Grief is the space through which we process a multitude of emotions in the midst of loss. Many of us try to avoid it, but it is ultimately a necessary component of our healing.
Feelings can range from denial to depression; and while the only thing that makes grief easier to bear is having the ability to allow and accept, sometimes taking a moment to sit with our thoughts and feelings can be better than keeping busy in an effort to not face them.
I recently found myself dealing with my own personal feelings of grief after losing two people that I loved dearly in the course of a week. I wanted to push past the pain and get back to life as I knew it, but I knew that rushing the process would only make things worse. Since travel has always been a source of therapy for me, I decided to speak with a mental health professional about how a getaway or what some would call a "grief-cation" could help with my healing.
Dr. Shawnte Jenkins-Alexander is a counseling psychologist and says that people grieve for various reasons and in various ways, so understanding how a particular loss directly impacts you is key to knowing how you'll be able to cope. "For some people, traveling is like a spiritual experience. It puts people in a place of reflection and connecting with God, seeking answers from God and even being angry with God. Giving yourself permission to say what works for you may not work for someone else is important."
An example of that fact is Janice, a caregiver who's father passed away six years ago. For her, taking a "grief-cation" not only gave her peace and quiet, it allowed her to purge her feelings of pain without being interrupted. "I packed up my car and drove to Michigan. I bought wine, food and put my phone on 'do not disturb'. For years, I had been in the caregiver role and taking time away after my dad's passing helped me to release that role, journal my thoughts and be in a space where I could cry alone."
"It allowed me unfamiliar territory to talk to God about everything and express gratitude for the opportunity to care for my father the way I had cared for countless others."
Dr. Jenkins-Alexander believes that mindfulness and journaling while vacationing after a loss can give us new insights into ourselves and the world around us. "Sometimes going through a grief that seems so unbearable allows you to do things you never thought you'd do because you're almost moving through a space of being fearless now. Or visiting an undeveloped country can help you to reprioritize, see the world through a different set of eyes and show you that you still have a lot to be thankful for."
Moving through the grief process can oftentimes be a grueling experience. The only way to heal is to sit in the pain, having faith that eventually it will become more manageable.
They say that travel is the best way to be lost and found at the same time. For some, a vacation focused on navigating through a personal loss could be a cathartic option.
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