Spa BUSINESS: Easing the Loss

A Massachusetts spa owner finds a unique way to provide comfort to grief-stricken guests.

La Residencia Spa owner Jane Aransky

Although the relaxing effects of a massage or facial can help boost just about anyone’s spirits, those who have recently suffered the loss of a loved one may especially benefit from stress-reducing services. Unfortunately, these same people often view the experience as an unnecessary luxury, particularly after having faced hospital and funeral expenses.

Recognizing that those grieving are perhaps the most in need of spa treatments yet the least inclined to treat themselves, Jane Aransky, owner of La Residencia Spa in Newton Upper Falls, Massachusetts, established the Touching the Healing Heart Fund earlier this year. The fund provides complimentary spa treatments to those mourning the loss of a spouse, child, parent or sibling. To facilitate the process, Boston-area charities, hospices, places of worship and senior living homes recommend to Aransky potential clients who could benefit from a soothing massage or facial.

The experienced hands of La Residencia Spa employees aim to provide some comfort to grieving clients during their most difficult times. “Most people think of the spa as something that is more about beauty or esthetics, but the right kind of spa services can have a profound impact on the emotional health of the recipient,” says Aransky.

Touching the Healing Heart Fund is financed by monetary contributions, as well as donations of used electronics. For more information or to contribute to the organization, visit touchingthehealingheartfund.org. —Kevin Mathews

DAYSPA: What inspired you to launch the Touching the Healing Heart fund?
Jane Aransky: A friend of mine had lost her husband of 60 years, and instead of giving her flowers or cake, I gave her a gift certificate to get a facial with me. When she was ready to visit the spa a couple of months later, she looked so sad and grief-ridden, naturally. At that point in her life, the funeral was over, her children and friends had gone back to their regular lives, and she was kind of left alone to grieve. After I gave her a treatment, she was smiling and looked so amazing. Her daughter was there and couldn’t believe the transformation. I knew we had something here, and that this was something that could help many, many people.

How does your staff feel about the fund?
They love it and they’re all on the same page. Really, it’s just an extension of what we do every day. Of course, they are paid for their work, but some will say, ‘Take 20% off, I’m not going to take my whole fee.’ They don’t have to do that; that’s just coming from their own hearts. I had a massage therapist who worked on a client who had lost her baby, and the massage therapist said, ‘I love doing massages, but this was so much better than I ever expected.’ It’s called a ‘healer’s high,’ where you get a fabulous feeling from knowing that you’re helping somebody.

How do the grieving recipients respond to the spa treatments?
They say, ‘Thank you, thank you!’ A lot of them have never had massages before, and it’s just a transformation—you can see and feel it immediately. Can you imagine if you’re really full of grief and you get to relax and allow yourself to be pampered? Especially when you’ve lost your spouse, who isn’t there to touch you anymore? Who isn’t there to cuddle with?

Why is touch so important?
There’s ample evidence about massage and how it helps the body, by lowering blood pressure and reducing stress, for example. When you touch your own hand, you hardly feel it, but if someone else’s energy touches you—wow—it’s a whole world of difference. Being touched is not just an idea; it’s an experience.

It seems like you strive not just to meet your clients’ physical and esthetics needs, but their mental health needs as well.
Oh, yes. In 1998, I actually went back to school to get my masters in counseling because I knew that the intimacy of what we do is pretty interesting. You know how they say clients share everything with their hairdressers? The same thing happens in our industry, and I wanted to make sure any information, advice or compassion that I gave them would come from the right place, and would help and not hurt them. The education I received is so helpful now. I think it would be great if companies offered psychology seminars to people in the day spa industry to help them with that aspect of their businesses.

Are there any challenges to running the organization?
Fundraising is hard for me; I hate asking people for money. It takes time and effort. Plus, it’s not the best time to start new charitable initiatives, so I try to make it as comfortable a process as possible for people and keep it light. We’re planning a fundraising event at the spa that’ll be fun. Yes, people will pay money, but they’ll also get something in return.

What has been most rewarding for you throughout the Touching the Healing Heart Fund venture?
I’m a grandmom in this field, and at this point it feels so right to start giving back. People in our industry give all the time, but giving in this way is so much more profound. I’m hoping that other spas will take a look at this and see if they can do their own charitable thing for grieving people. We are healers, after all!