Widow’s Fire

What is Widow’s Fire?

Widow’s Fire is the phenomenon where widows and widowers can feel an uncontrollable desire for sex following the death of their partner.

How common is Widow’s Fire?

Widow’s Fire is a common side effect of grief. Chapter 2, a dating app for people who have lost a partner, learned in their research that 63% of widows and widowers have experienced widow’s fire – and 58% within 6 months of losing their partner.

What causes Widow’s Fire?

There are many different reasons why people experience widow’s fire.

Widow’s Fire can be linked to sexual bereavement. Sexual bereavement is a form of grief in which people mourn the loss of a sexual connection with a long-term partner. It’s not often discussed as an element of grief, but when you lose a partner, you also lose the sexual intimacy you shared with them.

The loss of a partner creates a void for the person left behind, both physically and emotionally. Experts say that the libido kicks in to attempt to fill this void left by loss - and so the body’s impulses can make widows and widowers crave sex with a burning intensity (hence the name Widow’s Fire).

Furthermore, sex can also be an effective distraction from feelings of grief, and the loneliness losing a partner can bring: the dopamine hit that sex triggers can bring can be a temporary relief, filling the body with a hit of ‘happy hormones’, as well as assuaging those feelings of loneliness, even if briefly.

Is Widow’s Fire a normal response to grief?

Grief is complex and manifests itself in many different ways for different people. While the taboos around sex and death may make Widow’s Fire seem initially peculiar, it is a normal and common response to grief.

Both death and sex are taboo topics, so there can be a stigma attached to widows and widowers having physical relationships after the loss of a partner – and it’s a subject people can feel awkward discussing. However, we can work to break down this stigma by having open conversations about Widow’s Fire and the wide variety of different grief journeys people can experience.

Those who experience Widow’s Fire can also have feelings of shame and guilt over the intense sexual desire they feel, whilst still grieving their partner. Don’t judge those who experience it, but instead offer them support during a difficult time.

If you, or someone you love, is experiencing Widow’s Fire, here are some helpful resources:

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