Grief & travel: practical ideas for how to heal and cope on the road.
What’s the secret to managing grief? That’s certainly not an easy question to answer.
As you probably know by now, grief can be completely overwhelming & feel utterly devastating.
It’s a painful, yet unavoidable part of life.
Grief is a human experience we all come face to face with, again and again.
Yet, we don’t talk about it much as a society. Making it even harder to seek support or even simply reach out at a time when life can be very overwhelming.
Grief & Travel
I am a big advocate of wellness travel or travel that maintains & builds health and well-being.
So, the idea of traveling as a way to help work through the healing process is a natural fit.
Wondering if this topic might resonate with others, I felt prompted to write this post after finding myself dealing with my own grief.
This is my brief story about how to use travel as a way to help with the healing process. Along with some self-care ideas to guide the way
In many ways, these are ideas that support overall health & well-being and they can be particularly helpful during the grieving process.
There’s No One Way to Grieve
What brought me to grieving was actually a series of losses.
Culminating with the loss of one of my two beloved rescue dogs, Lucky. It had been a long, yet heartfelt year being his caretaker as his dementia worsened and he adjusted to sudden blindness.
I had time to prepare. Yet I was still sad from the very quick & unexpected passing of his sister Bella, months earlier.
The blessing was that they both passed in my arms, wrapped in love. It was a gift. One that even when I think about today, still brings tears to my eyes.
The thought of being in an empty house was overwhelming and I was utterly spent. I had been pushed to my limit over the last two years.
In addition to the dogs passing, I had lost several loved ones. All while recovering from an extended period of chronic pain after a surgical complication. It had been the most difficult period of my life, full of loss.
Since travel is one of my favorite endeavors, getting away just seemed like the right thing to do to.
Well-Being & Grief
There is no one way to manage grief while traveling.
Some individuals may seek travels that are restorative and provide quiet relaxation while others prefer mental stimulation or physical activity.
Perhaps some may look to occupy their brain with art and culture, while others would choose a mind-body approach filled with meditation and yoga.
And some may want to travel right away, while others may find their way to travel when the time is right.
Personally, I yearned for a break where I could walk and explore nature.
Grieving takes courage, and I looked at this trip as a big step towards summoning that courage.
My schedule had not been my own for a while and I relished the idea of some time away.
So, I bought a ticket to England, one of my regular travel haunts.
It was a two-part vacation. First was a week of solo travel in London, one of my favorite cities. This would be a chance for me to do some photography and take in city life. That would keep my brain busy for a while!
The second part of my trip would take me to Cornwall. This part was all about slowing down and being near the water. And my mom was able to join me on this leg, making it even better!
Even though part of me wanted to hide away from it all, I knew travel would help me stay engaged with the world around me. And sane.
So, off I went. To begin healing and tend to my well-being.
The following weeks would be about grief & travel.
Tips To Help Heal Grief While Traveling
Even though grief is a universal experience we all share, it is also is a deeply personal one.
We all grieve differently.
There are many paths to healing, so grief & travel will look different for everyone
While each of us will have different ways to put the puzzle together, I can tell you an important piece of wisdom that I gained. And it’s that…
…listening to my intuition made all the difference in the world.
During a time when I thought maybe things wouldn’t seem so clear, my inner being seemed to gracefully lead the way.
Intuitively, my mind, body & spirit knew what it needed. I just had to listen.
Here is some of what helped me navigate a difficult time and embrace wellness travel as a way of healing.
Maybe, a few of these ideas about grief & travel will resonate with you.
Wander The Beach
The ocean…its healing. And it’s why I went to Cornwall.
Is there anyplace more glorious to think, reflect, or even cry your eyes out than on the beach? I did it all and it was cathartic.
I walked in the sand, waded through the water, listened to the seagulls, and relived memories.
And I also wondered what life would really be like now, with no furry footed kids waiting for me at home…
I know what you may be thinking, kindness?
As it happens, just prior to my trip I was reading about the benefits of helping others when we are dealing with our own difficulties.
And it stuck with me.
I remember thinking about it on the plane to London, so I actively decided to make an extra effort to help others when the opportunities arose. And somehow with travel, they always do.
Like this, one day a fellow traveler stopped me in Mayfair. Her phone had died and she was totally lost. She was a bit panicked about getting across town in time for an event.
So, we used my phone to research the quickest way back. It was such a simple thing to do.
