“The Towel Hug”

One day, while I was getting out of the shower and grabbing my towel, I was feeling the weight of widowhood worse than usual. Instead of drying off right away, I wrapped my towel around my upper body in an attempt to feel consoled.

I pulled it tight and instantly, I noted how comforted I felt. But why? I gathered more of each edge of the towel within my hands and pulled tighter, and tighter, and tighter until I couldn’t move my arms anymore.

I had accidentally swaddled myself (well, half of myself) and it felt strangely divine.

The last time I’d felt such feelings of comfort was when I last hugged my husband. There’s an emotional intimacy in a spousal hug that can’t be recreated when hugging others and in this moment of accidental swaddling, I was again feeling a piece of that intimacy.

The tightness shifted my sadness to peace. Next, tension I didn’t even know was in my upper body loosened up. My stress-filled frame was calming down and tranquility was setting in. In less than a minute I was feeling the same level of relaxation I’d only find in an hour-long massage.

As I took in this new found self-soothing, I realized what was happening: I had stimulated my parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS).

I had learned about the PSNS in one of my old college courses – a stress management class. I recalled that when activated, a calm and relaxed state results and that one of the easiest ways to activate it is through a hug.

I wasn’t being hugged by a person, but swaddling with that towel was definitely causing a calm and relaxed state – something I hadn’t felt physically in a really, really long time.

For a good stint of time, each day I looked forward to stepping out of the shower, grabbing my white cotton towel, and wrapping it tightly around me for as long as I wanted to while my parasympathetic nervous system rejoiced.

I now refer to it as “the towel hug” and I’d like to pass this widow hack on to you.


How to “Towel Hug”



Simply gather up the edges of the towel with each hand and wrap it around yourself (I naturally grab the edges just above the middle but do what works for you). If it doesn’t feel tight enough, undo it, gather more towel in your hands and re-wrap yourself. If the tightness starts producing a calm and relaxed state – you know you’ve stimulated your parasympathetic nervous system!

*Make sure you don’t wrap yourself too tight. I go a notch or two above snug. I don’t want you to restrict your breathing 🙂


I’ve used this towel-hug hack on both the good and bad days. Widow to widow, a hug from my husband is what I miss the most. No matter what emotion I felt on a daily basis, I could hug and be hugged by my husband and everything suddenly felt better. Once in awhile during a towel hug, I’d close my eyes and imagine for a moment that he was there, holding me once more, and I could let my widow guard down for a moment.

I hope you find the same self-soothing as you try this comfort hack. It’s 100% free and adds only seconds to minutes on top of your morning routine. So go ahead! Tomorrow morning try it out and feel free to let me know how it goes!


My widow journey began in 2011 when I was 27. My late husband passed away from injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident. My re-entry into life has been difficult, but my relationship with God, being diagnosed with PTSD and my passion for music, dance and science have greatly helped me get back on my feet. I am currently preparing for graduate school and volunteer as an endometriosis educator for the Endometriosis Foundation of America.

I have so much that I look forward to sharing with you and I hope that you may find something in my writing that will bring hope to your own journey, help you through the tough days, and show you that happiness can be found in the midst of grief.

You can follow me on Instagram at @kellcann