What are the benefits of reflexology after a loss?
October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month. Pregnancy loss has been a significant part of my purpose in my career. When you work with people who are trying to conceive, pregnant, giving birth and postpartum, loss support is an inevitable part of your work that you may not have realized you signed up for. When people long to be a maternity reflexologist they might fantasize about working on puffy feet attached to abundant bodies swollen with healthy babies, but the reality is loss happens and it happens a lot more than people realize.
Sometimes I started working with people after they had experienced a loss or even many losses. Sometimes my existing clients experienced loss after I had already celebrated their pregnancies with them. Regardless, I've always felt so grateful to have reflexology to offer people at times of grief.
Loss support isn't easy or natural for most people. A lot of the things that people think they should say are actually painful for people who are experiencing loss to hear. It's really hard for loving family and friends to be comfortable with a person's discomfort. The reality is, we can't take their pain away with our words. The most comforting thing we can offer is validation that it's okay to be in pain, to be sad, to be angry or even jealous of others.
To be able to offer a client comforting touch while I listen or just be present with in silence has always felt like something I could do. And while that made me feel a little bit better about my role, it has so many benefits for the grieving person as well.
One of my favourite benefits of reflexology is how easily it puts the body into a parasympathetic state, also known as rest and heal, rest and digest or even feed and breed. When we are experiencing stress or trauma, our nervous system responds by entering an autonomic state that's main objective is survival. Respirations increase, heart rate increases, pupils dilate, muscles are tense and stress hormones circulate. A good reflexology session always (I rarely make such bold claims) puts the body into a parasympathetic state which promotes healing, relaxation, a state of calm, healthy digestion and hormonal balance. Reflexology is a gentle, non-invasive way to remind the body that it is safe again. This is what makes reflexology so enjoyable.
Hands offer comfort when words cannot. We can't take away the experience of loss. Healing, safe and comforting touch is a basic human need that almost everyone does not receive enough of and at times of loss, we can really appreciate it's benefits. Human touch can trigger the production of beneficial hormones like oxytocin, the hormone of love and attachment. Clients can leave their sessions feeling more grounded, connected and supported.
Healing of the reproductive organs
Loss can be hard on the body. Depending on how the loss occurred and one's experience with their loss, there may be physical trauma to the uterus from surgery, heavy or excessive blood loss, or a person may have reflexology in anticipation of a loss or during their loss to help support the process. Miscarriage or stillbirth can be experienced as painful, probably more painful than one's periods or live births because of fear and grief and reflexology can provide physical pain relief while also supporting the healing of reproductive organs. The duration of bleeding may be shorter and lighter and client's may avoid complications because of reflexology. Reflexology also promotes healthy sleep which is sometimes lacking when people are stressed.
Reflexology can help the body return to hormonal balance again after a loss. Menstrual cycles are more likely to return to regularity with the support of reflexology. Especially for clients who intend to try to conceive again, reflexology can support the body in preparing for pregnancy again sooner or can help to prepare the body for a healthy pregnancy.
Hope and optimism
Miscarriage and stillbirth can be traumatizing experiences. Pregnancy after a loss is unlike other experiences of pregnancy. Most people experience a lot of fear and struggle to enjoy their pregnancies after a loss. Depending on how far into pregnancy a previous loss occurred, clients may need to pass their previous milestone before they start to feel ease or relaxation in their pregnancy. Others may never feel that ease and confidence until their baby is born or even longer. We can help our clients to feel more empowered. Reflexology is something that they can do to calm their nervous system and support a healthy pregnancy. We can never claim to be able to prevent loss but we do know that reflexology during pregnancy can help prevent conditions and discomforts that are common during pregnancy. Clients who feel like they can do something that can help them have a healthier pregnancy and birth will feel more hopeful and optimistic. They also know they have a connection with someone who will be there for them should another loss occur. It's not uncommon for clients to express their fears as we work on their feet or even have an emotional response and those space holding moments are significant for them.
In addition to providing additional support to the reproductive and endocrine reflexology points during your sessions with clients after a loss you can also provide extra support to the lungs for grief, the kidneys for fear, the heart for emotional pain and the solar plexus for calm.