In the movie ‘Wild’, the main character Cheryl Strayed hiked 1,100 miles of the Pacific West Trail as her own way to cope with the loss of her mother. This experience had made a huge impact on her healing process. While hiking a 2,650-mile long terrain may seem a bit over the top, traveling may help you cope with your loss in the way Cheryl Strayed’s hiking trip did to her.
Reconnecting you to the world
Grief is an isolating experience. Debbie Augenthaler, LMHC, NCC elaborates that “Grief is a part of life we must embrace. Many people are grieving, feeling alone and overwhelmed. It’s important to remember that tears are like small messengers of unspeakable, indescribable love.”It is hard to imagine finding another person like the one you’ve lost. It is even harder so to realize that the person who passed away is the only one in the world. It is hard to face the mornings alone when you would usually dine with that person, or sleep next to that person in cold nights. It is a jarring experience. For sure, it would make you feel more and more alone every passing day.
Traveling helps you connect to the world. When Claire Smith traveled to the Philippines after her father’s death, her acquaintance with the locals and other tourists, and exposure to an environment that is all new to her made her feel less alone. Going to beaches or mountain ranges like she had done can give you a sense of peaceful calmness which is a rare occurrence for those who are experiencing the turbulence of grief. However, it doesn’t mean that traveling for a grieving person should be in those remote and unfamiliar places like what Claire had done. Remember, “Staring at the ocean actually changes our brain waves’ frequency and puts us into a mild meditative state.” Richard Shuster, PsyD said.
Traveling to your relative’s or friend’s place can help you reconnect to the world as well. Being acquainted with a familiar company can ease the pain of the healing process as you now have someone to share your pain with.
Breaking away from the cycle of pain
“For grieving people, practicing self-compassion and self-care is often very difficult. All humans share the inclination to want to relieve discomfort when we find ourselves in it.” That’s according to Karla Helbert, LPC, E-RYT, C-IAYT. Grieving can sometimes create a cycle of hate and blame that brings even more pain than appeasement. While it may not seem like it, people who grieve may blame their passed loved one for leaving them all alone and sad on earth. This thought can be hard to deal with, especially when normal routines would remind them of the memories of their passed loved one. Here is where traveling comes in.
Traveling is a break from the daily routines that feeds the cycle of hate. Halle Eavelyn has seen it work on one of her clients, Sylvia. Sylvia has been trapped in the cycle of hate ever since her husband, Henry, has died. But, by taking a brief rest from her daily routines that reminds her of how her husband has left her alone, she is able to take time to breathe, rest, and think while traveling. After the vacation, Sylvia was able to forgive her husband and herself, as well as come in terms with her loss.
Grief would render us weak and vulnerable. We have known ourselves to do things with our loved one. But when they are gone, we are unable to do those things with the same feeling when we did it with them. The painstaking realization that we can’t do anything without our loved one is difficult to come in terms with. But, with traveling, it thrusts you to various experiences that forces you to do things on your own such as cancelled flights, talking to locals, and so on. This would also allow you to do things that you have always wanted to do like finishing the bucket list you made when you were 10 years old. Doing those things while traveling would empower you enough to pick yourself back up and find yourself again.
If you are not up to traveling, that’s okay too. The process of grief is different for everyone. There is no ‘one fix solution’ to it. However, if traveling would open the door to healing and self-discovery for you, then pack your bags. Ready your passport. Brace yourself in the journey that lies ahead of you.