I was told by a hospice nurse trained in Poland that she was taught not to hold the patient’s hand because this can hold them back from dying. I was very surprised. I think this is mistaken. It is about how we hold the person not whether we touch them at all. If our touch gives permission and is gentle and sensitive then it can be very helpful indeed. I worked in a hospice in Capetown using a body technique to help patients release pain and fear working on the spine and the feet. It really seemed to work. I could feel them relax.
One day I was asked to go to see a man who was dying. I went into the room. It was very small. There was his wife next to the bed and the man lying curled up facing the wall. I did what I could and worked on the places I could reach. I could see his wife was really struggling. I suggested we talked in another room. She was beside herself because for days he had not spoken, looked at her or communicated in any way. She was desperate for a smile or any sign he knew she was there. I could feel this when I was working on him, like hooks reaching out from her grabbing hold of him. I said “Would you try something. Can you feel the love you have for him in your heart?” “Yes”, she said. “Can you remember a special time together, at the beach, at home, out at a movie. A time when you were really happy and close.” She nodded. I want you to go back in and just sit with that feeling. Let it grow inside you. That’s all. Don’t try and get a response from him just feel your love. She said she would try. The next week I was back in the hospice and the woman came rushing up to me and said “I did what you told me to do and it worked. I just sat there remembering and feeling my love for him and suddenly he turned on his back, stretched out his legs, looked at me and smiled!” I told the medical staff about this more than once and they dismissed it saying it wasn’t something that could really work for most people. But I know it did.