Travelling after loss

Leia Morales on 29 November 2022
In October 2015 my daughter was 9 months old and we were due to go on our first family holiday that we had booked several months prior. On the 13th of October my Grandma passed away unexpectedly, just a week before we were due to travel. It was a difficult decision to make as to whether we would still travel or stay home to attend her funeral. My Grandma loved her holidays and lived in Spain for 15 years after retirement, so I knew that she would have wanted me to go. ON the day of her funeral I made a bouquet of Mauritian flowers to lay in the ocean and drank her favourite Bacardi and diet coke to honour her.

I was asked to write something for a local grief cafe as a way of helping people making the first steps to travel again following a loss of a spouse. Whilst it is thankfully not something I have personally experienced I have helped many customers thought this difficult time.

Going on holiday again after the loss of a spouse can be a daunting experience, whether you travelled a lot together or not. There is lots of healing power in taking a holiday and travelling. A change of pace and a change of scene to grieve alone or a chance to forget your grief, without judgement or interference of others.

Travel is therapy. No matter your situation, travelling allows you to escape from reality whether for a weekend, a couple of weeks or longer. It’s not that you need to forget about your loss while you are away, there will be moments when you will think “they would really have liked this view/restaurant/city/country” and it is normal that you think of them in these moments. You can acknowledge that moment by writing letters or postcards to your loved one describing what you are seeing, doing, and experiencing.

Travel can help you to start the process of creating positive post loss memories by removing you from the place that already holds so many memories for you. Or by returning to a place you had visited together, you have the opportunity to face your loss head on, perhaps scattering their ashes in a place that meant the most to them. Although do check for local laws and airline rules about the transportation of ashes.

Of course, there are practicalities to travel that you may not have considered before. Your loved one may have been the person to do all the organising. It can be overwhelming to begin the process but that is where booking with a travel agent can help. The internet is full of travel options but how do you know if you are paying a fair price and getting the holiday you are wanting? Speaking to an agent allows you to get professional advice and if you feel comfortable to share your loss, they can be sensitive to your situation and advise you accordingly.

So, what are your options for solo travel? Well for a start you don’t have to travel solo. Have you considered travelling with a friends or family? Don’t be afraid to ask others if they would like to join you. You can still have your own room while having someone to share the experience with. Or you can travel as a group of new friends. There are solo specific group tour companies where everyone has their own room and there are no single supplements. There are other tour companies where you are matched in a room with another traveller of the same sex. There are also ways of meeting new travel companions through social groups closer to home. A fellow Travel Counsellor has set up a group in Chester which meets regularly to talk about travel and has organised several group trips for solo travellers to places like Iceland and Istanbul. Many of her customers are widows and my plan is to set up a similar group here in Nottingham. If it is something that you might be interested in, please get in touch with me.

A great way to meet likeminded people when on holiday would be to go on a special interest holiday. Did you know there are painting holidays, cycling holidays and photography holidays? You may already be part of a special interest group at home where you can ask if anyone else wants to join you on a special interest holiday.

The type of holiday you take as a solo traveller isn’t the same for everyone. The possibilities for travel following your loss are as endless as they were when your loved one was still alive. The best thing to do is think about the holidays that you enjoy; whether relaxing on beach or climbing a mountain. The sort of accommodation that will make you feel most comfortable, larger or smaller hotels, self-catering or all inclusive? Perhaps you made compromises when you took holidays with your loved one, now is an opportunity to plan that holiday they weren’t interested in taking.

If you are ready to take the first step towards travelling again, please feel free to get in touch with me. I am happy to meet you to talk about your plans. If you are interested in the travel group that I mentioned, I would be happy to give you further details.