She was very grateful, and I was happy to help. We both walked away feeling better.
Walking and hiking are my go-to’s when l am feeling stressed, frazzled or overwhelmed.
They help me to be more mindful.
Walking always improves my mood. And I appreciate the meditative aspect of it, especially when I am walking somewhere breathtakingly beautiful like the Cornwall Coast.
I walked. And Walked. And walked some more.
It was invigorating and therapeutic all at the same time.
On a side note, if you love to walk or hike then you will love Cornwall. The South West Coast Path that runs the entire coastline of Cornwall is said to be one of the best walks in the world. I whole-heartedly agree!
Try Sand Painting
Have you ever heard of sand painting?
I actually found this idea in a Kindred Spirit magazine.
Sand painting is when you write meaningful words close to the tide and then watch them wash away. It’s a reminder that everything in life moves on and that there is healing in letting go.
I felt like the article was speaking right to me. When I got to Chapel Porth in Cornwall, I knew it was the place to take a moment and honor my beloved pups.
A little bit of my sadness went out with the waves that day.
Yoga calms me. On the good days and bad.
When I am traveling, I often stop in a park or somewhere quiet & scenic to practice a bit of yoga. It’s a good way to relax.
With the wind and ocean waves in a coastal spot like this in Cornwall, it was an especially connective experience.
It was healing.
During this trip, yoga helped me to stay in tune with my body and spend a little less time in my head. And that’s always a good thing, grieving or otherwise!
Follow Your Passions
I intentionally made time to do something that I love. Something that I hadn’t had much time to do in a long time. Photography.
And goodness had I missed it. I had fun, smiled and even mumbled under my breath a few times waiting for people to move out of the shot (usually while they took their millionth selfie) 😂
Even in the midst of sadness, I was grateful for the time to get out my camera and shoot. It was a joy to create again.
Spend Time In Nature
Is there anything better for sadness than Mother Nature?
Research shows that exposure to nature can actually help with the grief process, which is reassuring to all of us who look for ways to cope.
Even back when I was a teen, I had a favorite nature spot to go and think things out. I had a spot in college too. Now, I have more than one!
It’s a healthy ritual to have your own little space. Where you can be fully present, for the good & the bad.
One where the world holds you up when you need it most.
Connect with Others
There are always opportunities to make new friends during travel.
It’s part of what makes travel so engaging.
Cornwall is full of friendly people! This made it particularly easy to get out of my own head and just enjoy the moment.
There was no shortage of opportunities to chat, laugh, and share stories. Especially at the beaches. And anywhere to do with food & drink, like the pubs!
My mom & I met lots of new people. We laughed a lot. And it was good for the soul.
Spend Time With Animals
Grief, travel & animals? You bet!
It was dogs, dogs everywhere in Cornwall.
Just about everyone seemed to have their furry friends with them on holiday.
Every single day there were four-legged bundles of energy out & about. I soaked every single ounce of love and it made me smile.
Lean Into Healthy Routines to Heal
Even though I was on the road, I stuck to as much of my normal healthy self-care routine as possible.
To take care of my mind & body, I meditated first thing every morning and made sure to practice yoga daily.
There were lots of outdoor pursuits to stay in shape. And plenty of tech-free adventures too!
Traveling gave me space to breathe. It gave me perspective. And it gave me time & space to begin to process my emotions.
My younger self would have wanted to retreat and hide from the world.
Yet, my older and slightly wiser self knew that the only way to heal was to lean into it, sadness and all.
It reminded me that even though I was grieving, I was also so very grateful for all of my blessings.
Grief & travel were a good match.
Still today, there are moments where I feel as blessed as I do sad. Lucky & Bella both chose me, & I am forever grateful that they did. 💜
I miss them so, and I suspect I always will.
until the next time…
…live well – travel well – be well
Further thoughts on Grief & Travel…
Being an advocate of travel and wellness, this was something I felt compelled to write about.
Mental health deserves attention. It’s the only way to grow past stigmas and build a collective capacity to understand and support one another.
You can find more general information on grieving and how to support others at Heal Grief.
Find further mental health support & resources:
In The US, at Mental Health America.
In the UK, at Mind.
And if you need support, please reach out to someone.
More Wellness Inspiration…
12 Engaging Ways To Practice Self-Care During Travel
7 Day Trips To Get You Outside
Share, Connect, & Inspire!