Music What You Know About Rolling Down In The Deep Grief Massage

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Grief Massage

I often go to Maine to relax and soak up the beautiful scenery, it’s my natural therapy. Walking along the ocean and cliffs with the sound of the waves lapping on the beach makes me feel like time is nothing and I could walk all day. I go on sunrise and sunset hunting and photography trips to find the most interesting rocks, shells, rocks, flowers and water droplets hanging from the tips of leaves. To make the trip even more special, there are always opportunities to meet up with friends.

Our journey took a sudden turn this year when a dear friend’s husband passed away. Now to go to Maine was to help relax and be there to help in any way I could. All the compassionate care I learned as an oncology massage therapist was now being tested on a more personal level. To see such sorrow, I wanted to help as much as I could and say the right thing at the right time. I knew I was only trained to listen, no contact, no offer to feel better day by day or even month by month. During my stay with him, I took all the tools out of my box to render compassionate assistance; hugging, sitting quietly, trying hard not to say anything insensitive. He also quickly remembered the importance of serving small portions of food.

It’s amazing how quickly I can assess the kitchen and get all the ingredients to make chicken soup. Making soup satisfied my need to do something useful. The smell of the kitchen reminds him that he needs to eat. Freezing small amounts that I would eat after I was gone made it easy to go. I quickly realized that I would get the drive; Unable to concentrate, engage in mindless conversations to distract yourself, make tough phone calls, and go to help with difficult meetings.

When I offered my friend a chair massage, I should have realized that she might decline, but she accepted the offer and I created a comfortable place for her to sit. I put my hand on her back and let my breath connect with my hand. I knew I was doing more than just “holding” him, I was trying to help him hold it, holding it all together without falling apart, holding my friend in the palm of his hand. I can easily explain the calming response to a room full of massage therapists; I understand how gentle touch has a positive effect on the vagus nerve. When I was with my friend, I witnessed so much grief that I didn’t know if I could heal the trauma that was causing her to sleep, eat, relax, think rationally, and make no decisions. As I massaged her back, I prayed that I could feel her breath relax, her shoulders continue to drop, and she let out a deep sigh of physical and emotional tension.

We were silent and I knew that grief created the tension I was feeling. He complained of pain in his neck and shoulders from past surgeries, which contributed to increased muscle tension. I went up and down her back, finding the spots where my hands needed warmth next to her back. My methods were to gently squeeze from the shoulders to the back in a rhythmic manner that seemed to ease her breathing. The massage lasted about 15 minutes. It became clear that the changes I was experiencing on the outside were affecting me on the inside as well. I noticed her breathing lighten up and within minutes I noticed her shoulders loosening up. This is something that I am very familiar with, helping with cancer. This time I wanted to treat my friend with compassion. We both ended up calling her massages “grief massages”.

It was so hard to leave that I knew I had to do something to keep him “on my mind” and we would stay connected long distance. He sent her nature photos every morning and promised to stay in touch for a year. A way to connect with beautiful photography that I think about. It’s a reminder that the grief she’s living with isn’t going to end anytime soon, and I’ll respect and be willing to listen to her get back on her feet and move on with her life without a husband.

Tips for a simple massage at home

  1. Comfort is important to both of you. Have the person doing the massage sit at the kitchen table and rest their hands on a pillow. Sit behind them to make sure they are comfortable.
  2. It’s about a gentle touch and a simple squeeze. This is not a deep fix.
  3. Use music to facilitate a simple rhythm that allows you to relax your arms and move your muscles up and down your spine.
  4. Squeeze the shoulder a little at the base of the neck. Feel as if you are helping to squeeze and “hold” the head.
  5. Limit to 15 minutes.
  6. Repeat as many times as possible and they will accept.

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