Human touch is one of the most treasured and basic of needs. It is powerful, and a touch can lengthen your life, improve your physical and mental well-being, and even make you smarter.
Human touch is also one of the most controversial things we face in friendships and social interaction. There are those that do not want to be touched. And there are those that touch too much, to the point of being uncomfortable. And there are those that fear human touch due to abuse and rage.
In my grief work I find human touch to be a necessity. In the first days after my son died I could not get enough. I felt numb inside. The revolving door of people visiting and bringing food to us came with hugs and moments of just being held. It made me feel somewhat alive when all I wanted to do was lay down and die.
Take your finger, trace a line from your shoulder down to your hand, lightly then with a little force. You can feel it, the nerves working inside, telling the rest of your body that there is contact.
On the day that we saw Fred for the last time at the mortuary, laid on a steel table, with a sheet over him…I longed for human touch and have never been so afraid of it at the same time. It is a moment that as a mother you never really think about, but when it happens, it is unbelievably unreal and painful at the same time. I was disconnected from my body when I walked into that room. He laid there, looking as beautiful as ever, and peaceful.
This is where my dream usually stops, because I dream of this day, over and over. I am not sure if this is a good sign or a bad sign but it happens. I have dreams of Fred talking to me, sitting with me, and of that last visit with Fred.
Fred was a hugger. He loved to hug up his family and friends and show his affection openly. He also was never afraid to tell anyone that he loved them at anytime. Fred fed an addiction for human touch from my children. They are all affectionate, but as my youngest daughter often states…there was nothing like Fred’s hugs. And she is right, there just was nothing like a hug from Fred Beery.
I find myself clutching my own arms, holding myself at times when I think of my son. Wanting to feel that touch, that unconditional love that he poured over us. I try different things, brushing my hair obsessively, wearing hot pads, running water over my hands for a long period of time….all to feel a touch, a connection.
I can understand both sides, the lover and the cutter. The person that needs to bleed to feel something and the person that lives victoriously through touch. I long for one more touch, one more hug, one more moment just laying my head on his shoulder. I fight away the thoughts of “you must have been a lousy parent”, and/or “what is it, as your mother, that you did not give him as a child”. Instead I look at pictures in my memory of Fred being a happy child, happy teenager, happy man. Laughing, joking, arms around his family.
I still do not sleep consistently well, awaking in the night, usually startled at something. At times I think it is a dream that awakes me and other times I think it is a touch.
In this grief process my mind has played dirty tricks on me. Dirty tricks. There is a pocket of space in my head that forgets that Fred is no longer with us on this earth. This space expects him any minute, tells me to call him, reminds me to check on him, etc… I think this is the same space in my head that plays tricks while I sleep. I saw his body, I have his ashes. He cannot touch my face while I sleep, it is not humanly possible.
Parents that lose children go through a range of emotions and grief. It is a journey that is unique to each parent and in my opinion not 100% “heal-able”. I try to move ahead, find new ways to live with a heavy burden on my heart, and I also try to find new ways to show my love for all of my children.
I have learned a lesson in the past two months. I am still a mother, I still have children that need me and that need MY human touch. They are grieving too. They have a space that is empty just like mine, but different in so many ways. I have to work on balancing. Grief is not love. Love is love and grieving does not mean you loved someone. I do NOT have to be in constant and complicated grief my entire life to show my love for Fred. There are small ways. My hugs can now take on a “Fred quality”, my human touch can be an extension of my son, living through me. I can be more of a giver since I received so much. I can find peace in how blessed I am to have had such a loving child, and to have three living children that are equally as loving.
So, for my poor dying soul inside, the one that feels lonely and isolated….I will gently put my fingers down my husband’s face, hold the hands of my children, pick up my grandkids and smother them with Grandma kisses….or, I will die, myself, from the pain of detachment.