How to Help When Things Get Real

how to help when things get real

There’s been much made in the news about terrible things happening around the world, and rightly so. Families are displaced by wars, genocide goes unchecked in Asia and the middle east, and natural disasters cripple entire societies. When disasters like this strike, aid is organized, charities and religious groups scramble to the rescue.

But what about the smaller tragedies, those disasters that feel enormous and earth-shaking only to that one person or that handful of people you’re close to? The loss of a spouse through death or divorce, incarceration, separation from children, death of a loved one, violent crime, or even the loss of health or employment? Mental health problems can be simultaneously shaming and debilitating, with stigma driving the sufferers and their loved ones deeper into isolation.

When these things happen to someone you know, it’s hard to know what to do or what to say. The best most of us can do is politely offer help (knowing they won’t want to impose by actually asking us for anything), try to “be there” for them (whatever that means). We wish we could do more. We mean well. But we feel paralyzed by fear of doing the wrong thing, of maybe making things worse.

You can do something. It won’t change their life or make everything okay, but it also won’t be impossible for you to do, an they really will feel their burden being lightened, even if only a little. What follows are some suggestions to consider when someone you know has been through something traumatic or devastating.

All of these suggestions are just that, and you should use your own judgement to tailor these ideas to the circumstances.

Dancing hotdog
Give Hallmark the day off. Nobody really buys the schmalzy messages in overpriced gift-cards, anyway. But you’d be surprised what good a little laughter can do.

Send them something funny, something that might draw out a smile–a dancing hotdog GIF, a link to a cat video. But whatever you send, make it personal and private. Use a text message, Instagram, Facebook, whichever platform you prefer. Send one every day, or at least a few times a week. It lets them know you’re thinking about them without getting all sappy about it, and without drawing any possibly unwanted attention to their misfortune.

Treat them to some food. Sure, it’s cliché to bring a casserole to the doorstep. But clichés are clichés for a reason. Someone who’s going through something terrible may struggle to do the basics. Modulate your strategy to suit how close you are to the person, but it might be greatly appreciated if you can help with the small stuff.

Have a load of groceries or toiletries delivered to their home.

An Uber gift card, or a parking garage membership can make all the difference, especially when someone is facing frequent hospital trips or have some other crisis that’s making transportation more complicated for them. Even if all you got them was a small pre-paid gas card, the gesture could make a big difference.

It’s easier than ever to send care packages to cover the little necessities of life. It’s both a thoughtful gesture that lets the person know they’re not alone while also relieving some of their troubles.

Shut up
Try to resist the urge to offer advice or be the shoulder to cry on, be someone to vent/rage to, be the one to offer advice. Numbness is a defense strategy that shouldn’t be trifled with, and might result in the person pushing you away–possibly even violently.

Besides, this isn’t about you and your role, or how you see yourself. Make it about them and what they need. Make yourself available and be ready to respond to their needs without needing to be asked, and without drawing attention to the generosity of your offer. Just be present and responsive to what they need.

Be present in every sense and just listen to them. It’s amazing what people say when you just sit quietly and let them express whatever they need to say at their own pace. This is harder than it sounds, so bring some imaginary duct tape to put over your mouth.

Thoughts and Prayers
Now this one kind of is about you. Pray about them. Think about them. You can tell them you’re sending them thoughts and prayers if you want to, but don’t just say it. It’s better to do it and not say it, than to say it and not do it.

Pondering their difficult situation will increase your compassion for them in a deep and genuine way. You’ll be more emotionally responsive to their needs. Side benefit: exercising your compassion in this way could even make you a better person long-term.

Life is hard, as you’ve probably figured out by now. No matter how immaculate our own choices may be, bad things will happen, even to you. If you’re paying attention to the needs of those you love, and are attentive, that builds you crucial social capital–a social savings account of sorts. You’ll build your network of emergency responders of your own, and make you better prepared to survive the encounter when death knocks on your door.

Choose the good life.

Tom Gunn is the blog editor and marketing director for The Good Life Massage. You can hire him to help build your brand and reach your customers by emailing him at





Do you know your rights as a massage client?


Whether you’re a veteran of the message therapy experience or a novice, you should fully understand everything you have the right to expect from your providers. We like to call this the client’s bill of rights. Whether you come to see us, or get your massage from elsewhere, these are all things you have the right to expect.

You have the right …

To receive treatment from a qualified massage therapist licensed by the state. State licensing helps to ensure your safety, quality of service, and establishes legal and ethical accountability. All the therapists at The Good Life Massage are licensed by the State of Washington. License numbers are published on our website for each therapist, and we can produce a copy of their licenses on demand.

To receive all the benefits of massage, understanding the scope of massage as a medical treatment. Massage therapy is not a cure-all. It is for general wellness purposes, and this includes relief from muscular tension or spasms, improved flexibility, promotion of circulation of the blood and lymph, and stress reduction.

To be touched only on the areas you specify, excluding genitals or breast tissue.

To receive treatment based on health care information you volunteer. We do not receive or keep complete medical records of our clients, so, with few exceptions, all the information we have about your health condition comes directly from you. This includes physical and mental health. Remember that communication is essential to a good massage experience.

