It is not only at diagnosis and through treatment that people are using complementary therapies but also to help support their wellbeing when facing death.
Acknowledging dying and death can be a huge challenge and in Western culture dying and death is a subject that we tend to shy away from.
The experience of dying and death is unique to everyone. The way we cope will be varied, experiencing different emotions at different times. Many thoughts and feelings arise when we think about our own mortality for example things we have left undone, seeking forgiveness, our reason for being.
The significance of complementary therapies at this time as a way to bring about harmony and inner tranquillity cannot be overlooked. Whether a patient or carer, coming to terms with dying is a time when you need to be nourished and nurtured.
Choosing complementary therapies to support your wellbeing can be empowering saying that at this time of my dying, I am making choices. Touch therapies to ease physical symptoms, self-care approaches to ease psychological and emotional concerns and healing energies to ease spiritual distress.
When someone is dying you may feel helpless and be thinking 'what can I do to help?' or 'I don't know what to do'. Some things, such as gentle touch, can be taught to families and carers. Touch can bring about a sense of connectedness that is sometimes lost when we don't know what to say or do. See news for details of the booklet Jam-Che: Gentle Touch for the Dying
Tinctures produced from the extracts of flowers aiming to restore and balance your emotional wellbeing.
These are without side-effects although if you have intolerance to alcohol, ensure you find a supplier that does not use this as a preservative. Follow the instructions matching the remedy to your need.
The tinctures can be placed directly on your tongue, 4 drops when needed or you can dilute them in a glass of water and sip at intervals. You can also combine remedies to make your own combination to suit your needs. The best known combination available is the Bach Rescue Remedy which is useful to have available at all times of crisis and stressful situations for example anxiety, fear and grief.
These come from the glands of flowers, leaves, roots, tree bark, fruits etc. The chemical properties of the essential oils produce therapeutic benefits that can be warming, soothing, uplifting to the spirit, energising etc. An aromatherapy practitioner can recommend a blend based on an assessment of your needs and medical condition.
The most commonly known application of essential oils is massage however they can also be used by adding a few drops to bath water, in creams and lotions and a particularly wonderful way to use them is in an aromatherapy vapouriser.
Essential oils such as lavender and frankincense can help at times of panic, fear, anxiety and poor sleep. Oils such as Rose can help with grief and sadness. Essential oils can be placed on a piece of cotton wool or added to a tissue and inhaled but do not do this if you suffer from respiratory illnesses for example asthma.
You must be cautious of the amount of essential oil that you use with massage as the dilution with vegetable based oils should not be more than 1% and you should avoid massaging over the site of tumours and blood clots. We would always advise that you seek the advice of an aromatherapy practitioner.
One of the most natural things to do when sitting with someone who is dying is to hold and/or soothe with gentle stroking. This can help facilitate gentle dying with peace and calm and is therefore an important part of caring not only for the person themselves but also for their loved ones.
Touch is one of the most powerful forms of communication we have. This sense of connectedness demonstrates loving kindness and compassion and it is for this reason that many find the giving and receiving of touch so beneficial. Sometimes, holding a persons hand is all that is needed, being in that ‘space’ and holding their hand says that you care and you are with them.
Music, sound and colour
The gentle vibration of sound can be supportive of emotions and help with your journey of emotional and spiritual exploration or simply to help you relax. Colour is thought to help with balancing chakras – the body’s energy centres, bringing about a harmony of body, mind and spirit helping to create a peaceful place to be.
Professional advice needs to be sought as natural does not necessarily mean safe and they can have an adverse reaction with some conventional medications. Some simple herbal teas may help with ginger for nausea, peppermint for indigestion and chamomile for poor sleep.
Relaxation techniques mainly focus on relaxing body aiming to release muscular tension, assist with breathing problems, manage symptoms associated with treatment regimes and illness, and promote sleep. They can help with finding a space of simply being rather than doing.
Meditation mainly focuses on relaxing the mind aiming to deepen our state of relaxation, helping to prmote inner harmony, peace and increased awareness, reduce stress and anxiety, alleviate fatigue, promote relaxaation, improve sleep patterns, and help with managing symptoms associated with treatment regimes and illness. Techniques can involve focussing the mind on a particular object or activity for example the gentle rhythm of the breath.
Visualisation / guided imagery uses the creative imagination to help alleviate stress and anxiety, manage symptoms of treatment and illness, support wellbeing and quality of life. Some things that can help with emotional and spiritual wellbeing are to visualise yourself being: strong and and in control; wrapped in a healing colour of your choosing; in a place of good memories and happiness.
To learn more about using some of these see our courses page.
Please note that the examples are based on traditional use and anecdotal information, and not on scientific studies. We would always recommend that you seek the advice of a health care professional.
opening the heart to living and dying