I Need to Be Touched. But Please Don’t Touch Me.

Can we talk about a very sensitive subject? Would that be okay with you? Because quite frankly; this topic makes me incredibly uncomfortable, and with all the many things I have shared with the world in these writing pieces, I still find myself stalling and putting off discussing this. But it’s time. So here we go.

Human touch. Sex. Intimacy. Hugs. The holding of hands. Making out. Hugs. Placing one’s head in the center of someone else’s chest and lightly humming almost subconsciously, because you are so happy lying there. Backrubs. Neckrubs. Hugs. A husband who looks directly into your eyes and says: “You look beautiful.” The stroking of one’s long hair. The washing of hair in the shower. Wrapping a towel or his jacket around me. Affection. Massages from someone who wants you to feel good. Feeling the love in the tips of his fingers, in his arms grabbing me gently from behind as I cook dinner, in his hand resting on my knee as he figures out a guitar chord. Hugs. Amazing, safe, wonderful hugs.

After almost 11 months into this “new life” that I didn’t ask for and that was handed to me without my permission, I can honestly say that most of this kind of stuff didn’t really cross my mind until recently. No. I was much too busy staring at the wall for 2 hours straight, or clicking refresh over and over on my husband’s Facebook profile picture of him sitting on the deck at our Cape Cod honeymoon suite, looking so content and peaceful. My mind was clogged with the fog of early grief, the chores that had to be done, the job I had to get to, the day I had to attempt to get through. There are also so many different ways to grieve your husband’s death. So many losses to consider. There is the loss of his life, which I found myself grieving for on his behalf, because he wasn’t here to do it himself. There is the loss of the past, our present, and our future. Our dreams together. The family we might have had, will not have. I was grieving the possibilities of what was to come. Growing old with each other. Having time. Decades of time. What does my life mean without him here? What comes next? What is the point of pursuing my dreams if I cannot share them with my husband? These are the things that have been in my heart lately, to name just a few. But somewhere hiding in there, was the extreme loneliness, and the need to be held. Lately, I’ve allowed my mind to start comprehending the idea that I will never again feel my husband’s touch, or be able to slow dance with him, or sigh in the warmth of his arms – and the reality of that horrifies me. Never mind everything else. Never mind for a second that I can’t have a life with my husband. What about the fact that I can’t have a hug?

When you lose the love of your life in an instant, you find yourself doing a lot of crazy things in a desperate attempt to try and connect to them again, to feel their presence. Everybody will keep telling you the person is “always with you”, and maybe he is – but here’s the thing: he isn’t HERE with me. It isn’t enough. I want more. Lately, the type of sadness and grief I’ve been feeling is different than before. Along with the intense crying has come a physical “reaching” for him. Sometimes I stand in our kitchen, say his name, and put my arms out as if I’m hugging him. Or I will hold our cat, Sammy, a tad too close, just to feel something against me. Or I will grab the tin that his leftover Ashes are in, sit in his favorite old chair, and just rock in the chair while trying to pull the ashes as close to my chest as possible, and pull me as close to his chair as possible. It sounds sick, I know. But all I can tell you is that it’s an urge, a need, and when it happens, I don’t fight it. About a month ago, I got in my car one night and drove out to a large park nearby that has a baseball field in the middle. I don’t know why I went to that specific place. My heart just brought me there, and suddenly, I was driving there. When I got there, I sat in the grass on my knees, and just sobbed. I called out his name. I screamed. I wailed. And I was silent. It helped, and it didn’t. None of these things ever help me to feel him again, to physically feel him. They don’t work. But they get me through a moment, and sometimes, that is my only goal.

To have the knowledge that you wont ever physically touch or be touched by your husband again, is a sad thing to be aware of. It’s heartbreaking, and after almost 11 months of nobody touching me or being affectionate with me, empty doesn’t even begin to describe the feeling inside me. Other people have tried to be affectionate with me. It effects me in strange ways. For some reason, whenever my parents hug me, I feel like I want to cry. I get extremely sad. Maybe because I know they are missing him too, they are in pain too, and that everything will be different forever. Friends and relatives try to hug me. Some people hug me like it’s their mission to make me better. They grab me and hold me for much too long, and they rub my back or say something like: “Awww it’s okay. Let it out.” They act like they are the Grief Whisperer, and their magic hugs will send me reeling into a mountain of tears and set me free. But that’s not how it works.

