How aromatherapy is supporting Grenfell survivors
I knew this would be an emotionally difficult article to write. Actually, what I underestimated was the complete and utter impossibility of adequately putting into words any form of sentence that could convey any kind of sense of what something this tragic actually felt like. I had given myself the impossible task of logically writing about something you can only really 'feel'. I recently visited Grenfell Tower, you see…
Even as I finish writing my first paragraph, I feel myself let out a huge breath – perhaps of relief that I’ve at least begun to attempt writing, or perhaps feeling the release of emotion that has been pent up inside since I arrived, or even because my body can feel what is needed: release from trauma! Just being there has made me feel the need for breath.
My day supporting Grenfell began as I hit Latimer Road Tube Station. The tower was right in front of me, and yet I couldn’t look up at it properly – something made me look at the floor as the eerie silence juxtaposed with the tannoy’s loud reminder: “please do not take photos of the Grenfell building as it is distressing to the local residents.” Persevering, I knew I was there to help: I was there to support survivors by telling the positive story of how one lady has brought the Complementary Therapies industry together, to form a wonderful group called ‘Complementary Support Teams UK’ – or CST-UK. So, here it is.
Complementary Support Teams UK: Jane and her Nationwide Trauma TeamI made my way through the streets, overwhelmed with flowers and posters, to Westway Sports Centre, one of the Complementary Support Teams’ bases, to meet Jane Lawson - the lady who set this wonderful group in motion. Armed with Base Formula’s kind donation of various essential oils and aromatherapy inhalers, she was beaming and gave me a huge, long, knowing, hug. A Gloucestershire-based therapist and teacher, from ‘Natural Approach’ School and Therapies, Jane has been on-site from day one of the Grenfell Fire. Relentlessly she has been supporting both survivors and emergency services, building a team of complementary therapists to go in and provide free therapies to those in need. Therapeutic trauma work, she said, was key in response to this tragedy, and so far, they are finding a good response to complementary therapies from survivors. “People aren’t ready to talk yet,” she told me – “they need grounding first; therapies like Aromatherapy, Massage, Reflexology are all important in the healing process, long before survivors can get to talking about it.” So, that’s what she’s doing – setting up a network of teams throughout the UK to help support survivors of Grenfell and other tragic events with holistic therapies that help mind, body and soul.
CST-UK’s Team: Nicole (Base Formula) and Jane (CST-UK), with other volunteers.
It takes a special person to do this, and ‘special’ Jane is. Entirely self-funded, and working hours on end, she’s built a team of supporters, who can offer their therapies in response to emergencies throughout the UK – not just Grenfell - whether that be Aromatherapy, Massage Therapy, Reflexology, Energy Healing, Homeopathy, Cranio-Sacral Therapy, Acupuncture, Counselling, Psychotherapy, Hypnotherapy – you name it, she’s promoting it. Whilst set up for Grenfell, which will be a long-term project, the aim of CST-UK is now also nationwide. Jane says that the future for CST-UK is being able to respond throughout the UK to other ongoing disasters that emerge, whether that be flooding, children going missing, or anything else.
Aromatherapy volunteering – The Warehouse
Jane talks me through the set-up. From the start, they’ve been borrowing space around the local area - at Westway, at the Delgarno Centre, and at ‘Kids on the Green’ – a local space which is set up to help local children through the trauma (Jane also provided First Aid here on the day of my visit – there is no end to her talents!). Now, they’ve had warehouse space donated, so they are focusing on making that a longer-term set-up for therapies.
As Base Formula’s Consultant Aromatherapist, I have personally gone along to help as an Aromatherapy volunteer, as well as helping in the background with marketing, so Jane takes me, and a few of the other volunteers, to the ‘Warehouse’ space to show me:
Donated warehouse space that is now being used as a treatment centre.
It’s the perfect space: not only is it adorned with beautiful, bright graffiti art, but, inside, there is an astonishing statue, which, yet another time today, takes our breath away. An entire metaphor for ‘freedom,’ depicting an angel breaking free from her chains, with the light shining down on her, this statue just happened to be already in the building – for all of us, an overwhelming sign that we were in the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing.
