The Other Side of Grief is a series about the life-changing power of loss. These powerful first-person stories explore the many reasons and ways we experience grief and navigate a new normal. In my 20s, my approach to sex was open, wild, and free. In contrast, things with my husband were more traditional from the start.
At the start, he was measured in his pace while getting to know me. Soon after, he opened himself fully. One evening after making love in his small studio apartment, happy tears streamed down my face. He exhibited care, affection, and respect for my body in line with his compassion for my spirit.
My attraction to him was overpowering and electric. He seemed too good, too kind, too beautiful to be true. His commitment to being reliable and communicative freed me of my insecurities and doubts.
Our love deepened with ease. We were one. Overnight, I lost the fullness we experienced by combining our lives. I was single, alone, and part of my identity — being his wife — had vanished. Our apartment felt empty. My grief and heartbreak were physically painful and disorienting. It took months to return to sleeping through the night, even longer to make it through a day without hovering on the verge of tears.
I slept diagonally in our bed, my body reaching for his to remove the chill from my cold feet. The people in my life are exceptional, and they made me feel loved from every direction. I was able to have fun, laugh, and feel gratitude for life as the days passed without him. My desire to be touched, kissed, caressed was like a wildfire that burned brighter and hotter inside me with each passing day.
When I was bold enough to confide in friends about my desperation for touch, some compared my pain to a period of their life when they were single. But the emptiness I felt for knowing a perfect love and losing it was much heavier. My husband and I were separated forever, without choice, and his death had absolutely no silver lining. I turned to dating apps for the first time to find suitable partners to fulfill my needs.
For six months, I invited a string of strangers to my house. I avoided dinner and drinks, instead proposing a different type of encounter. I told them my rules, preferences, and stipulations.
I was honest with them about my situation and not being ready for a new relationship. It was up to them to decide if they were comfortable with the limitations. I felt I had nothing to lose. I was already living my worst nightmare, so why not be bold in my attempt to find pleasure and seek joy? The sex I had in those first months was nothing like the intimacy I shared with my husband, but I harnessed the confidence I gained in my marriage to fuel my encounters. Unlike reckless hookups during college, I was entering casual sex sober and with a better understanding of what I needed to be satisfied.
More mature and armed with an unwavering love for my body, sex gave me escape. It empowered me and gave me a sense of control. My mind felt relief with each flood of oxytocin I experienced.
Being touched reenergized me to face the difficulty of my everyday life. I knew people would have a hard time understanding my approach. Fulfilling sex outside of a relationship is difficult for most people to fathom. I missed caring for my husband — giving massages, encouraging him to pursue his dreams, listening to and laughing at his stories.
I missed using my time, energy, and talents to turn him on, make him feel valued, and enrich his life. I felt generous by giving new men the kind of treatment I showered my husband with, even if it was only for an hour.
It was also easier to acclimate to life alone when I had an occasional visitor to remind me of my beauty or validate my sexuality. After a few months of casual sex with limited communication, I changed course, gravitating to partners within polyamorous or nonmonogamous relationships. With men who also have girlfriends or wives, I found magnificent sex without codependency. Their company fulfills my physical needs while I continue to make sense of my life and future without my husband. The setup is ideal, considering my circumstances, because I can build trust and an open dialogue around sex and desires with these partners, which is difficult with one-night stands.
But the disappointments far out the glimmers of hope. In the meantime, seeking and prioritizing pleasure in widowhood, as I did in my marriage, will continue to help me survive. Want to stories from people navigating a new normal as they encounter unexpected, life-changing, and sometimes taboo moments of grief?
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Share on Pinterest. Longing to be touched, held, kissed, comforted. Sex as a tool for self-love and healing. Written by Anjali Pinto — Updated on April 18, I Forgot to Say a Final Goodbye.
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