Does this topic seem out of place to you? I find that the average person who does not work in bodywork associates massage with a range of things from treating oneself for a special occasion, to working on a chronic pain problem to achieve results, to providing therapeutic maintenance to the muscles we use daily for years and years. Many of you have probably experienced massage in one or more of these capacities, but not all of you might know the benefits of massage during grief.
Grief is broader than dealing with loss from death; it can be experienced from any significant change in which you are losing something that has been a part of you or your life, even it if is moving onward and forward to something that is “better” in your mind. This can be a change of jobs, change of residence, shifting relationships as people grow and change, move, or have children and become less available. It can be giving up certain foods once you find your body doesn’t respond well to them. And of course, the most painful of all forms of grief is losing a loved one due to death. All of us experience grief as a natural process of life; it is vitally important that we acknowledge and feel our grief, in all its painful and shameless glory, to fully let go, heal, and move forward. Pent up grief manifests itself in many ways in the body, mind and spirit, and often gets expressed with anger when bottled up for too long. Grief demands that we let it have its say one way or another; best to let it have its due as you are experiencing your loss. This will not be easy nor will it be pleasant, but it is necessary for your overall health and well being.
Now that we are experiencing grief, what next? Many people have trouble balancing life responsibilities while allowing grief to take its course. Sometimes it’s small outbursts of emotions when you can sneak them in during your own private moments – crying in the car is a great emotional outlet; I’ve used this many times after significant losses, and didn’t mind so much when I had a long commute. Allowing yourself these expressions of emotions whenever you can will help you fully feel, experience, and ultimately move through your grief.
Massage is one of those outlets too, particularly when grief or trauma is fresh. Massage teams are often in place as part of emergency response after a tragedy such as a plane crash. After the Oklahoma City bombing, the state medical examiner observed that the massage therapists were “accomplishing more in 15 minutes than psychologists could in an hour or two” (Life, Aug. 8, 1997). How can that be? The need for touch is powerful, and it is often the most immediate need that we have after tragedy or loss. It allows us to take a break from life’s responsibilities and just feel for however long we are in session. We might even cry on the table or massage chair, and that’s not only okay, it’s good; it’s healing. The space of massage is always a safe place. You can be who you are, wherever your emotional state might be that day, that hour, that minute.
Massage is still beneficial when grief is not as fresh. As you have no doubt experienced, grief takes a long time to finally be on its way, waving goodbye to you from afar and wishing you well. Grief can feel like a long winter that just doesn’t want to let go, but Spring does eventually come. As you move through grief in all its stages that seem like forever, massage is always that safe space for you to just feel and be whoever and wherever you are at the moment. It helps you feel supported so that you can continue to move forward and survive. It answers that vital need for support through touch, while at the same time allowing you to be with your emotions, your mind, and your body.
Heidi Aschenbrenner, LMBT, CCT, BCTMB, and Member AOBTA, is the owner of Renu Massage, Energy & Bodywork specializing in Asian bodywork therapies and the Eastern healing arts. Heidi and her team of bodywork therapists, a Reiki master, and a Certified Personal Trainer, all strive to achieve balance in each session through the use of energy work incorporated into their bodywork therapies and have all been trained in Eastern healing techniques and cupping therapy. Renu also offers an infrared sauna from Sunlighten Saunas for deeper healing and detoxification after your session. For more information or to contact Heidi, please visit renumadison.com.