Skin Hunger Can Be a By-Product of Widowhood. It's not often discussed, but it's true. One of the nicest benefits of an intimate relationship is the physical contact that comes with them. While that includes sexual contact, that's not what I'm talking about here. Maybe a topic for another day. No, what I mean is the ordinary touches and connections that are an integral part of close family and housemate relationships.
While our partners were alive, we didn't give it a whole lot of thought, but throughout the day, there are lots of occasions where we touch each other. Need to get by in a narrow hallway? A hand on a shoulder is a natural act. Walking through a doorway? Most gentlemen not only hold the door but place a gentle hand on their partner's back. Coming home from a long day at work? In households all across the world, a hug is a natural greeting exchanged between spouses. Those little gestures are important. They are the glue that holds relationships together sometimes. They smooth the way forward during difficult times. The reassurance that all will be fine is conveyed through them. Medical studies have shown that touch is crucial to human well-being.
There's a hitch for widows. The person who was our most reliable and accessible source for those life-enhancing connections is gone. If you are a widow who shares your household with other family members, you have a leg up in those connections, but it's not quite the same. If you live alone, you are often bereft of all those hugs and pats, and hand-holds that make us feel so much better. My husband was something of a contradiction. While he was verbally very reserved, he was physically quite demonstrative. If I was anywhere within arms reach, he had a hold of my hand, or even better, if we were waiting in line for something he often put his hands on my shoulders and his chin on the top of my head. The loving messages those conveyed were awesome..." you're mine and I won't let go of you, I love you and I've got your back". They were unmistakable. Your mate probably had his own signature habits.
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So what can we do? Our spouses are gone and we're operating on a hug-deficit. Apart from grabbing and hugging strange grocery store clerks, what can we do?
- A wonderful and inspirational lady I met shortly after my husband's death gave me some good advice. She taught me about "self hugs". She said she recommended wrapping my arms around myself, giving myself a hug while imagining it was my loved one. I've also read that wrapping your bath towel around you and pulling it tightly has the same effect. Both are believed to increase endorphin levels.
- Massages can help. I just splurged and had one at our local Massage Envy shop and it was wonderful! I felt a lot better after, and a lot more grounded emotionally. On a limited budget? A lot of the technical schools offering massage certification programs need customers on which to practice. They offer supervised massages by students at reduced prices. Maybe there is such a school in your area.
- Our society seems to have moved toward much more hugging between not only friends but new acquaintances. Grab one every chance you get. Become a "hugger"! It's good for your health.
- Manicures and pedicures include a massage at the conclusion count. It's one more opportunity to receive human touch.
- Same for haircuts and styling. While I don't recommend getting your haircut more often, be sure to count them as a resource for human touch.
- Heck, I even count my visits to my chiropractor. I've had a bad back for years and chiropractic treatments have really helped. My present practitioner is a reasonable substitute for the strong hands of my husband, my Dad and other close male relations as he twists my head.
- Dance lessons and dancing are a thought. You don't have to be in love with, dating or married to someone to dance with them. The touch that is part of dancing is one reason it's so much fun.
Those are but a few ideas. Chances are, if you give it some thought, you can come up with more. If you do, I'd love to hear about them. They'll make you healthier and better grounded. Be mindful of how much touch you are getting, or how much you are not getting. Vow to do something about it. Your well-being will thank you for it.
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