Ah vacations! So needed to keep the balance in check with our busy lives. In fact, right now I am preparing for a vacation myself-a well planned and thought out one that works well with where I am at now with my grief.
At the end of October, I will be walking a part of El Camino led by a spiritual coaching friend of mine. I am looking forward to walking and walking and walking as I continue to integrate all my losses.
So, how do you take a vacation when you are truly deep in grief?
Vacations while grieving are so necessary and yet so bizarre at times and other times it is just what you need. My first vacation was the most bizarre-here is what happened:
The first year post accident, for those of you who don’t know, the accident I am referring to is this: my life partner tumbling off his mountain bike and severing his spinal cord at C5, he is now a quadriplegic.
Okay, take that mouth-full in. We are now in our 4th year of this quadriplegia reality and thus it is mostly normal for us. But I am aware that for new peeps it can be a lot to hear. So, yes, my partner is paralyzed from the neck down with limited arm function.
I usually play with a specific word in my blog and I am not sure I will do that this time. I will say that I hate the word “paralyzed” when it is used in contexts outside the spinal cord world.
Having any kind of ‘plegia’ sucks.
Ooh, let’s play with the word quadriplegia. Nah, nevermind…remember-I hate that word.
Okay, back to sending me and my grief to a resort in the tropics.
The thing about grief, especially that first year of living with whatever it is that you lost-it simply sucks.
I called the first year the ‘Year of Hell’ as I was reliving all the amazing moments we did the year prior in our able bodies. Oh and for that matter, year 2 was also ‘Hell’ because I was reliving the traumatic moments of the year after the accident.
Take a deep breath, I need one.
I will wait….
Okay. Moving on…
I wish I could take a vacation from my grief. In fact, at times I would love to send it on a cruise to the Bermuda Triangle.
But you can’t do that with grief.
Grief sneaks into your luggage and wants to come along for the entire trip.
So, how do you take a vacay with your grief? How do you give it space but not let it be the cruise director?
Six months into the first ‘Year of Hell’ I was sent to Mexico for what I called my ‘Sleep and Grief Retreat’.
All I wanted to do was sleep…and grieve.
Sleep and grieve…
Although, those two don’t work so well together. Remember what I mentioned in an earlier Blog post about sleep meds? Do whatever it takes to be able to sleep.
I was super duper grateful for the opportunity to get away. I was gifted the vacation by my partner’s family who owned a time share in a resort in Mazatlan called Pueblo Bonito which means pretty village.
However, my experience there was not pretty in the village, it was like a fucked up wacky dream. I had my nice moments, but for the most part, my life was still in a whirlwind of crazy. Then add vacation resort land and it really was a bizarre kind of nightmare.
So, imagine this, oh and I should specify that I went during Valentine’s day. Ha! Can you picture it now-a crying woman alone on the beach surrounded by couples and families enjoying the resort lifestyle!
Let me give you a few more details:
- 10am aerobics in the pool everyday with the instructor giving the class over a loud speaker for all to hear.
- A live DJ speaking Spanglish and pumping bad techno music morning, noon and night. I learned quickly when the breaks were. But still they would pump music all day long !
- Groups of families everywhere spending quality time together (I was the only solo traveler I could see).
- Romantic couples playing, walking, swimming, eating and swooning over each other-remember, it was Valentines’ Day.
Yeah, I stuck out, big time!
I was the woman alone on the beach-wrapped up in towels (It was cold at that time of year-now I know better), staring out at the ocean watching the waves come in and matching them with my own waves of emotions. Let the waves of emotions come like the ocean does.
I was the woman drawing and walking in circles in the sand.
I was the solo woman with my nose in a book or staring at the sea for hours.
It was a great trip, however, I now know how to plan a bit better to make a grief vacation work.
So here are some tips from me:
~Destination-go somewhere you feel somewhat at home. I had lived in Mexico so I felt comfortable with the people and the language. I would not recommend going somewhere completely foreign and for me that would be China or India.
~Ignore that first idea and go some where totally unknown and foreign to you if that is what you need. For some people this can be just what is needed in order to remember how to live again. Some people need a totally new environment.
But for me, I needed some kind of familiar comfort. And I am grateful that I already have a beautiful relationship with my Mexico. Viva Mejico!
~Go to the ocean! For me the ocean is so healing. I highly recommend the sea. The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea. ~Isak Dinesen. And if you plan your grief retreat right, you should have all three.
Actually a good question to ask is this-am I sweating enough (am I getting enough exercise?), have I cried enough? And have I spent time in a body of water-hopefully it can be the ocean, if not, is there a hot springs pool or bathtub where you can add mineral salts?
~Thus-bring mineral bath salts and other spa treatments that are easy to use. Or get a spa treatment if you have the money.
~Have a way to access the internet and/or a way to phone home to friends or family. That will be a lifeline if you need to connect to someone who knows your story. I did.
~Journal like crazy. I wrote a lot.
~Go for loooong walks. I walked on the beach until the sun set. I wasn’t planning to do this, I just kept walking. Walking is a great way to process trauma-emotionally, mentally and physically. (More on that in a future blog.)
~Bring herbs and supplements to boost your immune system, prevent illness or recover from it. I got sick which was no surprise. My body went from mach 10 to nearly zero and then my body decided it was time to detox.
~Watch your use of alcohol. A little bit is nice if you do drink. Drinking a lot-not wise, not good for your body and mind. If I find myself drinking more I ask myself-why am I drinking, what am I not wanting to feel or face? Pay attention.
~Find someone around to connect to. I connected to the sweet cleaning lady who came to my room everyday. Eventually I shared my story and we cried. Then she told me some of her stories about faith and miracles and we connected over our love of the patron saint of Mexico-The Virgin of Guadalupe. Ah, gracias a la Guadalupe!
~Go to cathedrals and just sit or pray. Just allow yourself to be in holy spaces. I love holy spaces in Mexico and Europe.
~Make art. Bring art supplies and a sketchbook or coloring book.
~Sleep a lot. Sleep in, go to bed early, take naps. (Bring sleep aids if you need them).
~Let go of your agenda. I had to do that because my body got ill.
~Spend quality time at the beach-that is, just be there-stare at the waves, watch the sunset, or sunrise, feel the sand under your feet. Swim a lot if the water is warm enough. Heck, get dirty if you can-roll in the sand and the water. Make a sand castle. Let yourself be a kid again.
~Cry to the ocean and give her your tears.
~Create a ritual. I did on my last day there and this was why I was meant to travel there. Stay tuned for that blog post next week. It is powerful!
Happy grief travels.
Oh and one more suggestion:
~If it feels right, go join the obnoxious water aerobics in the pool. And yes, your grief will be there with you. Tell it to move with you and to join the fun. It may not like it, but it might.
Con mucho amor y carino~
Betina aka Beth aka the Grief Freak
Hasta Pronto! (Until the next time!)