What is Grief Massage℠: 7 Years Later Part 5
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. Find Part 1 here, Part 2 here, Part 3 here and Part 4 here. This post, Part 5, reflects on how my work wasn’t “finished” once I created my initial pilot course and launched it into the world. I was asked to continue to grow and let the course evolve.
As you read, I encourage you to reflect on the ways in which life has asked you to continue to engage with your calling. How have you been asked to continue to grow and evolve in your work? How has life shown you that your calling is not a “one and done” endeavor? -AJT
Part of me felt that my mission was accomplished when I sent my online course out into the world, sharing it with any massage therapist who had interest in Grief Massage.
It was incredibly satisfying to know that the ideas could never die now – no matter what might happen to me personally.
But, over time I realized that there was a lack of personal connection with many of the massage therapists who took my course.
Sometimes I never heard from students again – and I had no idea how they were using the information I had shared on Grief Massage. Other times, my own time constraints (i.e. difficulty balancing my school demands with keeping on top of the Grief Massage course emails) caused me to lose touch with students.
Wanting to Feel More Connected
I knew my work was out there, but I didn’t feel connected to how it was impacting others.
That feeling that I had let the world read my diary surfaced from time to time. I knew it was worth it, because I was called to share Grief Massage with the world, but I found myself (again) in a very vulnerable position.
Then, in 2014, I taught my Grief Massage course live in Charlotte, and I realized that the personal connection of a small group was much more conducive to the spirit of the information. I still felt vulnerable, but I also felt connected.
I really learned a great deal from teaching my class live – and I soon applied with the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) to teach the live course as an Approved Provider. In June 2014 (near the four year anniversary of this website), I received approval and became Approved Provider #521. Then in October 2014, I incorporated the Institute for Grief Massage℠ and made my commitment to teaching this work official.
The Power of Teaching Small Groups
When my busy schedule as an undergraduate psychology student allowed, I offered the class in Charlotte - deeply humbled by the fact that many of the massage therapists who registered for the live class were willing to travel from out of state.
And, each time I taught the class live and connected face-to-face with the massage therapists who wanted to learn about Grief Massage, I was able to go deeper and deeper.
I was growing in my ability to teach, to create a safe and nurturing classroom space, to balance the expression of my personal experience with objective data, and to create an unforgettable hands-on experience for my students.
Letting the Course Evolve
At the same time, as I continued with my undergraduate psychology studies, I developed an interest in public health and added it as a minor. At every possible opportunity, I incorporated grief and loss into my projects, papers, and research.
I knew that my undergraduate studies were strengthening my ability to teach my Grief Massage course, and as time went on, I slowly incorporated more and more information (especially relevant public health and psychology research) into how I taught the course.
By the time I graduated summa cum laude in May 2017, I had conducted an independent research project on the effects of humility and death anxiety on responsiveness to the bereaved, as well as a year-long senior thesis/literature review on the effects of grief on the body.
I had also expanded my live in-person Grief Massage class into a Skype course (teaching massage therapists live, one-on-one or in small groups, in a series of five 2 hour classes).
Amazingly, my undergraduate studies in psychology had fed into my Grief Massage teaching, and at the same time, my calling to share Grief Massage with the world had been at the root of my academic studies.
Twin passions truly fueled my life and work from 2014 to 2017.
Learn more about my journey in Part 6.