Dying & Grieving… Massage can help soothe the process.
Over the past few years I have found myself surrounded with many opportunities to provide support for people in many states of life, different degrees of dying (terminally ill), and those experiencing grief after a loved one has passed. Every moment that I am entrusted with caring for a client, no matter what the scenario, I feel honored. When entering into the sacred space with those greeting a new life or those who are saying good bye, that feeling of honor is magnified. The sense of responsibility, for me, is huge. I do not take this privilege lightly.
In order to prepare myself so that I may fully be in the moment of such situations and providing the best care I can I began doing some research on the benefits of massage for surviving death and supporting the dying. Here is what I found…
Massages Help Bereaved Realitives Move Forward with their Lives, an article found at www.news-medical.net sites statistics found in the April issue of Journal of Clinical Nursing (2010) that soothing massage is beneficial for overcoming the loss of a loved one.
Receiving massage once a week for, at least, 8 weeks after the death of someone close can ‘provide much needed consolation during an intense, stressful period of grieving’ according to a study conducted by Dr. Berit S. Cronfalk and his colleagues at the Karolinska Institutet, Sweden. Gentle, yet firm massage strokes applied to the bod for 25 minutes or more will ‘activate(s) touch receptors which then releases oxytocin, a hormone known for its positive effects on well-being and relaxation.’
Where talk therapy provides an excellent method for one part of the process of grieving, massage therapy can provide a safe place to explore how the body is storing the sadness. Bodywork allows one to purge the physical body of the emotions associated with grief while not being expected to talk about it. However, I have found, that many do speak about their personal battle with the loss during their massage. I simply listen to their story, support them if they cry and offer nothing other than nurturing touch in return. This physical touch & closeness can temporarily help to fill an ‘empty space’ often felt after someone has died, allowing one to feel more balanced & ready to face the path that now lies before them. Bodywork can help the bereaved avoid the deluge of symptoms commonly associated with grief. These may include fatigue, insomnia, pain, gastro-intestial disorders, anxiety, panic attacks, etc.
Talk therapy & bodywork go together beautifully to offer a more wholistic approach to emotional healing. The next time you find yourself going through a difficult and stressful time why not try this approach for your own well-being? If you know someone who is enduring this sort of situation & you don’t really know what to do, a massage may be just what they need.
As for those who are at the end of their life. Appropriate massage therapy techniques can reduce the anxiety and pain involved in terminal illness. Simply being present and calm while offering loving touch will offer reassurance. Having an objective caregiver present who is emotionally available to assist with this transition could be valuable to the entire family.
In working with the Returning Veterans Project here in Portland I have gained specific skills in working with emotional trauma, specifically PTSD. Holding space while some pass & others process is something that I have experienced through life. These services & skills I now offer to you.