GOTN Avatar

Guest blog: Sex and grief

This week’s guest blogger – @19syllables – is best known for writing gorgeous haikus over on Twitter, and I think I first came across her long form writing with a beautiful piece about sex and anticipation and unrequited lust in SexBlogOfSorts’ writing competition. Her guest blog this week tackles something powerful and intense and moving – sex and grief.

When I read it, I cried. And I don’t really have the words to express how touched I am that she’s decided to share it here.

Sex and grief

I could hear a noise – an awful, guttural howl, like a frightened animal caught in a trap. Then I realised that it was coming out of me. I recognised it. I’d heard it before from the final moments of pushing my daughter into the world, and here I was in another hospital, making it again in the moments she was leaving it.

I’ve little memory of the following month. Snapshots remain; a house filled with flowers in various states of decay, wastepaper bins over flowing with tissue, a coffin smaller than any I had seen before. Little else. I was a reluctant member of a secret club. A club I didn’t know about before, so feared and terrible, so unthinkable that there isn’t even a word for its members. A wife that’s lost a husband is a widow, and child that’s lost its parents is an orphan, but a parent that’s lost its child doesn’t even get a name.

After that, only time dragged me forward, I looked from the outside like everyone else, and I went about my days as best I could. But inside I was heavy, as if I was filled with a viscous fluid which I struggled to displace with each breath. Every mouthful of food had to fight against it for a space inside me. Hours and minutes were long and hard. People were kind but were no solace. They’d ask me how I was and I’d reply with rehearsed phrases like;

“I’m doing OK.”


“You know… taking each day at a time.”

Because the alternative was to cut them with the sharp edge my pain, by shouting at them “MY CHILD IS DEAD!” and that wasn’t going to help any of us.

We were like two ill people left to nurse one another. He had no resources to support me, and I had no resources to support him. Sometimes, as we passed in the house, we leaned on each other. Not an embrace, and not to comfort so much as to ease the effort of standing up for a moment.

We went to therapy, because that’s what you’re supposed to do. She talked to us about guilt and shame and anger, she knew all the theory about loss, but I could feel she wasn’t in the terrible club, and though she nodded she had no notion of the extent of my pain and did not possess the key to helping us. I felt jealousy for her blissful ignorance, and wistfully recalled what not knowing this felt like. I countered nearly all of her questions about all the possible convoluted natures of our feelings with;

‘No, I’m just paralysingly sad.’

She talked about intimacy too, suggesting that although it may seem inappropriate now making love might be an important, connecting thing for us. We looked blankly at each other. No, she definitely wasn’t in the club. She had no idea of how sex and grief might work.

Each night exhausted from the effort of social behaviour and moving, we’d fall into each other’s arms – grateful at last for something visceral and recognisable. I’d already be crying. Not the stifled, furtive tears I’d shed by the dairy fridges in the supermarket earlier, but hearty, gutsy sobs that contorted my face and made my breathing jagged. And the embrace was not the cuddle you see in films and on TV of grieving people: we’d tangle into each other in each other, losing track of whose limbs were whose.

His cock was usually already hard. I’d want it in me. I’d want to be pierced and cleaved by it. This night and many nights around this time, I didn’t want intimacy I didn’t want to make love – I’d want to be stabbed, I’d want to be fucked so hard that I’d be reminded that I was still alive.

I drag my cheek on him to feel the rasp of his stubble. Our faces are close and wet and I can taste him, (or is it me?) salty and slick with tears, saliva and snot. He grabs meaty handfuls of my arse and raises me so that I can I plunge down onto him. It hurts and it feels good. I’m holding him too tight, my fingernails in his chest and the heel of my left hand pushing his shoulder upwards, driving myself toward him. His hand on my arse demands more pace and he pulls our mouths together with a fistful of my hair. I think I can taste blood. We eat each other’s sobs; breath and voice snatched from one another’s mouths.

The muscles in my thighs burn as, faster now, we slam ourselves together, the slap of flesh and the thud of bone colliding. Everything that was held in check each day is spilled here, gasped into the air and smudged into the mattress. Rage, love and pain expressed and shared at last without empty, inept words.

