Hugging in the Time of Covid
sharpei puppy wearing free hugs sign

Hugging in the Time of Covid

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Photo by __ drz __ on Unsplash

This is a true account of the adventures of Ellie. But first…

Who misses hugs? And hands raise all over the planet. Our arms reach out and we overlap our hands. This is no longer the universal sign for “shoot your nerf basketball here”. It is now the universal sign for…

I miss you.

I miss doing things with you.

I know you are sad and I want to hug you.

This is as close as I can get to hugging you today.

When the hug emoji is used, it is often accompanied by the sad tear emoji. Or the full on ugly cry emoji. This is a personal choice, and depends greatly upon the situation. We can all agree that we have had a lot to ugly cry about during the last year.

How can I offer comfort? How can I make a significant contribution to the emotional relief of someone who is experiencing heartbreak, but is not a member of my household, bubble, posse, pod?

Get creative.

There is a solution to every problem. No exceptions. We just have to keep trying and looking and imagining a different outcome, and discover creative ways to achieve it.

Last summer I experienced an emotional breakdown. I am no stranger to breakdowns. But this one — yikes. I was immobilized. Couldn’t get out of bed. Not Lazy Can’t Get Out Of Bed. I REALLY WANT to get of bed…

But I. Just. Can’t.

Unrelenting sadness. No appetite. Wild swings between I can’t sleep and I can’t not sleep. I turtled, with no ability to climb back out of my shell.

However, I have a crew. A group of emotional and spiritual and mental health warriors that step up for me when I need them. As a member of that crew, I am honored to step up for them when they need me. Don’t have a crew? Build a crew.

How to build a crew:

Make a list of your closest friends. The ones who show up when you call for help. They don’t ghost you. They are the most likely to join in random shenanigans. When you text “picking you up in 20 — bring shovel”, they don’t ask why. They are waiting outside when you drive up, and hop in when you slow down.

Check in with them periodically, not just when you need something. Wondering why your friends don’t do that for you? Ask yourself if you are doing that for them.

Are you trying a new self-care practice? Share it. Love your therapist? Refer them. Invest in those relationships. Drop everything and run when they call. They will do the same for you.

Now for the Adventures Of Ellie.

One of My Crew dropped off a care package for me last summer during my breakdown. That’s nice, but not that big of a deal, you say?

She lives on the opposite side of the city from me. This gift involved shopping, tagging each item with personal notes, gift-bagging it all, and driving 30 minutes to my house to drop it off at my front door. Then she texted me to open my door.

There sat a sparkly, curly-bowed gift bag brimming with goodies. Check out the pictures and see for yourself.

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To help you get your sparkle back
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When you need to take it out on something
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This was just pretty
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Because sometimes decisions are hard
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When you are ready to make some noise and let it all out
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When you need to feel capable… here’s a quick project
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When you’re ready to remember who you really are. You are a princess. Chosen daughter of the one true King. An irreplaceable piece of the Bride of Christ. That is who you are.

The tears were flowing fast and hard. My heart was feeling hugged like I had never experienced before. And then, there was Ellie.

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When you need a hug

Yes please!!!!! I needed a hug!!

I am proud to announce that I slept with Ellie clutched in my arms for a solid week. Who cares that I’m in my 50s? Stuffies are for everyone!

That giant heart hug soothed my wounded spirit. Little by little I found renewed energy and purpose. That’s what a good crew can do. Or at least one really good friend that isn’t scared away by your dark.

One of my heart kids was suffering. (A heart kid is not related by blood or adoption. This is a kid you claim as family and you love them forever.)

I wanted to scoop her up and bring her home and feed her and hug the stuffing out of her. But… Covid.

We met for a socially distant outdoor walk. I gave her Ellie. I explained Ellie’s origin. I told her that Ellie was hers for as long as she needed her. Tears were shed, the universal hug sign was shared. Ellie had a new home.

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A few months later she knew I was struggling again. She passed Ellie back to me. Ellie carried that special scent that only may heart kid wore. I hugged Ellie and sniffed her whenever I felt sad. It helped.

Recently I learned my niece was struggling with depression. We talked about it over texts and video calls. I just wanted to hug her, but she lives so far away.

And then I thought of Ellie. I put a snazzy gold bow on Ellie’s head, gave her a teensy spritz of Chanel, and took her to the postal outlet. I bought a small shipping box, and tucked Ellie inside with a couple knitted dishcloths I made.

I told my niece to expect a hug from me in the mail. A week later, she sent me this photo:

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That’s the sweet smile I had been missing. “She smells like you!”, my niece texted.

Her heart felt hugged. My heart felt hugged. And Ellie lives on the beach in California. For now, anyway. At least Ellie can travel!

Maybe the stuffy thing isn’t your jam. But just maybe, a stuffed unicorn or dinosaur or frog or… is just the thing that will make someone else smile. Send a hug. I bet you’ll get one back.

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