Coping with grief is no easy thing, but travel might help heal after losing a loved one, offering perspective and the chance for new beginnings.
When you suffer the loss of someone you love – a friend, partner or family member – your entire world pivots as you go through the many stages of grief. It’s a shattering, visceral experience that takes hold of you with an unstoppable force. Why then, would you choose this time to travel the very world that’s changed beyond recognition?
As a coping mechanism for dealing with the grieving process, travel operates in a myriad of emotional and practical ways. All journeys involve an element of reflection, but no more so than when you’re bereaved.
Travel in this context gives you the head space to process how you’re feeling; to let the sadness happen, and be at one with it. Simultaneously, it also distracts you with small, incidental decisions that pull you shy from a vortex of sadness. It provides a physical escape – a space to shed tears that nevertheless is removed from familiar scenes etched in memories. Most of all, it’s an apt reminder that you hold an irrevocable connection to the world and its people.
There is no simple answer for getting over the death of a loved one and there are no right or wrong ways to cope with grief. Travel can provide a much-needed distraction, and let you start to begin healing yourself.
“Grief is an isolating experience,” says Californian therapist Claire Bidwell Smith, who travelled as a young adult after losing both her parents to cancer. “It’s lonely and quiet and it’s easy to sink into. Reminding yourself that there is a whole world out there still turning on its axis can be vital.”
“‘Travel, like life, throws up important questions about how we cope with change, loss and the unknown,” adds counsellor Emma Brech. “Often, when we’ve experienced personal loss or grief, the trauma of it can make those concepts feel unbearable, overwhelming. And yet, with careful planning, a world adventure can restore our sense of autonomy, broaden our perspective, build our resilience – and quite literally, open up new landscapes in which we experience ourselves in new and exciting ways.”