Essential oils for trauma
In terms of Aromatherapy, Jane tells me there’s a list of essential oils that are particularly important for trauma, and that what they're doing is providing what she calls ‘sniffy sticks’ – or aromatherapy inhalators - with bespoke blends. The beauty of this, is that this can even be done over the phone, so any Aromatherapists in the UK can still help with prescribing essential oils to victims of Grenfell. This is the same for other modalities, such as homeopathy and counselling – they are also offering Skype sessions!
Likewise, CST-UK are providing CPD training on the topic of ‘trauma’ to many therapist volunteers, tailored for various therapy modalities. “There are some more unusual essential oils being incorporated in our treatments due to the nature of the trauma,” says Jane, “and each disaster will require a different set of oils” as they support other UK-wide traumas. She tells me: “we are so grateful to Base Formula for their donations of essential oils and aroma sticks – you’ve no idea how much they’ll help people who have been through so much.”
Some of the essential oils CST-UK are using in the Grenfell Tower Fire disaster include:- Chamomile Roman, Clary Sage, Elemi, Frankincense, Geranium, Grapefruit, Helichrysum (also known as Everlasting/Immortelle), Juniper, Lavender, Mandarin, Marjoram, Myrtle, Niaouli, Ravensara, Rhododendron, Rose, Sandalwood, Tangerine, Tea Tree, and Vetivert, along with some more unusual aromatherapy oils such as Fragonia, Katafray, Kunzea and Monarde.
In particular, these oils have been selected to help with extreme, acute, trauma and shock, and for respiratory support. I've listed some example blends below that would be particularly useful for Grenfell survivors, as well as anyone else suffering extreme feelings of shock:
To calm extreme shock/trauma:
Pop 2 drops of Clary Sage, 2 drops Helichrysum and 2 drops of Geranium essential oil on a tissue and inhale. Alternatively pop them into an aromatherapy inhaler, or diffuse them in an aromatherapy diffuser or candle burner.
To ease panic & depression:
Make up an aromatherapy inhaler with 2 drops Clary Sage, 1 drop Chamomile and 3 drops Rose and sniff as and when required.
For breathing support and to encourage cleansing of the lungs:
Make up and inhaler stick with 2 drops Lavender essential oil, 2 drops Myrtle and 2 drops Niaouli.
It is important to remember though, that aromatherapy blends are bespoke, depending on the person’s individual symptoms and circumstances. For serious conditions, such as cancer, pregnancy, history of miscarriage, hemorrhaging, blood pressure issues, kidney problems or if taking iron supplements, statins or blood thinners, or for those with allergies, please avoid any oils until you have sought the advice of your GP and a qualified Aromatherapist.
How to get involved with CST-UK
As well as donations like ours, if there’s one thing CST-UK can benefit from, it’s awareness, particularly with:
- Volunteer Therapists – so that they can get involved now or in the future – Jane encourages any of Base Formula’s customers to get involved and sign up if they want to help support disasters even if it's just in their local area.
- Grenfell Survivors – so they know where to come for complementary therapy support.
Facebook – Public Group: https://www.facebook.com/CompSupportTeamUK/
Facebook – Therapists’ Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/293457017732120/
Connection: Lifting Hearts Together
As someone who has worked with CST-UK, I ask that anyone who wants to get involved just simply connects with the group via social media – whether you are able to send donations, volunteer, or help grow awareness of what we are doing, we’d be so grateful. That’s why I had to tell this story: amidst all the negativity, sadness and fear, there is a shining light of positivity. Amongst so much pain, there is a wider message that there is a lot of love in the world making good things happen.
On my way back to the tube station, I walked with one of CST-UK’s absolutely delightful Homeopath volunteers, Nikki Redmond, who is also in charge of a charity working alongside CST-UK, called ‘Homeopaths Support’. We spent most of the journey in silence but, back at the tube station, something very special happened. Standing, waiting, neither of us spoke but, for the first time since we had both been down there, we both found ourselves able to properly look up at the tower, simply holding each other, emotionally, in the space of our connection. And that, right there, personifies the power of what CST-UK has created: connection – a safe space for survivors.
Read other articles by Nicole Barton