Massage as a Support Measure for the Terminally Ill

Message is a healthy and beneficial thing in most instances and for most of the people we encounter in our daily practice. There are contraindications, heath issues that can be dangerous for the receiver when ill. Some types of cancer (lymph related types of cancer) are controversial because of the risk of spreading cancerous cells through the lymph system. In other types of cancer it is important to work with doctor’s permission and cooperation. All of the above is related to the people who are not terminally ill. When we work with the terminally ill these contraindications are waved. Their condition is such that they can receive massage without limitations (unless the responsible doctor has determined that there are certain limitations). This is a situation that enables the practitioner to work not for enhancing the health of the client but for the emotional benefit of the client, family and supporting folks. In the U.S.A. there are organizations that provide people with AIDS and other disease massage therapy. Volunteers come and give massages wherever needed. There is a growing awareness not only for the physical benefits but also to the emotional side and the escort they get until death comes.
There are several aspects to the support during the massage:
a. The person is receiving touch. Touch is one of the “foods” – stimulations we need for a physical and emotional existence. In the geriatric arena the term “hunger for touch” was coined for people who have lost their spouse and need the stroke, hug and physical attention (TLC). We can see it clearly looking at the developmental aspect with babies. Babies who do not receive touch will not survive or will not be functioning adults due to developmental lack. When a person is terminally ill some times the people around are repelled from touching even when there is no medical contraindication. The looks of the person might be disgusting due to loss of weight or the way the illness effected the body so it is not as esthetic as the family and friends remember the person. It is important to remember that it is still the same person with the same feelings and the wish to experience affection, love and touch.
b. The therapeutic session enables the receiver (the terminally ill person) to open their heart and let go of fears and other disturbing factors. This is very common in touch therapy (massage). Through the touch a deep connection is created, it lets the client feel safe. In a safe place with lots of empathy a person feels that this is the right place to open up and talk because the practitioner is not involved emotionally, is not a family member but supportive and attentive for his needs.
c. Spiritual Guidance – From my experience as a spiritual Guide who gives tools and does personal sessions I have learned that in such a session there is a possibility to bring to awareness and enhance the perception of the continuation of our existence after death. As a person who believes in the continuation of life after the physical death, I find that people who connect to the idea have a much easier time expecting their death and thus relate to their relatives death as a temporary goodbye rather something final. The information contained in books like "Many Lives Many Masters" by Dr. Brian Weiss or an earlier book "Thirty Years Among the Dead" by Dr. Carl Wickland, "Death and Dying" by Elizabeth rose cobbler, "The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying" by Sogyal Rinpoche and many more. These books enable a glimpse into the processes that happen after the body has died and create a possibility for a new way of thinking, sometimes even for the skeptic or the non believer there is a possibility to connect to what happens at the end of the physical life.
d. Support for the family – the family often feels great helplessness in regard to what can they do for the sick. The helplessness is often being expressed as tension and sometimes quarrels. That is prime really because they don't know what they can do for their loved ones. They want to help but cannot stop the progress of the disease. The session where the person with the disease receives a massage is blissful, has good sensation and an expression of love. Here the family is contributing because when they see some relief even if temporary with their dear one they too have some relief.
One of those times I was working with R., her family called me after she had an operation. She had liver cancer. Since the disease was discovered at a relatively late stage so she was terminally ill and it was just a matter of time. After spending time in the hospital she was sent home. Her husband and family took very good care of her, they wanted to give her the best with what was left. I first met R. in a suite at the hotel in the hospital. R was there for follow up after the operation she had. She was very thin and tired but happy to see me. I began the massage and after a while we started talking about how she feels, how surgery was for her and so on. R did not talk much but the touch she received helped her to feel better. We continued to meet for several months. The sessions moved from the hospital to her home. At home it was more comfortable to talk about death, the next phase and openly share. There are a few things that come up in the conversation slowly and gradually regarding death:
a. It is important to remember that there is life after the physical death. There is a lot of information about it. It is not necessary to believe that this is so. It is important to keep the mind open that this might be so.
b. When the body has died we do not feel any different. We still feel as are own self. Many times there is a feeling of relief, ease, pain stops (if there was pain), and some people still feel the pain they had. That is because they identify with the physical pain and it remain in one's consciousness even after death.
c. A soul who leaves the body receives help. There are reports of going through a tunnel with light at the end, relatives who have already passed away welcoming the person, angels, spiritual figures like Moses, Jesus, Muhammad and more. These are souls who come to help and ease the passage into the world of truth.
d. Denying that there is life after death or beliefs such as "Jesus is going to tale me to heaven" might block the soul from seeing the help that is there at the other side. Like in the physical reality, when I don’t want to see something I will not see it even if it is in front of my eyes so it will be after leaving the physical body behind, what I refuse to believe that exists I will not be able to see. This might have the soul "stuck" in the physical plane. Such a soul might not understand why people are ignoring it (like in the movie "the sixth sense") and what is happening with it. This point is sometimes hard to get, but the soul does not get that it left the physical body behind and only after it is understood the soul can go on in it's journey. In this sense we can get a glimpse of the Jewish tradition, mourning is a gradual and very organized process with a beginning and an end. Finishing the mourning is important so the soul can go on and not be kept with guilt feelings of how much we miss that person and in doing so it stays in the area. There are many reports of people who feel the presence of the deceased roaming in the house and more sensitive people can even see the soul.
I continued to meet R. until she died. I have seen how she if slowly losing the liveliness from her body on one hand and how she was looking for my visits on the other. Only after she died and some years later I could see how much these encounters effected one of her family members. One day a few years after R. has passed away I met her son. The welcome was so warm I was surprised and he thanked me for taking care of his mother. Only then I got the feedback from him on the work I did with R. and the extra benefit they received.
And for those of you who see dreams as another way of communication: some time after R. passed away I saw her in a dream. In that dream I saw that leaving the physical plain was hard for her and that she was clinging to it. I talked to her and tried to explain that she left her physical body and to follow the help that was there for her. That was the last time I saw her…
There is no doubt that massage therapy and preparation for the next phase are important and contribute to the person with the disease before leaving his physical body. I have to show the benefit that can come at the next phase after the person has left the physical body. I think that more practitioners who give that kind of support can be of great assistance to the person suffering the disease, and his family.

Author's Bio: 

Gilad has recently moved to Miami Beach to join the integrative staff of Miami Beach Pediatrics. Gilad has been a therapist for over two decades. In his practice he incorporates many modalities to bring the client into balance in the most effective way he can. In The clinic he is evaluating using the knowledge of the Neuro Developmental Functional Approach (NDFA) to assess the different imbalance that can cause ADD, ADHD, behavioral issues, and more. The NDFA is a dynamic approach aiming to resolve any physical (sensory and functional) condition that needs calibrating and sets a course of action towards that goal. The NDFA is also used to enhance learning skills and was tested and showed it ability to improve on children's school results in schools that incorporated the NDFA into the regular teaching curriculum. Gilad is one of the founders of the Israeli Massage and Bodywork Association and was its president for seven year. He is one of the creators of the curriculum of the NDFA therapists course and one of the leading teachers responsible for the practical application of the NDFA. Gilad is also practicing Structural Integration (SI) also known as Rolfing. He is a SI practitioner since 1991 trained by the leading teachers in the field. SI is intended to improve one's posture by organizing fascia (connective tissue) in a more efficient way in the field of gravity. These 10 sessions series has been proven to be effective for a wide variety of conditions including improvements in scoliosis. SI is an educational processes as well as it educates the receiver on how they can move with more ease grace and efficiency in daily life.