Why Grievers Need A Hug

Hugs are one of the greatest forms of healing. They are a natural way of reducing stress. Virginia Satir[1], a respected family therapist, stated, “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth.”


Hugs affect your emotional, physical and spiritual well-being.  Emotionally they make you feel safe. Physically they help to lower your blood pressure by activating sensory receptors in our skin. Spiritually they release the hormone oxytocin which helps us to feel loved. In 2015, Scientific American published an article entitled “A Hug a Day Keeps the Doctor Away”[2] which was based on study conducted by Dr. Sheldon Cohen. Dr. Cohen showed that being connected to others can minimize illness, specifically colds.[3] Feeling connected to others through physical touch, like a hug, can help keep colds and illnesses at bay.  Better yet, hugs are beneficial not only for the receiver but for the giver as well.

There seems to be no shortage of hugs coming your way when your loved one dies. But once the funeral is over and everyone goes back to their respective lives, hugs can vanish to the four corners of the planet. You couldn’t find a hug if you tried. Short of hugging a bunch of strangers what options do you have to get some hugs back into your life?


Please Note: I am NOT a paid affiliate for any of these programs.

Volunteer at a Local Animal Shelter[4]– Nothing says hugs are just for humans. Animals also love hugs. If you have your own animal, you have a built-in hugging machine. If you don’t, then you might consider volunteering at a local animal shelter. Volunteering can lower stress and increase happiness. You’ll never find a more grateful and accepting friend than an animal you’ve comforted.

Baby Cuddlers – Some Hospitals need volunteers to cuddle babies born in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). One of those hospitals is Miller Children’s and Women’s Hospital in Long beach, CA.[5] There the cuddlers are trained to interact with premature babies during times when their parents can’t be with them at the hospital. Cuddlers hold, read or quietly sing to the babies. Doctors say that babies who are held more often sleep better, cry less and grow more. I am sure the cuddlers feel the exact same effects. If this sounds like something that interests you, hospitals all over the United States have these programs and are always looking for volunteers.

Visit a Retirement/Assisted Living Home – Who is more in need of a hug than our elderly? Sadly, they are the least likely to get a hug. As a result, they feel isolated, depressed and lonely. Hugging makes our elderly feel loved and important. In addition, the chemical changes produced by hugging can be a powerful tool for deterring the effects of age-related illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and cancer. Just a few hugs a day could turn their world (and yours) around.

The Hugs Project[6] – The Hugs Project is dedicated to improving life for the U.S. Military. Their mission is to give a “hug” (handmade items for warmth or cooling depending on season) to every American serving in the Middle East. This is their way of saying “Thank you, we appreciate you for the difficult job you do”. In summer months, they make cool ties (hugs) and helmet coolers (kisses) which can lower body temperatures by up to 5 degrees. These two products can also be heated in winter to make reusable hand/pocket warmers. Also during the winter, volunteers crochet, knit, loom and sew warm black hats and neck warmers. Becoming a volunteer with The Hugs Project is a good way to help our military and get a few “hugs”.

Project Angel Hugs[7] – Project Angel Hugs is a non-profit organization that tries to add a spark of laughter and fun to the life of children and their families touched with cancer. Through their programs they reach out to children all over the United States. An Angel Hug is a box full of goodies sent out 4-6 times a year, usually around a holiday or birthday directly to the children’s home address. The Holiday Hug also includes something for each sibling in the family under the age of 15. Project Angel Hugs currently sends boxes for Valentine’s Day, Easter, Halloween, Christmas and the child’s birthday. Project Angel Hugs is always looking for volunteers.

Free Hugs Campaign[8] – Free hugs is the real life controversial story of Juan Mann, a man whose sole mission was to reach out and hug a stranger to brighten up their lives. He first started offering Free Hugs in 2004 as an effort to make himself smile while feeling sad. Now the Free Hugs Campaign takes place all over the world. Anyone can sign up, make a sign that says “Free Hugs” and offer hugs in the busiest place they can find. I was actually approached by a “Free Hug” group out here in Los Angeles. Not only did I get one hug, but I got hugged by the entire group. It was wonderful. If this sounds like something for you, you can start your own Free Hugs Campaign.

Grieving is one of the most stressful events in someone’s life. Offering a hug (or two) is good for a griever’s emotional, physical and spiritual health, as well as your own!


Sending you love, comfort and peace!


[1] https://satirglobal.org/about-virginia-satir/

[2] http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/a-hug-a-day-keeps-the-doctor-away/

[3] http://pss.sagepub.com/content/26/2/135

[4] http://theshelterpetproject.org/shelters


[6] https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/TheHugsProject/info

[7] http://projectangelhugs.com/volunteer/

[8] http://www.juanmann.com/p/about-free-hugs.html