Grieving Abroad

The most difficult part of wandering is being far from your loved ones.  This can be trying (even when you remember what a pain it is to argue with them over a big dinner), but is grueling when something happens or tragedy strikes.  Of all my scattered friends and family, only one has suffered a really difficult time since I hit the road, but the idea of accidental death, dismemberment, crucial medical diagnoses, or the occasional heartbreaking end-of-a-marriage befalling my loved ones is terrible.  When I think that I could be far away and unreachable if one of them dies, it leaves me feeling breathless.  So how can you grieve when you weren’t there?

– Will you feel better if you go back “home”?  In some situations, this might be practical: sharing thoughts, memories, or ideas with other loved ones might be an integral part of the healing process.  Also, if you are required to take care of necessary business (reading of a will, power of attorney), you may HAVE to return home.  If there is a rush, some airlines offer bereavement fares (Delta, Continental, TWA, United) — but you may find a better deal getting tickets through a budget airline or online travel agency.  If you’re in the same country, consider traveling by train or bus to avoid driving when you are distraught.

If you feel like you SHOULD go home, but it may not actually help you in the long run, consider staying where you are and dealing with your grief there.  Sometimes the stress of organizing plane tickets or managing timetables is too difficult when you are grieving, and you may be better served by seeking out your local support group.

– Look for support networks.  Churches, weekly discussion groups, support groups for those who have lost a loved one — you can find these in most places and they can all help with your situation.  If you are really falling apart, consider going to a therapist.

– Write.  Write letters to other people who knew your loved one, sharing memories.  Write essays about the things your loved one did.  Write in your journal.  But try to put things down in words– or whatever your chosen artistic medium is — so they don’t just stay inside your head and make you lie awake at night.

– You may feel isolated or alone, if you are far away and traveling when a loved one dies or becomes very ill.  Again, I stress, if you think it would help you (or them), consider going “home”.  If not, then seek out friendships, dinner invitations, something to make you feel part of a group.

– Grieving is a difficult process and could take a very long time to work through.  Don’t expect to deal with it all at once, and expect to find your travels fraught with memories — “The first time I went to that museum was with Grampa!”, that sort of thing.  Just let the memories exist, and remember the happier times rather than dwelling on the harder or recriminatory moments.  There is no point in beating yourself up every time you see a Royal Doulton teacup that you didn’t buy your grandmother the full set while she was still alive to appreciate them.  

– Your loved ones loved you too.  Remember that.

Posted by | Comments (1)  | February 10, 2009
Category: General

One Response to “Grieving Abroad”

  1. Nicolai Says:

    Good post, and thanks, this hits close to home at the moment. Everyone is different but this makes sense to me.