I come hard. It’s not a crescendo, it’s more like swimming in a too-rough sea and being blindsided by a wave. It slams into me and I flail and tumble helplessly in it until I don’t know or care which way is up, and then it spits me out, all buoyancy of the water drained away leaving me heavy and gasping on the shore. I look back can see him drowning too, tensed and arched, mouth open. I use my ragged lungs to kiss breath back into him, to bring him home to me.

After the brutality there is a gift; a fleeting window. We are silent so that we don’t accidentally let is pass us by. In this place, where pain and love and endorphins intersect there is a secret moment of calm where we might be allowed to slip into oblivion for a few hours. I roll off him and we lie hot and panting, willing unconsciousness to take full rein. It will help us find the strength to endure another day, a day on which we’ll wake, and for a brief moment feel just like an ordinary people. It’s always there, a waking millisecond where we are as we used to be, just before the lurch of reality crashes back in.

Huge thanks to @19syllables for sharing such a powerful piece. She wanted to add a note to the end of the post, for those who might be really affected by it: this happened a long time ago, and we have both found a way to live with it and be happy people again.  I hope the piece isn’t too bleak, perhaps for people in the throes of dark times because – despite the brutality of it – it’s actually a love story. 


  • I wanted to comment but I can’t seem to find the words.

    To say this is powerful and stunning writing doesn’t seem to do justice to the words……to the loss.

    I’m glad you both found a way to be happy again. xxx

    • 19Syllables says:

      Thank you. It’s a piece that I’ve had on my files for a while. Now seemed like the right time to set to set free. To find that it has touched people feels like such a privilege. So thanks for taking the time to comment xx

  • The One says:

    The days blur into one another, filled with banality for most people. Till one day, if you’re fortunate, you get a privileged window into someone else’s experience, recounted with such visceral muscularity and tender feeling, that for a little while you stop breathing, as though living that feeling with them. That day is today.

    • 19Syllables says:

      My goodness, what a beautiful thing to say. Its so encouraging for me to hear that my words touched you. I had misgivings about making this piece public, but you’ve helped me believe I’ve done the right thing. Thank you.

  • CrazyKnickers says:

    It’s hard to find a more beautiful, more achingly real piece of writing than this. Grief is awful, I’ve just lost a parent, the small moments where my mind gives me the faintest flicker of the pain of losing a child is about as much as I can stand. I’m not sure I’d ever get though it. Brave writing from a brave woman who I know a little and admire greatly. Love and strength always xxx

  • Remittance Girl says:

    Thank you for finding a way to write this.

  • SpaceCaptainSmith says:

    Wow, that was a wonderful piece. I’ve never been in that situation but it rings completely true.

    Saying ‘I’m sorry you went through this’ is completely useless and inadequate, but for what it’s worth, I am.

  • 19syllables says:

    Thanks for taking the time to tell me that you liked it. I’m a fledgling writer, it means a great deal to me.

  • Tabitha says:

    Utterly spellbinding. I don’t think I inhaled once while reading it. This is stunning writing. You’ve reached right to the core of me – I’m so so sorry you’ve been through this. I’m in awe you’ve expressed it so perfectly. X x x all I can say it is a privilege to read

    • 19syllables says:

      Thank you Tabitha, I’m overwhelmed that it has touched people, especially seasoned writers like yourself. Thank you for taking the time to comment. It’s so encouraging for me. x

  • rare deeds says:

    Thank you for this precious gift.

    It has allowed me to understand, to feel, a little more of a loss endured by my partner.

    It has given expression to a feeling of orgasm which is at once beautifully evocative & vividly precise.

    You write without cliché in an area overdetermined by cliché – you make language speak anew.

    • 19syllables says:

      Thank you so much for these words. I don’t make writing public very often so to get feedback like this is an enormous gift for me. x

  • D. says:

    Wow. Just, wow.

  • Tamzin says:

    WOW I LOVE THIS PIECE! Absolutely amazing – one of the best things I have ever read!
    I can really relate to this, it gives me goosebumps
    Thanks so much for sharing!
    Lots of Love

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.