case, as I would only rarely say no. But it was an unhealthy and distressing chain of thinking.
Thank you for this. I’m 42 and lost my 41 year old husband of 10 years in October. We had no children and it was sudden due to a heart attack. We had been together for 4 years before we got married. Although I’ve found support through my grief journey in general, this is an area where I’m beginning to struggle. 14 years of intimacy, and loving sex all of a sudden gone, and people don’t speak on it. I don’t just crave sex, but physical touch in general, so the vibrator alone for me just doesn’t do it. I’m trying to allow myself time, but thanks for putting a name to what I’m feeling. I got a massage last weekend and just someone touching me was welcome…
Catherine M Rohl
I really wish I had people who understood what we are feeling and going through. I never knew there was such a condition like widows fire until I ended up struggling with it. No one understands. Thank you for a safe place to talk about this unknown struggle.
As a guy I had the same type of feelings. It just wasn’t about the sex, but the intimacy that I missed more. Just being able to lay next to someone and talk about anything, not just sex. She was the only woman I was with and married for 37 years. Now being a guy it feels like women are even more careful of who they go out with, and should be. But it’s even harder to find a woman who just wants sex without a commitment, which is ok . But eventually I’m looking for that LTR.
Hi I lost my partner last year, in a motorcycle accident it is coming up a year next month, we have 2 sons together and had been together for nearly12years. I have just turned 30 in December, I have been going threw widows fire I didn’t even know this was a thing, it’s nice to know I’m not alone, I love my partner so much and I wish I wasn’t even going threw this. I feel crazy, people are judging me I live in a small town and we are both well known. Think you for sharing this it’s given me so much reassurance thank you.
Yeah, I feel like I'm going crazy with this "longing." My family really doesn't understand. They want to help but say things that don't help, like "maybe if you get a job or volunteer you'll be distracted by it" or "talk to a therapist " or " find a hobby." This desire or Widow's Fire gets so strong that even those wouldn't make a dent. My problem too is, the object of my attention is not interested in a relationship or anything else right now. They went through a divorce last year and say they are still "reeling " from that. Wish I could help take both our minds off it!
I already did
My husband has only been gone 17 days but I find myself already craving a little strange... We had a great marriage so I have very mixed feelings about this, especially guilt, but one of his friends has been looking out for me and I've been thinking...
. I have been a Widow for a month now . I miss the Intemacy so bad . I would feel like im cheating on her if I went out and got some strange . I dont know what to do . I just need attention badly
I’m 63 and was widowed 12 years ago when my husband suicided. I have not had a lover yet even though for many years I’ve had widows fire - I managed it on my own. I’m concerned that my body very much does need sexual intercourse to remain healthy. I could be ready for that if I found a partner but am really scared to on-line date.
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I am a widow of three years he passed of cancer n we both had no sex desire after the numerous surgeries, chemo etc . I did not feel it was safe to have sex with all those meds in his body n he could not get an erection. I am hyper sexual so I wanted it for years . When he passed I was desperate for sex but didn’t meet with anyone till 6 months later n it was good but the love was not there so for me not what I wanted. But now three yrs later I am remarried n we have a spicy sex life it’s just plain unhealthy for me to not have sex .
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I was widowed at 50 when Tim, who I expected would be my happy-ever-after following a marriage break-up, died suddenly from heart failure linked to his type 2 diabetes. Though we'd known each other since our early 20s, we'd been married less than ten years.