The Value of a Hug
I stood facing the road today, toes to the kurb, in line with six others as we socially distanced and respectfully stood in silence as the hearse of a friend’s husband slowly passed. A moment earlier, I had felt contained, but as I caught sight of the coffin a tremendous wave of sadness passed through me and came out in a rush of tears. Sadness for this life cut short, for those left behind, and the dizzy memories of past losses that ooze painfully back into the body and mind. I wanted a hug.
Two metres to my right, a friend crying.
In that moment, standing together but apart, there was no socially acceptable way of either giving or receiving the comfort of human touch. In that moment, the value of a simple embrace became so overwhelmingly clear in its absence.
Our friend was denied the ultimate parting, her last goodbye, her final hug. Not by a virus, but by an accident. My heart squeezes to comprehend the depth of grief at her loss. Then squeezes again as I try to understand how that feels in a time when a simple yet instinctive comfort such as a hug or even a visit from family and friends, at a funeral, is now socially unacceptable.
Two metres to my left, another friend says, “It makes me realise how important it is to make a point of hugging goodbye everyday and saying ‘I love you’.”
In the absence of the right to hold our family and friends close with a silent hug that just says it all, the words we choose to express the same sentiments are more important than ever. The myriad of simple touches that we go through life needing without even knowing it, are now missing and the void is deeping as social distancing becomes the new norm.
From the roadside, I walked away with a renewed consciousness of the value of being held, touched and physically together, the realisation dawning that society really does now need to use every means possible to fill the void of closer times; let’s write letters, face-time, call to our isolated relatives, our older children living elsewhere, and all the friends we miss, to make it clearer than ever in gesture and language, what we can no longer say in a hug.