• bereavement support;
  • cancer;
  • grief;
  • massage;
  • palliative care;
  • relatives

Aim and objectives.  This paper explores how bereaved relatives experienced soft tissue massage during the first four months after the death of a family member who was in palliative cancer care.

Background.  Death of a close family member or friend is recognised as being an emotional and existential turning point in life. Previous studies emphasise need for various support strategies to assist relatives while they are grieving.

Design.  Qualitative design.

Method.  Eighteen bereaved relatives (11 women and seven men) received soft tissue massage (25 minutes, hand or foot) once a week for eight weeks. In-depth interviews were conducted after the end of the eight-week periods. Interviews were analysed using a qualitative descriptive content analysis method.

Results.  Soft tissue massage proved to be helpful and to generate feelings of consolation in the first four months of grieving. The main findings were organised into four categories: (1) a helping hand at the right time, (2) something to rely on, (3) moments of rest and (4) moments of retaining energy. The categories were then conceptualised into this theme: feelings of consolation and help in learning to restructure everyday life.

Conclusions.  Soft tissue massage was experienced as a commendable source of consolation support during the grieving process. An assumption is that massage facilitates a transition toward rebuilding identity, but more studies in this area are needed.

Relevance to clinical practice.  Soft tissue massage appears to be a worthy, early, grieving-process support option for bereaved family members whose relatives are in palliative care.