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Healing the wounds of conflict zones through touch

Posted Oct 10 2008 2:10pm

Touch is the most amazing thing on the planet!!  Today I feel like the touch evangelist as well as the touch ambassador!  As well as connecting us, touch can do wonderful things to heal us and make us whole again, especially after trauma.

One of my babies (aside from Cuddle Party) is a project I set up a few years back to give free massage to suicide bomb survivors.  I always knew that touch was magic and powerful, but when clients told us that the nurturing and therapeutic touch they'd received from us had been the nicest thing that had happened to them since the attack, better than an hour with their psychiatrist and more effective than their painkillers, I knew we were onto something good. 

I had an e-mail last night from a massage volunteer who has just started a placement in Jerusalem and this is what she had to say:

Does anyone remember the news item from 4 years ago, about the 24 year old girl that was injured in a Jerusalem suicide bus bombing?  She was near the killer when he blew himself up, and her wristwatch exploded and cut open her throat, severed the arteries, lodged in her neck while metal fragments that the bombs are packed with lodged in her body. She should be dead.   It was a miracle that her life was saved, the doctors at Hadassah hospital creatively performed surgeries  that no one ever had to before, while she was in a coma for a month... She was my client on Thursday.  She is now 28. Beautiful girl in spite of the scarring on her neck and face and the pieces of metal I feel in her body which have not worked themselves out.   Takes care of her body.  She has the will to continue to live and learn, and the courage to be her own person. I am filled with admiration for these people.  Another of my clients was in 4 separate attacks and survived them all but lost siblings. So many brave people, some young, some middle-aged, going on with lives in spite of the losses and the maimings; some, who are experiencing trauma that prevents them from living fully.

A previous massage volunteer wrote to me and said: "I saw how much it meant to be touched in a healing way, especially after a trauma induced by other humans."

I believe that if trauma is inflicted on the body - that is where the healing needs to take place, as our cells and tissues are holding on to memories of pain and fear and need a physical reminder of what safety feels like.   Another Jerusalem project volunteer expressed the following after a week of working on clients: I saw people find their path to recovery and reconnect to their bodies and their inner beings. They found that there was something left underneath their pain.”

I believe so deeply that touch is one of the most powerful healing tools that we have. My next few posts are going to look at touch as social activism, touch projects in conflict zones and the role of touch in restoring people after trauma.  If you enjoyed this dose of touch evangelism and would like to read more about what inspired me to start the Jerusalem project and the results, Massage & Bodywork magazine published a feature on it (written by yours truly), which you can read by clicking here !

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