When you’ve lost the one who touched you
When you’ve lost the one who touched you
I have always put in too many hours sitting in front of my computer. It used to be a major part of my work-life but even after I retired I seemed to find activities that would end up with me hunched over a keyboard, inviting an aching neck and shoulders. Still do! 🙂
I also remember many times while I was immersed in my work at the desk that I would feel strong hands coming from behind me, deftly massaging the tight muscles. “You’re working too hard,” my husband Norbert would say while his fingers found the knots in my neck. “You need a break. Why don’t you stop for a coffee?”
Oh, how I miss loving hands on my shoulders. I miss the “You’ll be OK” hug when I was feeling down. I miss the peck on the cheek as he ran out the door. I miss hugging him. And I miss intimacy.
This post isn’t meant to be a maudlin list of everything I’ve lost since Norbert died though, as I like to keep things a lot more pragmatic and useful. The loss of touch though is…well….a touchy subject! If you no longer have your partner it’s not a craving that is easily replaced.
There are some things you can do that make the loss of touch a little less brutal though. Nothing will fill the gap left by your loved one, but some things might help.
One thing I’ve learned is that ‘touch hunger’ is a real thing. Yep, if there’s a positive about grief it’s that it teaches you stuff you never knew! [a little sardonic humour there] 😒
“Just like we crave food when we are hungry, and crave sleep when we are tired, so we crave touch when we are lonely, for to be lonely is to be vulnerable. When someone is out of our orbit, we do not say that we are out of sight, but out of touch…“Psychology Today
I need to mention here that I’m no psychologist and I’m simply writing about my own personal experience. The grief journey can be stark and cruel and too many people want to offer advice, so I write this as my own record of what helped me.
Anyway, here are my thoughts. You can’t replace the touch of a loving partner, but you can enhance sensory stimulation of the skin in lots of small ways.
The psychologist I saw a couple of times in the early days said to me “In your situation, getting a regular massage is NOT a luxury item on the budget.” I took that to heart and began booking frequent professional massages. It helped. I cried quietly through the early ones…but it helped.
“The good feeling, the sensation, the powerful aroma from essential oils and the touch of human hands [all] raise body awareness. “Thrive Global
The bed you used to share is sacrosanct and I couldn’t replace the sheets for ages as they still carried Norbert’s scent, but eventually I treated myself to some beautiful new sheets that were silky soft and felt luxurious on my skin when I turned over (and over) in bed.
I live in a warm climate but I can imagine that in a cooler area, wrapping yourself in a super-soft, fleecy blanket would also be lovely and comforting against skin.
I am lucky enough to have a swimming pool, and I’ve found that slipping into deliciously tepid water at the end of a warm day can be a hedonistic pleasure. I also love walking barefoot on grass and wading in the shallow water at the beach, squelching the sand between my toes.
I remember a time not so long ago when I was skating close to that black hole called depression. I went out for a walk (exercise helps my mood) and got caught in the rain! I was totally drenched but when I got home I didn’t rush inside, but stood in the rain for a bit longer and just savoured the feel of the water running over my face. It was exhilarating!
I’m not sure I was ever really ‘a hugger’, but I’ve become one. Nowadays I am usually the first one to breach the gap between me and the person I’ve run into at the shopping centre, taking the opportunity for human contact with a brief but warm hug.
I’ve developed the habit of always hugging friends whenever we meet and have even asked for a hug when I wasn’t sure how it would be taken if I just reached out. Hugging is such a valuable way of meeting the need for touch. And yes…I hug my male friends too.
In the raw, early days of this grief journey when I felt panic-stricken and immensely lonely, I would hug myself and stroke the skin on my arms. Often I would stare at my reflection in the mirror and say out loud “You’ll be OK. You’ll survive. You’re doing fine.”
Unfortunately I don’t have a pet because my need to travel makes it problematic, but I can imagine that having a furry body snuggled close to you would go a long way toward that desire for a physical connection. One day I will…when I stop travelling.
Meanwhile, I can ‘borrow’ other people’s pets!
A friend told me that she immerses herself in a warm bubble bath and uses a soft cloth to stroke the skin all over her body. Whatever works.
I also posted about this topic on my Facebook Page at the time, and there were some great suggestions eg ” I have taken up dance in a studio where they switch partners and it is gender unspecified. It has provided a lovely opportunity to connect and touch and smile.” (Diane)
Another good idea!
I guess this is all connected to self-care which is a topic I’ve written about previously. Walking along the lonely road that is the grief journey, I know from hard experience that it’s soooo important to be kind to yourself as your mental health depends on it.
We all know what they are – hearing, sight, smell, taste, and touch. But which is the most important? Which has the most impact when you suffer a loss? I no longer hear Norbert’s voice, or see his face, smell his scent or taste his kisses.
But to lose the sense of touch…wow…that’s a biggie. This is one area where the loss of an intimate partner differs from other losses.
OK, we’ve established that I’m no expert and I’ve tended to just figure out what helps me by trial and error. The issue with this is that what helps me might be vastly different from what helps you…or the friend or family member you are supporting.
Of course there have been extra challenges during the COVID pandemic and subsequent social-distancing.
Marlene is an Australian widow who has written about all the good, bad and ugly stuff that happened after her husband Norbert died tragically. Marlene responds to all comments.