As many of you know, in early September, my mom passed away after a crazy three year battle with lung cancer. She was diagnosed in September of 2013, a week after I sprung the news of her first grand baby on the way. Upon her first diagnosis, they gave her 6 months to live. She was desperately worried about not being able to see my son’s birth. Here she is holding him about an hour after he was born.
She was able to see her grandson and watch him grow to be close to two and half. She was able to see him walk and talk (a little) and share some serious love with him! He affectionately called her “nee nee” which she adored. During the 3 years she maintained her life, easy is not what I would call her experience. Three separate times, the doctor came back with some really bad news, again giving her only months. And miraculously she pulled through. In that time, I was there with here along the way, helping her make choices. We planned a surprise birthday party for her. We even planned a seriously quick wedding ceremony so she could be involved. People rallied, people gave time, and money, and energy to provide some very special events for her. She loved and reveled in every one of them. The further along time crept, the impending reality of the situation always hung overhead. She was going to die, we just weren’t sure when, or even what that would look like. She and I had many soul sharing sessions where she divulged some really raw thoughts that scared her. I’m so grateful for those conversations but gosh, they were hard. Presence, was the only thing that got us through those conversations. Being completely 100% present. Raw. Real. Emotion. Your mother is someone who, for so long, takes care of you, it’s difficult to think about having to take care of her in that capacity.
In April 2016, my husband and I made a tough decision. We decided we were going to have another baby. My mom was pretty stable at that point but her death was something we heavily considered in this decision. I was worried she would die during my pregnancy or close to the birth. My fear, unfortunately became a reality, she died when I was 24 weeks pregnant. The amount of emotion and grief I have experienced in now both of my pregnancies is intense. With my first born, it was a lot of worry with her first diagnosis. With my second, it was that last awful news I received regarding her condition and her death and the grief.
Grief, I believe, is a life long process. This doesn’t mean it’s as intense as it once was or that it stays as intense. I’ve been studying something I like to call, “conscious grieving” for awhile now. This whole time I’ve been trusting that it will help me through her actual death and the time after. At the point of me writing this, she’s been gone for almost a month now. Every day is different. Some days I’m truly relieved. Some days I miss her so much it hurts. Conscious grieving will never be sugar coating it. I will never tell you I’m ok when I’m really not. I’ve found that sometimes I could cry at the mention of anything emotional but if you ask me how I am, I will simply say, “it’s not a good day and I don’t feel like talking about it.” Or maybe I do feel like talking about it, and I hope you’re ready for some real pouring out of feelings. Another aspect of conscious grieving is being present to where you are and the intention of the space. I would never bring my “stuff” to the healing space of massage. That is the space for you to bring your stuff. I receive my own therapy and my own massage for that to be taken care of.
Speaking of taking care of your own things. Another aspect of this grief process that somewhat surprised me was taking care of other people. This whole time, I imagined taking care of myself through grieving my mom. I had no idea that I would play such a key role in others grief process. Some of my moms friends, needed to know I was ok. It was as if they were ok as long as I was ok. This has been sweet and nurturing. Some of my other family members surprised me by how they processed what they needed. Grief creeps out in ugly ways sometimes. This is why people tell you to make sure you’re taking care of yourself. Do you what you need to. Grieve. Cry. Scream. Sing. Pray. Whatever it is you need. Do what is important to you. Presence ensures you are doing what you need to and not transfering your grief onto others in a way that is hurtful.
I have always been one to process emotions physically. It’s no surprise massage therapy is my passion. When I was younger, if I were happy, I would dance. If I were sad, I would dance. Dancing and moving physically is definitely my outlet and my creative expression. I figured this out early which has been really good for me. I always encourage everyone to figure out the way they express themselves, because it’s different for everyone. Because I interpret the world physically, I also interpret emotions physically. I’ve also struggled with anxiety and a few bouts of depression in my days. Anxiety has become my comfortable friend. Ya know, the friend you’re not really sure why you hang out with anymore but there’s just some reason you call them up? Don’t be confused though, I’d love to kick the habit, it’s no fun. Anxiety wakes me up in the middle of the night just to say hello which leaves me bewildered and exhausted. I’ve learned to manage my anxiety through a mixture of essential oils, mantras, massage, and yoga poses. As long as I stay in management mode, we rarely mingle anymore. Being present to the creeping in of anxiety and then the attack of my efforts, we usually stay pretty civil. It’s only until we have a hormonal imbalance that brings anxiety really close. This is something I’ve also learned that anxiety, while seemingly emotional and controllable, sometimes is merely the chemicals dancing in your head which requires some intervention from a medical professional. There was a time when I learned my thyroid was under producing and the main symptom, was consistent anxiety attacks waking me in the night. I would wake up my husband and have him push on my muscles to relieve some of the pressure the attack was causing. That was when I learned medical intervention is important. After managing my thyroid, I could return to some of the more holistic approaches that worked for me in the past. Touch is still a very important part of my regimen. I receive a massage once a week and when I do, my anxiety stays at bay. When I miss a week, I feel the anxiety almost stuck in my muscles. It’s like the massage (and the intention of the massage) squeezes all of the ick out of me so there’s nothing left for anxiety to cling to. Receiving a massage and giving a massage are very different intentions. So while I’m giving plenty of touch to others throughout the week and there is a bit of healing that happens for me during those times, there is another intention when I’m receiving massage.
In so many ways, Massage therapy has saved me during this grief time of my life. When my mom first passed, returning to the studio was my lifeline. Returning to a healthy way of processing emotions was keeping me grounded. Providing a relaxing space for you was feeding my soul and giving me purpose. When I receive massage, my anxiety is managed and balanced. Touch is our access to freedom, to joy, to one another. Go out there and get a massage! Find a modality and therapist that you jive with and you feel comfortable letting go. I truly believe the world would be a much better place if we all just learned to let go of what was weighing us down.
At Sole Shine, we’re happy to provide a space for you to release, process, relax, and let go of what binds you. Call us for a free consultation to see how we can help.
With Deepest Gratitude,
Sara Newberry, LMT, NCTMB