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  • Writer's picture Gabrielle Elise Jimenez

Safely Distanced Hugs

Updated: Apr 18, 2020

I cry a lot lately. I always have but the tears I have been letting loose more recently are due to the myriad of emotions this virus has brought out of me. I visited with a friend the other day who is also a hospice volunteer. I have worked with her several years and she is one of the kindest, most unselfish people you will ever know. When she walks in a room there is no sound, she walks in a whisper. She is gentle and never wants to be recognized or noticed, and yet her work and her heart leaves a long, lasting effect on all who know her. She provides massage to our patients as they near the end of their life. And she can’t do that right now.

We stood six feet apart from one another; two people who derive immense joy from human touch, most importantly a hug at hello, and a hug at goodbye and both of us felt a magnetic force pulling us a way from one another, which brought us to tears. We talked about the void we are both feeling right now, not being able to connect with humans physically and how it is depleting us of the energy we both receive when we are able to touch or hug our patients, our families, and our friends. We both broke down and cried.

I have a confession. I almost hugged someone the other day. I came very, very close.

I went to see a patient in a facility where there were COVID positive patients and I was required to cover up completely, which I did. I was head to toe Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and I walked into the facility, as though in slow motion, and as if I was heading into battle. I stopped for a few seconds and I started to cry because it hit me that I was protecting myself from other humans and that seemed so unfair to me. I walked into the facility, I filled out the questionnaire, I had my temperature taken and I headed upstairs where I met up with other nurses and caregivers wearing the same thing. All you could see were our eyes, and it is moments like these when the eyes speak volumes; theirs spoke exhaustion, sadness and fear.

After I visited with the patient, I went to update the nurse. I could see she was exhausted. I tried to engage in distracting conversation. I told her this was my first time being “head to toe” protected and that it raises the bar of respect I have for those in hospitals who do this all day, for hours at a time. I told her I felt trapped and confined and it really messed with my claustrophobia. She said she felt the same way. We laughed for a minute and then she started to cry, and she said, “I can’t take this anymore”. I knew what she meant. There were absolutely no words I could say to her that would make her feel any better. I know this because there are no words that can make me feel better.

She stood there in front of me and cried, and I almost broke the rules. I walked towards her with the immediate need to hug her. I looked her in the eyes, and I said, “You can do this. Our patients need us. YOUR patients need you. We will get through this.” And I do believe that, but the words seem to fade the more I say them, and that scares me.

There I stood, a few feet away from her, admittedly less than six feet... and I did not hug her, despite how much I wanted to and I struggle with this. I am human, I want to break the rules... I want to hug people.

My mini moments are nothing in comparison to those in the hospitals all across our world right now who are doing this day after day. My respect and admiration for them, is so far above anything I have ever felt for anyone before. But regardless of how big or small our moments are, at the end of the day, this virus has really tapped into our emotions and not necessarily in a good way. With each passing week, I feel more fear, more sadness, more heartache for everyone experiencing this in whatever capacity. I see kindness and compassion, so much in fact, it blows my mind a little, and we need that. I need to see that, because it is the force the lifts me up when all I want to do is fall. But as these weeks pass us, the struggles our humans are experiencing, become harder to bear. The emotions encourage harsh words and bad behaviors, which in many ways are understandable, but are not productive. How can we help those who are heading in that direction? I don’t know what I can do, and it makes me feel helpless. Meanwhile I have my own struggles and fears.

A hug is usually my go-to when I see someone struggle. A hug is what usually brings me comfort. Our hugs have been given a time-out, and now we can only give safely distanced hugs, hugs from a far, air hugs, or imaginary hugs. Right now, our words need to be the hugs that bring comfort. I believe we can do this. I do believe we will get through this and I intend to continue to find a way to lift those around me back up again. I struggle not having human connection, I ache not being able to hold a hand or hug someone. This new way we have to be is difficult for me, it is difficult for all of us. Things will get better, I believe that.

For now, I send you all a safely distanced hug. Be patient... we will hug again. xo

Photo Credit: Lisa Pahl, one of the founders of The Death Deck and someone I call "friend".

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