The other night I happened to be in a jacuzzi with three men and a bottle of whiskey. You know, just a typical Sunday night for Yours Truly. As whiskey-laced conversations often go, ours became deeper with each pour. A discussion of friends these men had lost to suicide arose and I asked them all how their friend’s widows were coping. This lead to a discussion on grief-sex.
“I could never have sex with someone who had just lost their husband,” said Number One. “I’d feel too much like I was taking advantage or something.”
“I would! If a widow needed sex I’d do it,” said Number Two with a tone full of sincerity and devoid of humor.
Number Three just lit his cigarette.
Right there in front of me was the polarized opinions of the masses when it comes to grief-sex. Some see sex after loss as harmful or disrespectful, some see it as helpful and natural, some people ignore the very notion of it…….and then you have people like me, who see grief-sex as one big food analogy.
The way I see sex after death, particularly the death of a spouse, is like food. Some people simply can’t eat while in mourning, and some people put on their stretchy pants and hit the all-you-can-eat buffet.
I hit the buffet.
The unending choices that online dating provided me with, and my ability to put whoever I wanted on my plate was how I regained my sense of power back after the free fall that was my husband’s suicide.
I regret none of it. Not even the guy with erectile dysfunction. The man buffet was a necessary part of my early grief.
Yes please I’ll take another scoop of that twenty-two year old gym rat with extra surfer-guy gravy on the side. No wait, put him on top, thanks.
Why yes, I’ll have a third slice of that sweet bartender and his cold-hearted ice cream friend next to him. Extra whipped cream.
No thank you to the emotionally healthy salad bar men with a savings account and kind eyes, I’ll stay over in the deep-fried-fucked-up biker guy section with the men whose engines are always running hot and their feelings for me cold.
There were very few times during my sex buffet years, when I felt taken advantage of. For the most part, grief-sex was an outlet for my rage and a way to regain my sense of power during those early years while in a perpetual state of free-fall.
The loss of power that comes with the loss of a spouse, particularly in cases of suicide, is something no one can prepare you for. Having my husband kill himself was to have the earth removed from my feet. It was to fall into a void that was darker than pitch black, only to land in a deeper void that was filled with infinite voids. It was to scream at the top of my lungs with no sound coming out and no one around to notice me. It was not having power taken from me, it was the realization that I never had any to begin with.
In so many ways, his death was also my own.
Sex, is the opposite of this. And while we are at it, so are all-you-can-eat-buffets! The consumer gets to chose the who, how, when, and how much. We cannot chose this of our spouse’s death, which is why a lot of widows and widowers have a lot of sex soon after their spouse’s funeral.
And sometimes AT their spouses funeral.
(FYI: Had I not had my children surgically attached to me at my husband’s funeral, I probably would have had sex with a groundskeeper or something!)
The loss of power is an interesting and universal part of the human experience, especially in the context of widowhood. Lack of power and the trek to regain a sense of it, manifests in so many different ways. Some find power in prayer, some find power in food, some find power in creating a charity, some find power in exercise, some find power in traveling, some find power through art, and some find it through sex.
The only differences in these quests to regain our sense power is how outsiders react to them. There is this undertone of expectations every culture has for how their widows are to behave; here in America you are a good little widow if you participate in church and charity, and you are a bad little widow if you participate in beer pong and car sex.
I am a bad widow, and it heals me the same way that church and charity heal my “good” widow sisters. We are all the same underneath our coping mechanisms and metaphorical black veils. At the end of the day, as we crawl into our big, empty beds we are all just widows. Not good, or bad, just hurting, and oh so very beautiful.