Grief, including the anticipatory grief involved in caring for a loved one suffering from serious illness or disability, is one of the most universal and devastating of human emotions, widely recognized as potentially subjecting the sufferer to emotional trauma, existential confusion, physical impairment, and even increased risk of serious illness, injury, and death. Fortunately, recent research has demonstrated that massage therapy has the potential to mitigate the stress and suffering associated with grief.
A 1998 Oregon study (MacDonald) reported that 85% of research subjects caring for terminally ill spouses reported decreased emotional and physical stress after six weekly or bi-weekly massages; 77% reported a decrease in physical pain associated with their circumstances; 54% reported sleeping more easily. Two studies by a Swedish research team (Cronfalk et al, 2003, 2010) found that massage "generated a feeling of inner power, physical strength . . . and consolation" to the bereaved. Massage, participants commented, offered them a much needed "helping hand," "something to rely on," and "moments of rest." Another 2003 study (Goodfellow) indicated that caregivers' immune systems were strengthened by massage; a 2012 study of 65 bereaved subjects, conducted by neurobiologists at UCLA (Morhenn et al), demonstrated that massage increased the amount of Oxytocin (a hormone associated with relaxation and comfort) and decreased the amount of ACTH (a corticosteroid responsible for initiating and stimulating the "fight or flight" stress response) in the subject's blood.
On a more subjective level, massage has been long-known for its power to reduce stress, making it an ideal treatment for the bereaved and caregivers. According to Aimee Joy Taylor, author of The Joy of Grief Massage Training Manual (2013) and a pioneer in the field, sympathetic, skilled therapeutic touch is innately comforting; the quiet interval offered by a massage therapy session offers the kind of relaxing time-out so needed by those in grief. Grief massage has been recognized as a discipline within the larger field of massage therapy; Taylor teaches a class in the field approved by the professional organization NCBTMB.
Moreover, Balsamroot Massage's pledge to customize every massage based on each client's immediate emotional and physical circumstances promises an experience of security and agency for people who may be feeling like everything in their lives is spiraling out of control--during the massage interval, you get to ask for the kind of therapy you need on that day. Every session is unashamedly about YOU.
Massage offers the bereaved and caregivers an opportunity to take essential care of themselves, and Balsamroot Massage's primary mission insures that its therapy will be specifically tailored to such clients. Please consider scheduling a session--or a series of sessions--for yourself or for someone you know who needs the comforting, healing power of massage.