How Traveling Can Help You Grieve the Loss Of a Loved One

This past seven days has been tough for me as a blogger. Saturday April 21st, my Nana passed away. She had brain cancer, tumors which were removed from her brain through surgery. In March, I made the trip to see her and spend my time with her, which broke my heart into pieces I don’t feel I will ever mend. But amidst it all, my Nana, was making a stunning recovery in her care facility. However, things took a turn when she got the flu, and shortly after she passed in her sleep.

Grieve the loss of a loved one
My Nana and I when I was just a baby

It has been a struggle to post anything for the last week, and mostly because I just don’t want to, but somehow I managed to produce something.

My Nana was the epitome of love, acceptance, kindness, and gentleness. She was a master gardener, the type to make all her children and grandchildren feel special in their unique ways, and she was made whole through the love she gained from my Papa.

He looks at her, even in her passing, more in love with her than the day he first saw her.

She lived to see her grandchildren grow up and even lived to see some of her great grandchildren. She was the type of Nana who kept this family together, and she did it without hesitation and without halt. She was an incredible force of love and compassion. It will be much more challenging in this world without her presence and each day has been more difficult than ever. She was one of my biggest fans when I decided I wanted out to explore the world.

She was 79 years young and gone from this earth far too soon.

How to grieve a loss
My Papa, Nana, Mother, and Siblings and I back in the day.

My family is full of those guided by larger powers that we feel watch over us, whether that be a higher power, God (whichever God you prefer, we don’t judge), or those we have love and lost. And as I struggled to find the strength to write on right now, I thought to myself, “what do I even have to contribute right now?” When I asked, it all came.

I’m sure many who have lost someone have the immediate feeling of running, getting away, not dealing with the pain of losing someone you loved in unfathomable ways. It’s easier to run far from the emotions than to stay and deal with them. But I feel the exact opposite. I understand the power of grieving but also believe everyone grieves or deals with grief in their own ways. But the one thing I will never do with my grief is hide it or run away from it. I don’t believe in that or the many terrible things that follow when you choose not to grieve.

Then I thought, what it so wrong about wanting to get away, to travel somewhere else, to be away from the pain, to just get out from under it all? In some ways, I really believe travel can help this in a way, and it can help us in ways that we wouldn’t expect, if we do it properly. But in other ways, I really think that no healing can ever happen just by running off to somewhere else. This is just my take on it.

In my mind, there are two kinds of runners after the painful loss of a loved one. The first runner is the one who doesn’t want to deal with grief and chooses to run away by traveling or relocating to somewhere where they aren’t reminded of the person who has passed. The second runner, is the one that recognizes this life is too short and then decides they want to spend more time enjoying this gorgeous world and all the beauties of it.

If you are the first one, I’m really feeling from your pain, and I hope you find the courage to face the grief someday. I’ve come to find that avoiding the grieving process will not serve you very well in the future. If you are the second person, then the advice below is just for you. Below are ways to help deal with the loss of a loved one through travel. But my best advice to you in these situations is to do exactly what feels right in your heart, and not what you fear.

Take Trips Your Loved One Talked About Taking

To help grieve your loss, I feel a good way to help with the pain is to take the trips your loved one always dreamed of taking but never took. They don’t have to be big trips, they can be small trips. The chances are, the person you’ve lost in this life, dreamt of seeing things but never got the chance. Be the person to see and experience those trip for them. Take that trip to New Zealand, take that road trip to Yellowstone National Park. Whatever their desires were, go live them and experience the travel to honor their memory.

Writer Letters of Your Adventures to Your Lost Loved One

It seems a little silly now, but there is a sort of relief that comes from writing letters to the deceased. I personally don’t see it as a crazy way to communicate that you love someone but a healthy way to grieve. Take a journal with you and tell the stories of your journeys in the journal. Address them to your loved one and let them know what you are up to out there. Let them know that you’re living life the way they would want you to.

Take a Trip With the Loved Ones Who are Living

A lot of the times we love a loved one, we think about how much we’ve taken advantage of our current relationships with those who are still with us. We want to do more with those people because we fear the loss of them to soon. We don’t want to repeat our first mistakes of not spending enough time with the people we love. Take those trips with your family, your friends, your significant other, because you never know how short lived life can truly be. Doing this can help you stay active in your current relationships, and it’s a healthy way to grieve in a positive way.

Travel to Help Others

I know for many out there, after someone passes, we question our own lives and if we have lived them to the fullest. It’s part of the way we grieve. Have we really done all we could and been all we can be in this world? It’s easy to see someone you love live such a full life and start to feel as if they have done very little and have very little to show for it. We want our lives to be just as loved and remembered. So we go out and we travel to help others and by helping others, we feel as if we are making a difference and helping ourselves. There are many ways to travel and help others through voluntourism by seeing the world more and helping the world more. Some of my two favorite ways to do this are Americorps and Peace Corps. But there are plenty of other avenues for traveling and making a difference in the world.

Celebrate Your Life and Theirs with Smaller Adventures

Not all adventures require traveling. Some of our biggest journeys happen close to home and are rather small. Sometimes just getting out of bed during these times is a big enough of an adventure. Sometimes meeting a long lost friend for coffee is a significant celebration of your life and presence on his planet. In the midst of this difficult time, make sure you continue to celebrate your life along with all the biggest and smallest of adventures along the way. We will grieve when the emotions are up and we miss those who have passed.

My Nana was always a great reminder of my own capacity to love and celebrate who I am in this world. It’s crazy to think while she was pregnant with my mother, my mother was carrying my life inside of her. I am very much a part of her. I look at her pictures and I can see myself in my ageless and timeless Nana. I can see her spirit and her love for life within me. I and reminded of her greatness and what I can do in this lifetime to follow her footsteps and be a little more like her.

What a truly wonderful gift to have someone you love so much in this world, who is so hard to say goodbye to.

Mary Ann Kennedy

Master of Love, Gardener, Wife, Mother, Grandmother, Aunt, Sister, and Friend
September 1938 – April 2018