Grief doesn’t take vacations. Even if you do.
After spending the first part of January on a beach vacation I met a lot of amazing people, and a lot of those people were grieving.
There was grief over health, loss of a loved one, divorce and someone who was carrying a lot of heavy stuff from their job.
Vacations can help us heal in many ways.
What even is that?
- Nothing is normal after you have lost someone you love.
- Nothing is normal after a relationship has ended.
- Nothing is normal when you or someone else is healing their physical body.
Nothing looks, feels, seems, is, or feels like it will ever be normal again.
Taking yourself on vacation or retreating from the tangle of “not normal” can be a way to distract ourselves from feeling overwhelmed while being literally removed from our home base, we can begin to breathe.
A few months after my husband died I went away. I went far far away from my normal to a country where nothing was familiar and I didn’t speak the language. Some may have perceived my ‘get away’ as ‘running away’, however I intended and experienced the opposite.
Sitting in a cafe drinking a coffee and people watching was profoundly liberating. I could not eavesdrop on other table’s conversations, I could blur out my vision to observe the bustle of everyone else’s normal and best part I began to breathe.
It was quasi meditative in the sense that I quickly found the skill to block out the rest of the world, and rather than empty my mind of thoughts I could actually tune into the thoughts that I was having. I began to reacquaint myself with what was running through my mind that I hadn’t been afforded the luxury of.
Being able to sift through what felt like a jumble was a game changer. I was able to open up my mind and heart to all the feelings and thoughts I was having about my recent loss. I was able to allow myself the space to feel.
So many well intended comments, adages, metaphors, advise and suggestions come after loss. It is not uncommon for those who are on the receiving end to smile politely and nod.
I am a firm believer in “take what you want and leave the rest”, and that can be hard to practice with so much coming at you. All that had changed and all that had stayed the same gets flooded by all the other stuff other people are sharing with you.
I had summed up what I was feeling in a Feng Shui analogy:
It is good Feng Shui energy to have a fish in a bowl, it is another thing to feel like you are the fish in the bowl.
And that was my perspective.
It felt as if we were in a spotlight that relentlessly followed us during our zigs and zags as we moved forward. Again whether real or not, that was my perspective on things.
Grief can dull our senses and feelings and it can heighten them to acute levels. Its the yin and yang, dark and light, love and loss all the contrasts that we spinning amid.
Taking the trip, spending time with a friend, wandering around the sights, hacking my way through language exchanges brought to light a very important understanding.
I can not take a vacation from my grief, because whether I am home or away, grief is not a separate from who I am.
The significance of recognizing that grief was another part of me was a perspective shifter.
Getting aligned with the understanding that it wasn’t neat and tidy as in — either you are grieving or you are not — and therefore that perspective that I was the fish in the bowl became less powerful, because I too understood that I was perpetuating that feeling onto myself to a great degree.
Feeling the Feels
Grief can make you guard yourself from feeling anything other than grief. While in your home environment that energy is hard to shift, because of your literal surroundings.
Which is EXHAUSTING, in my opinion.
On vacation, surrounded by others who are there to also recharge from their lives, and in a different ecosystem you can be a part of something other than your grief.
- People are laughing and your laughter may come easier.
- Smiles are natural and yours may not feel as forced.
- Conversations with others can happen or not.
During a break, communing with other vacationers, we can go with and adapt to the ebb and flow at a resort, that isn’t as organically experienced at home.
Everyone you meet on vacation is on vacation. You don’t know what their story is and what they too may be taking a breather from.
That is the beauty and ease about taking yourself out of your normal, to broaden your perspective and to be in an environment that is safe for you to feel happy, to laugh, chat, nap, cry, really to do whatever your vacation looks like for you.
I remember feeling guilty for laughing, for genuinely being in the moment and having a laugh.
I observed that in my daughters, during that time as well; it was like we weren’t supposed to feel anything but grief (which at times was self-imposed – hence being the fish).
Navigating your new surroundings on vacation and new people requires you to engage in a different way. You get to be, do and have your unique experience as is everyone else.
The positive effects of a vacation may feel as if they recede at lightning speed when its time to return home to real life. As daunting as it may seem to plunge back into the day to day, I invite you to pause and consider the possibility that a re-calibration has taken place.
Does that mean you have all the answers to the questions? No.
Does that mean you have shed the heaviness of grief? No.
What it does mean is that you have gifted yourself a temporary reprieve which may in fact convert into you feeling more grounded to take whatever next steps are in front of you.