Massage Helps Deal With Bereavement

April 7, 2010


Truly it has to be said that nothing can truly help overcome the grief of bereavement, but without doubt there are things that can help. Support and offers of help are top of the list, plus a listening ear, but now it seems there is something practical you can do to help someone through those first dreadful weeks.

The April issue of the Journal of Clinical Nursing has reported on a Swedish study where a 25 minute massage was offered for eight weeks to relatives who had lost a loved one to cancer. Participants ranged from 34 to 78 years of age and included widows, widowers, daughters and sisters. They were offered a choice of foot or hand massage and divided fairly evenly over what they chose. Only three of the participants had previous experience of soft tissue massage.

They reported that having a soothing massage helped provide much-needed consolation during an intense, stressful period of grieving. “Soft tissue massage is gentle, but firm” explains Dr Cronfalk, who carried out the research with colleagues from the Karolinska Institutet. “This activates touch receptors which then release oxytocin, a hormone known for its positive effects on well-being and relaxation. In this study the hand or foot massage was done with slow strokes, light pressure and circling movements using oil lightly scented with citrus or hawthorn.

The use of hawthorn and lemon as the oils is interesting as they would not naturally spring to mind first, lavender would normally hold that place. In fact I believe hawthorn oil is not much used in the UK, so it may be a particularly Scandinavian practice and it’s chief property is that of being sedative in effect. Lemon oil is probably best known for its antiseptic and antimicrobial properties but it reputedly increases concentration and awareness and helps to eliminate emotional confusion, which would fit with the grieving process. The main comments from the participants show just how helpful they felt it was and included:

1) “a helping hand at the right time. I didn’t know what to expect. I just felt I needed to do something to get rid of that pain and it seemed like a good alternative.”

2) “Something to rely on and the massage became something to look forward to. The therapist had cared for him and now she cared for me.”

3) “I could focus on my grief during the massage and that helped me handle the rest of the week. I was just lying there and no one expected me to talk about my feelings.”

All the participants used the word consolation and felt that the massages provide physical touch and closeness and helped to diminish the feelings of empty space and loneliness that people felt. If you wanted to offer practical help during a time of grieving, this could be a very worthwhile present to give if you felt able to do this yourself, and they would accept it.

If you want to give them a present of some massage sessions by a professional, and do not have a recommended aromatherapist in your area, then contact this website for a recommended practitioner, or to check is someone has the correct qualifications: he British Association of Massage Practitioners.


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