Exploring Reiki for End-of-Life Care
When I was training to be a Reiki Master Teacher, we talked about how hospitals, elder-care facilities, and hospice programs continue to adopt Reiki in what is a growing and widespread trend. We explored Reiki as part of the death and dying process and how it could be healing for all involved in the end-of-life experience. At the time I did not know how profound that learning would be.
Reiki and the Gift of Connection
My first transformative experience with death came as I shared the last three months of my mother’s life. During this time, I was able to connect with her in a deep and meaningful way and Reiki was an essential part of that connection. Throughout her extended hospital stay and the homecare that followed, Reiki was one of the gifts I was fortunate to share with her and she gratefully accepted the comfort.
Reiki Healing to Calm and Soothe
I remember a late-evening trip to the emergency room after she had returned home. Outside her room, we could hear the clamor, anxiety, and violence of trauma, and the controlled responses of the triage teams. My mother was anxious and as we waited in the small room for a physician to come, I began to offer Reiki healing. I was joined by my sister who lived nearby and we both watched in amazement as the pulse rate monitor dropped from the high 120′s to less than 90. This was also one of the times in which I fulfilled my role as the family truth-teller, reminding my father that my mother’s diagnosis was terminal and using every ounce of Reiki healing to deliver the message. She died 8 weeks later.
The Gentle Structure of “Just for today”
Reiki at the end of life is a blessing
The Reiki precepts were equally powerful and provided a compass point throughout this turbulent time. “Just for today” echoed continually in my mind and provided a gentle structure for making sense of all that was happening, bringing my focus to a singular moment of attention. I heard the diagnosis – “four to six months” spoken by her oncologist and my mind would immediately consider the gravitas in these words. But I was also able to rest in the present and honor her, bringing what comfort I could in each fading moment.
Responding to Moments
Almost two years later, I was blessed to be with a friend as he died, enveloping him and his wife in Reiki healing, responding to the dying process moment by moment. His was not a peaceful transition. I learned first-hand about dying. I was introduced to the biology of death; I witnessed raw grief and shared in a miraculous moment that altered me in ineffable ways. I also had a formative lesson in responding to the process of death. He called me to be present to his condition. In moments I sang to him, in others I rubbed his limbs, and in the intervening moments, I simply offered Reiki healing, all without his direct communication – he had stopped talking days before.
Reiki as Part of Palliative Care
As I reflect on these times, I weave the thread that connects Reiki and the dying process into a fabric of understanding that embraces Reiki as part of palliative care. As Reiki practitioners we are trained to be attentive to the physiological and energetic state of the body, using this awareness to direct the path of the hands over the body. This is the intuition that tells us when to linger over a particular spot and when to move on. It is this very instinct that helps us support the dying person. In the moments I spent with my mother and with my friend that preceded their respective deaths, I found myself paying attention to the temperature of the limbs, recurring apneic periods of breathing, responsiveness to singing and talking, all of which provided indicators of impending death. In each moment, I offered Reiki tailored to the needs of each person and offered it to each space within that invited it. In doing so I learned to be with death in the context of Reiki healing.
These profound lessons were the conduit of connection with these two beautiful souls and I am eternally linked with both in an intimate way. I remain humbled by their courage, inspired by their grace, and compelled to explore the beautiful intersections between Reiki, those who are dying, and the loving souls who care for them.