Learn how to create a pilgrimage to help you process the grief that follows the trauma of war.
In this episode I share my own story of traveling to Normandy to retrace my father’s footsteps during World War II. This was part of a grief pilgrimage I took to help me understand the factors that led to my father’s suicide many years later.
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One year ago I featured a special 8-part series titled Suicide: Surviving the Aftermath about my own journey of healing following my father’s suicide death. This week is the anniversary of his death and I’m focusing in today on part of my journey.
(You can hear the entire Suicide Series at: www.eoluniversity.com/suicideseries )
In order to learn more about the impact of World War II on Dad’s emotional health I took a grief pilgrimage to Normandy to explore the location of some of his traumatic experiences. That trip was a powerful experience that helped me understand Dad better and grasp the burden of grief and guilt that he had carried with him since the war.
Here are my tips for anyone who wants to plan a similar pilgrimage (listen to the episode for more of the details and to hear how my own journey unfolded):
- Do your homework before you go: Learn all you can about your loved one’s wartime travels so you can choose the places you’ll visit carefully. Check the National Archives for information and military records for your loved one.
- Visit a museum: You’ll learn a lot of history in a short time by starting your journey at a war memorial museum. You’ll find some of the recommended World War II museums in Europe listed here.
- Enlist a guide: A local guide with a solid knowledge of history and the area can save you time and show you places you wouldn’t have discovered on your own. Find a guide that speaks your language fluently and is willing to go to the places on your list.
- Meet a local: One of the benefits of traveling to the location of the war is the opportunity to meet people who personally experienced the war and its aftermath (or their offspring.) Local citizens will have stories to share that will help broaden your perspective.
- Take your time: The emotions that arise on grief pilgrimage are intense so allow time for reflection and processing. Don’t rush through the sites but stop and take it all in. Let your feelings rise to the surface so that they can be witnessed.
- Participate in a ritual: Rituals provide a powerful opportunity for healing during grief travel experiences so plan ahead to create your own special ceremony. Or you may have a chance to take part in a scheduled ceremony with other travelers as I did when I visited the Normandy American Cemetery.
Learn more about how travel helped my grief by listening here.
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Until next week remember ….