The Grief Massage℠ Philosophy + Approach
Grief Massage is based on the idea that loss affects people mentally, emotionally and physically.
When a human being experiences a significant loss, there can be a ripple effect out into every part of their life.
The effects of loss - including effects that ripple out to the body- are often tied to the human stress response.
Our Grief Massage philosophy proposes that the loss itself (and loss reminders or triggers) can be perceived as stressors by the body - - stressors that cannot be easily resolved.
We believe that when a loss affects the body by triggering the stress response state, there can be uncomfortable everyday effects like sleep disruptions, changes in eating habits, and even suppression of the immune system, resulting in greater vulnerability to colds, flu or other illnesses.
Being in the stress state can also cause headaches, sore neck and shoulders, a tight clenched jaw, and other symptoms.
A grieving person whose body has responded by going into the stress state would often like nothing more than to relax.
But it isn’t easy to shift from a stress state to a relaxed state when carrying a significant loss.
This is because, on top of the physical stress symptoms that a grieving person is coping with, there are also mental effects (trying to understand and integrate the loss) and emotional effects (a “roller coaster” of feeling states) that require a great deal of energy to live with.
Although a grieving person would benefit on many levels from relaxation, it can be difficult to find ways to relax.
With the body, mind and emotions reacting to the loss, it can feel impossible to find a way to slip out of the stress state.
Our Grief Massage approach is to offer “Assisted Relaxation” - - quite simply, to provide assistance in slipping out of the stress state for a while so that restoration can occur on a physical level.
To allow for this “Assisted Relaxation” to occur, our Grief Massage approach focuses on creating conditions for a grieving person to feel safe - not only on a mental and emotional level, but also on a very deep physical level.
We believe that the physical body must sense true safety in order for a shift from the stress state to the relaxation state to be possible.
To facilitate a truly safe environment and to assist a grieving client with relaxation, the Grief Massage approach completely focuses on using relaxation techniques and gentle, comfortable pressure.
A Unique Approach
The Grief Massage approach is quite different from a traditional massage approach because we do not try to “fix” anything about the physical body and we do not focus on releasing muscle tension, working out knots, or improving range of motion.
We do not typically use deep pressure. We differ from traditional massage in this way because the intention of our service is so different.
To create the sense of true safety that is necessary for a shift from the stress state to the relaxation state, the Grief Massage approach typically limits massage to areas that the body will perceive as most safe - - we limit the massage to face, scalp, neck, shoulders, back, arms, hands, lower legs and feet.
We also offer the option of remaining clothed and can adapt the relaxation techniques used in Grief Massage to work over clothing.
Solely focusing on relaxation and creating a safe experience for grieving clients makes the Grief Massage experience unique.
We support grieving clients by building an environment of safety for the session and by using relaxation techniques to address the areas of the body that will feel safe and comforting to each client.
The Institute for Grief Massage Inc.℠ aims to create a kinder, gentler world for grieving people though massage therapy.
The need for Grief Massage, and for education on how to be grief-sensitive within a massage therapy context, is great. There is great potential for the field of massage therapy to evolve to meet the physical relaxation needs of grieving people in the coming decades.
Our hope is that in the future, Grief Massage will be a standard form of grief support, and that the physical relaxation needs of grieving people will be widely known and understood.
How We Will Do It
To aid in the shift toward greater awareness of the benefits of “Assisted Relaxation” through approaches such as Grief Massage, The Institute for Grief Massage Inc. provides sensitive, creative, empathetic, high quality education for massage therapists who want to learn our Grief Massage philosophy and approach. We also offer training on grief-related topics for massage therapists who want to increase their general grief sensitivity.
Why It Matters
By serving grief oriented massage therapists, we serve those who grieve.
And by empowering the massage therapists who come to us for education on grief and Grief Massage, we create a ripple effect of compassion out into the world, touching all those grieving clients whose lives our Grief Massage trainees will touch one day.
Join us in our mission, if you feel called to make a difference with Grief Massage.