What Is Grief Massage℠: 7 Years Later PART 1
This 6 part blog series is based on an article I wrote in 2017 titled “What is Grief Massage: 7 Years Later” to reflect on the 7 year anniversary of www.griefmassage.org. This post, Part 1, reflects on feeling misunderstood and vulnerable when I starting to share this work with the world.
As you read, I encourage you to reflect on times in your own journey when you too feel fragile or tentative as you step into your calling and begin to speak out loud about it. -AJT
Linking Grief and Massage Therapy
When I first began developing this modality and speaking about Grief Massage (in 2008), it felt like a radical idea to even link the words “massage therapy” and “grief” in the same sentence.
The first time I gave a commencement address at a graduation ceremony for my alma mater, The Therapeutic Massage Training Institute in Charlotte, North Carolina (TMTI), I felt honored to be sharing my personal story of loss and healing with help from massage.
But, I also remember a sweet woman coming up to me after my talk and asking to hear more about “Grease Massage” – which was apparently what she “heard” when I referred to my work as “Grief Massage”.
Around that same time, one of my relatives called me on the phone and when she heard my voicemail message (which referred to my “Grief Massage” services), she too interpreted it as “Grease Massage”.
It’s funny, looking back now.
But at the time, I felt deeply discouraged because this important modality was bubbling up from my soul - rooted in my own very real experiences of loss and healing—and I wanted to share my work out loud but I was struggling express this vision with my spoken words.
Massage was a true sanctuary for me during my own times of grieving and I wanted to provide the safest, warmest sanctuary possible for others.
Calling my work Grief Massage just felt right. But it also sometimes felt like other people really weren’t hearing me. I.e. Sometimes people were just hearing “Grease Massage”.
I kept trying of course. I spoke at another graduation at TMTI. I presented information about my work at a local chapter of The Compassionate Friends (a wonderful support group for grieving parents).
But I was struggling with feeling heard and understood around this work. Another struggle at the time was the fact that speaking about Grief Massage sometimes felt vulnerable and embarrassing.
This work was deeply personal, and poured so directly from my heart and my own experiences, that I felt like I was allowing my listeners to read my diary when I spoke about it.
I couldn’t speak about Grief Massage without revealing my own loss journey. I couldn’t tell anyone else’s story when I shared this work. And sometimes, telling my own story was hard.
Read more about my journey in Part 2.