Grief can be all-consuming, a darkness that while initially feels horrible can actually become a crutch & an all too familiar blanket to keep out others & life. Knowing the very real pangs of grief & the weird pull it can have on you, I have studied it & have tried to understand it on many levels. I also now see it in many others & have made it part of my work with others. Joanie is one of many of those I have regularly tried to assist over the last three or so years. Joanie has lived through & past many loved ones – most notably are both of her parents who she lived with since childhood & who died within a year of each other, two very close friends died after suffering long battles with cancer, a brother died suddenly in a car accident, & then her closest companion for many years, her dog died. Joanie was referred to me for massage & when we initially talked she complained of a very sore neck, back, & chest. She also said she had frequent stomach issues, including a tightness & insatiable gnawing. We agreed to meet at her house for her first session… I later found out that Joanie hadn’t left her house in weeks other than to go to the grocery store, which she only frequented late at night or very early in the morning when the chance of running into others was slim. She easily recognized that she was sad & was purposefully staying away from others even to the point of shunning others’ offers of help. And gradually, Joanie admitted that she liked the aloneness & even the sadness, as it had become a part of who she now was & she felt safe in this. Our “massage appointments” gradually included lunch, & then laughter & discussions about all kinds of things came in. At one point, Joanie kind of timidly called me her friend & not just her massage therapist to which I smiled & thanked her & called her my friend, too. She began sleeping more & just at night, cleaned her house a bit more, wore different clothes on our scheduled days, & started preparing new foods for me to try. And she stopped complaining about her neck, back, & stomach so much. One day she called me asking if I knew someone she could help, maybe doing errands or helping around the house. I was thrilled she was asking, as I had shared several times how helping others helped me tremendously when I was at my very saddest. I promised to think of someone & get back to her but before I could, Joanie stopped by my home one day….. a huge surprise for me, as I had never seen her just spontaneously go out! She was so excited because a neighbor had come by the other day to ask how she should trim her mango tree, which led to Joanie going over to her yard & not only trimming the tree but also giving her neighbor pointers on her papaya tree & several other bushes. Joanie laughingly complained to me that the yard was such a mess & there was so much to do, it might take her a month to fix it all! The next week, Joanie called me to apologetically cancel our regular appointment. She had forgotten about it & booked herself with her neighbor… who was taking her out to lunch to thank her for her help. I responded that I was thrilled for her & asked how she was feeling. Joanie complained loudly how sore her neck & back were but then added with a laugh that it was a “very good sore”. Joanie has since joined the local senior center where she is taking various classes. She also offers her yard service to those she meets there & it seems many take her up on her offer. She tells them all they must pay her with lunch. Sometimes we still meet for lunch (when she has the time!). At one recent lunch, she told me that she now “just misses” everyone she has lost but likes better those new people she has in her life. And then she complained again about all the demands on her from others & how sore she was!!