Touch…Do Not Touch! Susie Pitts' insights about how touch is vital.

Updated: May 6, 2020

Perhaps one of the most difficult things about “sheltering in place” has been the: “do not touch” prescription for staying safe and healthy during this pandemic. For someone like me, with a natural instinct to reach out to people and hug them, this is pure torture. I was wired to touch, (we all are really). It’s how I express my appreciation, my affection, my support, my love for others. That simple physical demonstration has been closeted. I don’t like it. It’s very unnatural for me.

As an End of Life Doula and Grief Companion, I am certainly being challenged in adapting to what I hope is a temporary way of being. In this practice area, it is known that human touch is imperative to people that are dying or grieving. I aspire to be what St. Francis of Assisi prayed, “…let me be an instrument of peace.” I’m challenged daily with that. Sure, I meet people that are difficult and hard to deal with just as we all do. But what I remind myself of is, that in that moment of difficulty it’s really a call for help. It might be masked by anger or fear, but ultimately, it’s a cry to be heard, to be recognized, to matter. So, how do I mitigate all these new rules? Well, for one, the most important thing I’m hanging on to is: This exile from touch is temporary. This too shall pass. I’m practicing patience. It might be a long time before we can be un-masked, un-gloved and all barriers removed. I wonder, do all the research scientists, virologists and biologists, connect with one of the most important underlying reasons we need a vaccine? Humans need to be held physically. It’s vital to our existence. The vaccine will not only protect us, but it will also release us from our current state of bondage.

I need that vaccine so that I might continue my life’s work without restrictions. I will hold steady to the shelter in place-no touch prescription for now; but I’m looking forward to tomorrow or, the next day when isolation will be lifted and, we can easily and comfortably reach out healing hands and warm hugs. Perhaps, we as a society will be more appreciative of that simple gesture. Maybe, we will all hold onto that hug longer. Maybe our hugs will have a deeper meaning. Maybe, we will really feel the other person hugging us back. It’s my hope and…prayer.

Susie Pitts

End of Life Doula, Grief Companion

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