To end the massage session at any time, for any reason. If anything about the session is causing you pain or makes you uncomfortable, you can stop it.

To have any and all treatments and modalities explained to you. If there’s something about your treatment you have questions about, you deserve answers to those in a way that you can understand. We’re always happy to answer any questions you may have.

To refuse any stroke, method, or modality used by your therapist. Every aspect of your treatment is meant to be completed only with your consent, and can be customized to your liking.

To be informed if your treatment is a part of any study or experimentation. You also have the right to refuse to participate in any experimentation or research. We don’t conduct any research in our clinic at this time, but if we did, we would do anything but keep it a secret.

To confidentiality and privacy. Our client list is kept confidential, and any personal or health care information you provide us is secure. Our record keeping practices are fully compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

To be treated fairly and humanely, regardless of nationality, sexual orientation, body type, disability, gender identity, race, religion, or political persuasion. The Good Life Massage is fully ADA compliant and wheelchair accessible. Our top priority is to create a healing space for our clients where they feel safe and welcome, regardless of any of these factors. In fact, some of you may have noticed some of our therapists wearing safety pins on their uniforms. This is just another sign of that commitment to inclusiveness and fairness.

Do you have any questions about this list? We’d love to hear from you. Feel free to comment on this post or social media. If you’d prefer to keep it private, our door is always open. You can contact us by phone or email with your questions.


Have you been in to see us, and enjoyed your experience? Please leave a review online, mentioning your therapist by name. This helps other clients find the therapist most suited to them.

As with everything on this blog, none of this information should be construed as medical advice or care. The employees of The Good Life Massage, including the writers of this blog, are not medical doctors. Consult with your physician before making any changes to improve your health.

Tom Gunn is a freelance writer and social media manager. He is also the marketing director at The Good Life Massage. To hire him, or to see more of his work, please visit, or follow him on Twitter, @elmanoroboto

A Few Words That Could Make or Break Your Massage Experience

When you’re on the massage table, your mind should be drifting as the cares of your week get rubbed away and your muscles are soothed. That’s the optimal experience. But it doesn’t always turn out this way.

Using your words with a massage therapist can mean the difference between having a soothing, rejuvenating experience and paying for an hour of mild torture.Use Your Words

Not all therapists are perfectly suited to every person. All our therapists make an effort to listen carefully and are sensitive to cues that may indicate you’re not having a good experience. They’ve been trained to read your body like a book.

Having said that, your massage therapist isn’t a mind reader. You need to talk to them about your experience at every stage in order to ensure you’re having the best possible experience.

From the beginning
Before you’re left to disrobe to your comfort level and situate yourself under the sheets, your therapist will ask you what you want worked on, and what areas are troubling you most.

Two Women Shaking Hands

This is also a time to express your personal preferences. Is there something you’ve found you really like in a massage? Maybe you really like your head and face worked on. Maybe your feet are sensitive and you want them worked through the sheets. Say so at the beginning! Speaking up early allows your therapist to customize your experience and plan the time of your session so that you have the best possible experience.

While your therapist is working on you, keep the lines of communication open. If something isn’t going the way you’d like, say so! The therapist is more than willing to accommodate what their clients want. Yet so few people speak up. Maybe they’re afraid of saying the wrong thing and hurting someone’s feelings. Maybe they think that it would be a bad time to bring it up.

That couldn’t be more wrong. Your massage therapists will not be offended if you speak up and politely let them know you need your experience to change.

For example, saying something like:

“Could you use a little more/less pressure there, please?”


“That stroke is really starting to chafe. Do you think you could change it up?”

…these are things your therapist wants to hear!

Far from creating an awkward feeling in the massage, your therapist will be relieved to know what they need to do to serve you best.

What’s really awkward is saying nothing in the name of being nice, all while inwardly cringing as you wonder how much time is left … on a massage you’re paying for!

If what your therapist is doing just isn’t working, you do yourself and them a favor by saying so.

Chit chat
There’s also nothing wrong with a little conversation on the massage table. If a little small talk on the table would help you enjoy your massage, our threapists will be happy to oblige.

If, however, you prefer to enjoy the music, the ambient sounds, or the mystery of silence, that’s perfectly fine, too. It’s your massage, so do yourself a favor and let us know what we can do to make it great.

What should be said when all is done?
After your session, there are still more opportunities to communicate with your therapist. It’s always nice to say thank you. Our therapists love to hear a sincere compliment or kind word about their work.

If you’ve been worked on by someone you’re planning to see again, let them know what you liked about your session and what maybe could have been better. Your massage therapist is required by law to make notes on what was done in each massage, and they consult these notes when you come back for another visit, even if you had someone else work on you previously.

Your verbal feedback can be crucial. This gives your therapist the opportunity to make a note of your feedback, which will help ensure you have a good experience in the next session.

We don’t bite
Our therapists are friendly and open to feedback or constructive criticism. You might feel more comfortable talking to your therapist if you do a little research on our site and get to know them before you come in. Not only do we have brief biographies on our website, we also have published interviews with each of them on this blog.

So, next time you come in, do yourself a favor–be ready to open up and let us know what we can do to make your massage a memorable one.

Tom Gunn is the marketing director and blog editor at The Good Life Massage. You can follow him on Twitter @tomgunnpoet.