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Grief as movement as medicine


Movement in the Deschutes River - Bend, OR

Sunday was Mother’s Day. My mother passed away six years ago now, and every Mother’s Day I seem to forget how hard it is going to be. I remembered a few days beforehand, rationally – oh yeah, it might be hard. But the day of, it was like a faucet got turned on and just wouldn’t shut off. I literally couldn’t stop crying. Grief swept me raw, again, as it has done many times over the years since my mother’s death. Was it just my own grief? Was it also collective grief at the state of the world, the violence taking so many forms, the uncertainty, the collapse around us? I stopped trying to understand why and just let it happen, crying on shoulders, receiving hugs, flowers, companionship, support, and the healing gift of a few good nights’ sleep and time in the woods to just be. Grief is movement. It’s medicine, too. And this week, a beautiful story came through my inbox from a dear friend from this blog about collective grief: A story from Elena Barnabé: “Grandma how do you deal with pain?” She answers, “With your hands, dear. When you do it with your mind, the pain hardens even more.” “With your hands, grandma?” “Yes, yes. Our hands are the antennas of our soul. When you move them by sewing, cooking, painting, touching the earth or sinking it into the earth, they send signals of caring to the deepest part of you and your soul calms down.”

Yes, moving our hands. Touching the soul, kneading dough, holding the hand of another, reaching out, flowing freely through space. Approaching grief, collective or personal, through the four lenses the author of this blog suggests, is a place to start. Grief is movement within. Grief, when given patience space to unfold can be healing, too. We all carry various forms of grief, hidden beneath layers or right on the surface. Movement is one way to help the grief move through us. I recently added a lot more movement into my life. I went from a few years of remote coaching to more of a balanced approach to my business involving coaching (remote) and massage therapy (in-person). Something that held me back from embracing my role as a massage therapist in recent years was pain. I had a chronic shoulder injury that had been plaguing me for five+ years, and certain activities, especially giving massages, exasperated the injury. I went to physical therapy and found some relief but it didn’t get to the core of the problem. The Western medicine approach and doctors suggested surgery, and I considered it. I decided to try one last holistic approach and ended up working with an orthopedic acupuncturist who both helped me strengthen my rotator cuff muscles and rebuild the relationship between my brain and my muscles. Voila! The right support for both muscles and my nervous system worked. Whereas 6 months ago, I couldn’t give a one-hour massage without being in pain, I’m now in a place that feels almost miraculous – relatively pain-free, more active than I’ve been in maybe a decade, and enjoying my newfound feeling of strength and mobility. Starting to see movement – whether from one type of therapy to another, or actual physical movement – as medicine, is something new to me. I think my approach in the past has always been – oh, I feel pain? I’m going to stop doing that thing that causes the pain, and then the pain goes away. This belief has started to shift for me personally as a result of my own pain experience, and then I came across this quote in an article recently: “It is no coincidence that one recommendation shows up in the literature again and again: The best way to deal with pain is to continue to be active, in whatever ways are feasible, and to avoid the trap of immobility.” - David Lobenstine, “How to work with Pain, Not Against it” – ABMP Massage & Bodywork Issue

Hmm. The best way to deal with pain is to continue to be active? These concepts of movement, immobility and pain have been working their way through my system since I read them last night, with much fruit to bear. Of course, I’m thinking not just about physical pain and movement, but emotional and spiritual pain, and grief as movement, too. Movement, like a flowing river. All of a sudden, maybe even just in very small ways, there’s possibility again. Maybe things feel slightly lighter. There’s more mobility, internally and externally. Different possibilities, maybe ones you didn’t expect. Whether this shows up for you as emotional pain, physical pain, or some complex combination of the two, which is very common, here’s a question you can ask yourself: what movement could I add into my week? What might be ready to shift? Do I need to shift something myself, or do I need to ask for help, or for someone else to shift something? Where does my intuition tell me I should step next? What is leading me forward? May your days have more movement to them, in whatever ways feel best.