What is Grief Support Massage?
Grief can show up in our lives when any life-changing event occurs. The loss of a loved one is the first thing we think of; but it can also be caused by the loss of a job, end of a relationship, a change in lifestyle, or diagnosis regarding health either personally or of a loved one.
Grief can often feel like a very intense and lonely process. Not only is it extremely taxing mentally but it also has an adverse effect on our physical well being. Under high stress, our body goes into survival mode; fight or flight. This can lead to insomnia, body aches, frequent headaches, and lower the immune system causing illness. Sometimes it can be hard to see the relation of our physical symptoms to our grieving; even more so what to do about it. This is where massage comes in.
Although nothing can take away the pain of our loss, massage can help alleviate the physical ailments that come along with the grieving process. Gentle and/or therapeutic touch helps the body switch from survival mode to a more relaxed state, helping to relieve the tight sore muscles and allowing the body to restore balance. Sometimes, just having someone there to take care of you can bring comfort.
Each session is tailored to fit the specific needs of the individual at that moment. The treatment can be provided fully clothed (recommending loose fitting comfortable clothes) with the use of a gentle comforting touch. Oil would be used on the exposed parts of the body. It can also be treated as a more typical massage, where the client gets undressed and draped with sheets and blankets. A more therapeutic touch can be used on the tight and sore areas along with a gentler touch everywhere else.
The purpose of this treatment is to provide a safe space to honor the broken-heart while taking care of the physical self. There are no expectations to feel better or to process these feelings. It's a safe environment to just be, yet not be alone. If an emotional release should occur, it will be treated with the utmost respect and allowed to flow freely. This is to provide that moment you need for yourself, whatever that should look like.
It has been quite the journey to arrive at this place in my career. By age 27 I had lost both of my parents. Learning to deal and cope with grief has been a struggle all in itself. I thought grief was something that had an end. That at some point I would find "closure". As time has passed, I have found that it just evolves. I can smile a little more when I think of them and cry a little less. But all those special moments in my life have a bitter-sweetness to them. I'm always going to miss their physical presence and wish they were here.
I was already working as a massage therapist when each of my parents passed. It wasn't until I lost my dad (3 yrs after my mom) that I thought to use massage therapy as part of my healing. He became sick unexpectedly and spent the last 5 months of his life in and out of hospitals. I was pregnant with my first child at the time and was doing all I could to try to help. My days were filled with endless worry and I always had my phone in hand. 2 months after the birth of my son, he was put on life support and the decision had to be made. The hardest decision I have ever had to make. I held his hand as he took his last breath.
The weeks after are just a blur. I was just functioning in survival mode, as I had been for several months. I had a gift certificate for a massage I had been holding onto for months. My friend insisted I use it. I really had no desire but knew my body needed it. So I made myself do it. I had been under such high stress for so long I had forgotten how to relax. I didn't realize how much tension I was holding onto until I laid on that table. For the first time in what felt like forever, I was able to just shut down for a moment.
I didn't realize it until much later, but this experience is what inspired me to specialize in Grief Support Massage. It was something I didn't realize I needed at that time. Just being able to have that moment made such a huge difference for me. I was finally able to switch out of survival mode and begin to process everything that had happened. By taking care of my physical self, I was able to start working on my emotional self.