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  • Writer's pictureJames Hurst

Releasing the Weight of Grief: The Therapeutic Effects of Massage Therapy

Updated: May 30, 2023

Grief: A Personal and Exhausting Experience

Grief is a deeply personal and emotional experience that can manifest in various ways. It's a natural response to loss, whether it's the death of a loved one, a relationship breakdown, or a significant life change. While everyone grieves differently, one commonality is that the grieving process can be emotionally and physically exhausting. During this time, taking care of yourself is essential, and one way to do that is through massage therapy.

A black and white image of a hand pressed a window with it's raining outside. A somber image to represent the article around grief.

A Client's Story: Supporting Grief with Touch

As a massage therapist, I recently had the honour of treating a client who had just lost their partner. It was only a few days after the funeral and they were feeling very raw and exhausted from the experience, which also presented as acute lower back pain. The first thing that struck me about our session was the way when I opened the door to them, I just knew something terrible had happened. I could feel their vulnerability and the need for comfort in that moment of, 'hello'.

Grief is not a disorder, a disease or a sign of weakness. It is an emotional, physical and spiritual necessity, the price you pay for love. The only cure for grief is to grieve | E. Grollman

The Transformative Power of Touch

After spending some time talking through their experience which felt appropriate for them to be heard and seen after what was a shocking experience we moved to the massage itself. I found that my client was extremely receptive to touch but it took them some time to relax into the treatment, and it took a while before I could feel their body letting go of the tension and temporarily of that grief that they were holding onto. It was an incredibly moving experience to witness the transformative power of touch on someone who was experiencing such profound emotional pain.

As I worked on their body, I felt a connection that went beyond physical touch. I was providing a safe space for my client to let go of their emotions, and I could feel the trust they had in me to do so. It was an honour to be able to support them in that way.

Massage Therapy: Providing Comfort, Release, and Connection

Through my own personal and professional experiences, I have come to understand that massage can be an incredibly valuable tool in supporting those who are grieving. Massage can provide a sense of comfort and safety, help release tension and stress, improve sleep quality, and provide a sense of connection.

a female client receiving massage therapy treatment to their neck

Alleviating Physical Symptoms and Navigating Emotional Pain

Grief can manifest in physical symptoms, such as headaches, muscle tension, fatigue, and difficulty sleeping. These symptoms can exacerbate the emotional pain of grief, making it harder to cope. Massage can help alleviate these physical symptoms and provide a sense of relief, making it easier to navigate the emotional pain. Massage therapy can be a powerful way to reconnect the brain with the body, the emotion and the pain.

Massage can also provide a sense of connection, which can be essential for those who are grieving. Losing someone can be incredibly isolating, and it's common to feel disconnected from the world around us. Massage therapy can help provide a sense of human connection and provide a safe and supportive environment to feel heard and seen.

When I work with clients who are grieving, I find it important to be mindful of their unique experiences and needs. Everyone grieves differently, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to massage therapy anyway, let alone for grief. Some of my clients may find comfort in a gentle touch, while others may prefer a more firm touch to release tension. As a massage therapist, it's essential that I'm adaptable and responsive to my client's needs.

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