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‘Southern Voices’ is a reader-submitted platform for stories from the heart. Today’s submission comes from Liza Graves, CEO of StyleBlueprint. If you have a story to tell, see our guidelines for submission here.


On March 6. 2020, we had a meeting at our StyleBluepint office and one of the people who came was someone I hadn’t seen in a couple of years. I said, ‘Oh, HELLO!” and gave her a hug. She shrank back and said, “Oh, are we hugging?” That was my first sign that hugs were going away as pandemic fears rushed in.

My dad died in September 2019, less than a year ago. He was a huge hugger. He had the biggest smile, the loudest laugh, and a large, round stomach that made all hugs extra soft. I picture him the way he always greeted good friends and family, arms outstretched ready for a bear hug. I think about my mom, 600 miles away, with her own health issues, which means that since early March, no one has been able to be within 6 feet of her. No one has entered her home. No one has hugged her.

As social distancing lingers, but our city tentatively opens back up, I’ve been able to see friends. But, we’ve been outside, 6 feet apart. We greet each other with ghost hugs and elbow bumps. I find this to be excruciatingly painful: to see friends and not be able to hug. We cry, 6 feet apart. We drink wine, 6 feet apart. We wave goodbye and blow kisses from even farther away. But, we do not touch, except that quick elbow bump. And, hardly ever does that even happen.

As a business owner, I fret about the upcoming months, about my team, about all of our small business clients, our hospitality clients, our readers. Last week I sent pizzas to everyone on my team. It was really just a hug in the form of food because what better food hug is there besides pizza? They surprised me with a Mexican meal for my whole family. Another food hug. Food hugs definitely exist. But, in the end, these are not substitutes for the real thing: people actually embracing.

I think about everyone living by themselves, like my mom or the people on our StyleBlueprint team who live by themselves. They have no one to hug at night. I tear up often thinking about this, and when I do, I usually hug one of my kids for a length of time that they used to squirm away from. Now, they hold on.

My husband understands my extra need for hugs right now. Just like my kids, he squeezes tight for a lot longer.

One of my daughter’s friends dropped off a little treat a few days ago. Her friends have been so sweet, dropping off little gifts. But this one day, my daughter couldn’t help it. She said, “Wait!” and rushed down the sidewalk and gave her friend a long hug. They teared up. My daughter said, “I just couldn’t not hug you. I miss hugging my friends.” How could I blame her?

I live in the middle of Music City, Nashville, TN. I’m waiting for a song to come out simply called “I Miss Hugs.” We can all, as one world community, cry listening to it. Surely that song is on its way?

If I could only jump on a plane, or drive to my mom’s house and hug her, I’d do it today. I know I’m not alone. For everyone whose parents are in nursing homes, retirement communities, or have compromised health that prevents you from seeing them, I know how hard that is. For all the grandparents wanting to hug their grandkids, I’m sending you each virtual hugs. I know, they don’t come close to being the real thing. But, in today’s age, virtual and real are living together, side by side, in a way they never have before. Facebook even added a virtual hug emoji to the way we can interact with each other’s updates.

We keep trying to find substitutes for the real thing.

But, in the end, there is no substitute for a hug, is there?

They are what I miss most.


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