Complementary therapist Emma Comfort – yes, that really is her name! – works out of our Wiltshire Hospice and has seen first-hand the different those few moments of calm and a comforting touch can make to children and families…
Having access to free complementary therapy feels like a real luxury for families. It is both a treat and a treatment and can help with a whole range of medical issues and muscle strains from lifting a child.
The biggest need, though, is for relaxation; many of the families we support are running on adrenaline, they don’t know the meaning of a refreshing night’s sleep. You can feel the emotional tension they are holding in.
They usually fall asleep but even if they don’t they go into a ‘not here, not there’ sort of dreamy space and sink just that little bit further into the massage bed.
That hour of treatment, can make a significant difference to well -being. The stresses and strains just drop away and they look 10 years younger - less exhausted and with more colour to the face.
Families can have these treatments at home or at the hospice and each one is specifically tailored to the needs of the individual – right down to oils custom-blended to suit the mood or the moment.
This isn’t pampering, it’s a reboot and proof that even an hour’s respite and relaxation can leave a parent or child in a better place mentally and physically. I treat affected children, mums, dads, siblings – and sometimes the whole family in one session! Mums and children are the quickest to appreciate the benefits of a good massage, dads are slower to take up the offer – but among the biggest fans once they have!
Part of my role includes supporting bereaved parents and families whose child is approaching the end of their life. It is a privilege to be there at such an emotional, difficult time.
Massage can help with pain relief and also keep the circulation going in legs, feet and hands when a child is unable to move.
For the parents it runs much deeper than a physical therapy. You aren’t just helping them relax, you are treating them for shock.
One mum whose child had died said:’ I do not think I have even dealt with the birth, let alone the death.’ Years of trauma come gushing out. It is like post-traumatic stress for these families because of everything they have been through
Bereaved parents want to talk about their child, especially to people who met or knew them – you have memories of their child and they want you to share them, to be able to remember everything.
Parents want to store up every tiny memory because they are frightened their child will be forgotten.
It is so fulfilling to be able to do something practical for bereaved families – provide support, give them time out and help make memories around the life of their child. It’s about letting families know that they are not on their own.