From the MASSAGE Magazine article titled, “How Massage Supports Grieving Clients,” by Don McCann, in the October 2008 issue. Article summary: Grief is a necessary part of life—and as a massage therapist, you are in a position to nurture and support clients as they go through the grieving process. 

As a massage therapist, you are not immune to having losses in your own life. If you work with elderly or hospice clients, loss of these people can trigger grieving.

Your grieving process will begin with the first reaction being shock, followed by the deeper grieving that occurs when the reality of the loss sets in.

Usually you are doing massages on your clients while going through your own grieving process. This creates special challenges for you during this time. You will have more stress in your own soft tissue, structural collapse within your body, and a shut-down breath process—all of which make functioning as a massage therapist more challenging.

Any period of grief is a difficult and challenging time, and your grieving process will last as long as necessary to complete the process. Having friends and family to talk with are a great support. If you feel like withdrawing and spending time by yourself, this is not a problem, and just one of the ways you grieve.

However, it is important that you do have others in your life for at least some time every day so you can observe your social reactions. Make sure you don’t become too depressed. If this happens, and you are too depressed to interact with others for more than a week, then it is advisable that you seek counseling.

Grieving is not a mental illness, and sometimes we get stuck and need the help of a trained professional.
Listed below are some of the activities you can use to stay centered and focused during this time. Hopefully these suggestions will help support you through the times that you experience grief.

1. Receive massages, especially those that will help restore structural support.

2. Do massages – the contact through your hands, focus of your breathing, and energy flow keep you in contact, open and feeling your emotions.

3. Do some stretching and/or yoga before doing massage.

4. Do breathing exercises – some of the yoga breathing exercises are extremely effective at this time.

5. Take extra time between massages to tune in on how you are feeling.

6. Get extra rest; don’t overwork.

7. Stay away from stressors and stress-producing situations.

8. Go for a run or walk, whichever works for you. This will mobilize your energy and be time alone away from others to tune in to yourself and process your feelings of the loss.

9. Eat a healthy diet.

10. Limit caffeine, as it is another stressor on your system, and limit alcohol, as it is a depressant.

—Don McCann