Here is where it gets complicated. I hate being touched by people. I mean – I hate being touched by people. Im not talking about friends or close family members hugging or kissing me, that’s fine. I am talking about everybody else on earth. Massages, manicures, pedicures, spa days … all of these things make me shiver with an awkward, creepy feeling. Most people find a nice pedicure or massage relaxing. Almost every female I’ve ever spoken to enjoys this sort of thing. These things were offered to me by many as a stress-reduction after Don’s death. I can’t think of anything more awful or uncomfortable than some random stranger touching my feet while I have to sit perfectly still; in a tiny cramped room, surrounded by other people’s nasty feet sitting in bowls filled with murky, gray water. Manicures? Yuck. Sitting there being forced into conversation with an old Russian lady who has a moustache and is painting my nails while telling me about her grandson’s chess match, is not my idea of a good time. The two times I was forced into getting a manicure, my instinct was to reach up with my freshly-painted hand and punch the manicurist in the face. Someone rubbing a green sandpaper-like mask on my face or wrapping me up in some weird-ass seaweed thing and making me sit there to clear out toxins and shit – no. That is not ever happening. Not in my world. Take your spa gift certificate and give it to someone who enjoys hanging out with 50 strangers in germ-infested rooms that smell like warm ass-crack. Give it to someone who doesn’t mind that 900 other people’s ballsacs and clammy vagina’s have sat on that very same bed of arugula treatment, or whatever the hell it is. Just get the hell away from me with your touching.

I am not a touchy-feely person. I have to know you really well to feel comfortable with you showing me affection. I have never been into casual sex, one-night stands, or anything like that. I cant be with someone unless I know that they care about me deeply. So I don’t want a hug from just anybody. I want a hug from Don. I cannot have that ever again, and I’m not quite sure how to be okay with that.

Eventually – in time – I will grow and heal and really start living again, one day. I will rebuild my dreams. I will figure out how to be happy, or a new version of happy. I will adjust to this new, bizarre life that was handed off to me. But human beings need affection. We need to be held. We need that physical connection to someone. How will I ever get past the concept that my husband will never hold me? What do I do with this insane paradox of strong feelings; where I need to be touched, but by the one person who cannot do it? It is perhaps the biggest oxymoron of all-time:

I really need to be touched. But for the Love of God, please don’t touch me.




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8 thoughts on “I Need to Be Touched. But Please Don’t Touch Me.

  1. No words, other than this was an interesting window. And I so understand exactly what you mean about the little touches that are so unconsciously apart of your daily existence, until they are not. And I do understand about the strangers.

  2. Beautifully written, Kelley. I totally get it, and I hate hate hate that you have to feel it.

    I am a lot like you with the have to know you REALLY well to be ok with being touched. I don’t know how you cope the way you do. But you do, I hope for you that you someday do live your last paragraph, though right now, must be the furthest thing from your mind.

  3. So what you’re trying to say is that I shouldn’t send you a spa gift card?

    I’m sorry you feel this way, Kelley. Thank you for sharing. I know it helps other people experiencing the same thing.

  4. Kelley, thanks for sharing this. Has always you make me laugh and cry with your post. I can’t even for a second imagine not hugging my husband anymore. Hugs.

  5. I know exactly how you feel. I am 5 years into my Jim being gone. We were very much touchy, huggy, cuddly people and I crave it sometimes. But I want it from him.

    I tried getting a massage, it was suggested by another widow. Guess what, it didn’t help. It was nice and all but not Jim. I won’t do it again.

    Thank you for expressing this feeling and I am glad I am not alone.

  6. I lost my husband 14 months ago. We had been together for 40 years since I was 16 years old. It is hard getting thru every day without him and how people think you should be “OK”. I will never again be OK. I love the title of RIP The Life I Knew. How true and how close to home for me.

    I also hate anything related to spas, manicures, etc. I thought I was the only other woman that felt that way.

    Your comments made me both laugh and cry. Keep ’em coming. Believe me, I know how you feel.

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