When coping with the loss of a loved one, it can be difficult to imagine any ‘solution’ that can help you mend your soul, without neglecting what you have experienced and pushing those emotions away. Travel is lauded as a greatly revealing experience particularly for the bereaved, and we want to explore why that is so, and how travel can heal grief for our beloved readers.
One of the most freeing parts of travelling while in grief is that your daily routine is completely erased. A trip as short as a week can gently pull you away from the mundane goings on of office life and weekday slog and bring you closer to a true self that invited healing in. You will never be the same after loss, but who wants to be? Pulling yourself out of your comfort zone in a faraway place can help you to realise that this new path can be travelled, albeit with tears and transformation, if you only give yourself the chance to. Travelling not only moves you physically, but moves you to a new place within yourself, and it is in that place that the best and worst of grief are experienced.
Grief therapist Claire Bidwell Smith says that any object or experience that can help a grieving person feel connected to their loved one can offer an enormous sense of relief. Travelling allows you to remove yourself from the physical reminders of your loved one’s passing and instead, connect with their spirit.
Consider travelling to a location that exemplifies your loved one’s spirit or captures a scene they loved the most, such as the seaside or an inland mountainous adventure. Activities you embark on may give you renewed energy, vigour and zest, and may also cause you to unravel and cry right there on the spot. Preferably, both will happen, and this represents your body, mind and soul connecting in a raw and healing way.
When wondering how travelling can heal grief, consider this: removing yourself physically from the dreary humdrum of your daily life is simultaneously drawing your mind away from those ticked boxes and closed spaces and towards an open mental plane. That open headspace is yours to unleash the sadness, experience it fully and be at one with it. That said, it also offers timeous distractions in the form of small decisions, such as what road to take, what hiking shoes to wear, what to have for lunch at that tiny, undiscovered café.
Clinical psychologist Dr Robert Gangi says, “Distractions are a necessary part of coping with any traumatic loss. No one can live in either sadness or escape all of the time. Adapting to this new world is a large-scale project that requires both. The process of grief is one of navigating these extremes and the range of everything in between.”
It is well known that our sense of self is pieced together from myriad experiences, behaviours and cues that have accumulated over the years, with new revelations of your inner workings often coinciding with major events. Travel is largely enjoyable because it removes all the cues and familiarities of your everyday life – including those that box in your sense of self – and gives you the freedom to create a new self. Dr Gangi suggests that, in this way, travelling can be tempting for those whose identity and sense of self has just taken a turn for the worse.
In closing, here is some food for thought:
“Loss can be liberating, and the desire to escape is so common. Everything is pared down to what’s important and it makes you want to run out into the world into that great big life.”
– Claire Bidwell Smith