What about Vacations
 

When your heart is hurting after the loss of a loved one, you wonder if you will ever be able to "take a vacation" from grief. There are many answers to this question. The secret is to find the right one for you.

Vacations for my family were spent mostly at home. Our work schedules rarely permitted us time to go away and with three children we found traveling to be expensive. I have always lived on Long Island (NY), and my parents brainwashed us to think that living on Long Island was a permanent vacation. Do you think they worked for the tourist board?

After my 19 year old daughter, Peggy, and my 21 year old son, Denis, died in the same automobile accident, I never planned a vacation to "get away" from my surroundings. My home was my "nest" and the source of great comfort to me. Not everybody feels this way.

Staying with the familiar made me feel comfortable. Having my support circle nearby was important to me. Enjoying the pleasures that I had shared with Peggy and Denis kept them close to my heart. Even though tears could accompany these pleasures, the tears were healing. Whether it was simply walking along the beach where we had many family outings, or sitting by the pool where we had spent so many hours with swim team, or watching a soccer game which took so much of our time with three teams in the family, or noticing their favorite colors, flowers, TV programs, or foods. These things helped reinforce their presence forever in my mind, never to be erased.

Some families agonize whether to go away for a vacation after losing a loved one and some families canít get away fast enough! So you see how different we all are. Itís tough for husbands and wives who disagree about vacation plans to find a reasonable "compromise" to give relief to their individual styles of grieving.

The rule of thumb is: Do what helps you. If taking a cruise, or flying to a distant sunny haven, or visiting a mountain or seaside retreat, or just relaxing at a nearby resort helps you gain a moment of peace, do it. But one thing I must caution you about, donít go alone. There is time to reflect or quietly meditate wherever you are, but when you are hurting so terribly, it is not wise to be alone for long periods of time. However, it is good to have someone to share your thoughts with, releasing some of those feelings that are haunting you. Having a good listener with you is wonderful medicine for you. Itís also good to have someone to hug. Remember, you need 4 hugs a day for survival, 8 hugs a day for maintenance, and 12 hugs a day for growth. Therefore, make sure you vacation with the right person!

Many grieving families that I have met have found solace in a trip "away" from their home base. Sometimes, just the change is what they need. Other times, itís leaving work or that "empty chair" behind. A little sunshine can warm our souls, so the warmer climates appeal to us and seem to bring an inner cheer. I know I am a "sunshine" person and can accomplish ten times as much on a sunny day, so Iím sure a sunny vacation would be productive for me.

In my early days of bereavement, I found that taking a little photo album like a "grandmaís brag book" with me, filled with my favorite pictures of my Peggy and Denis, made it feel as if they were with me. Packing that album in every pocketbook I used, whether the large everyday variety or the tiny evening bag, it was like a pacifier to me. When a friend of mine told me that she dreaded going on vacation "without her daughter along," I suggested she take a little picture album, crammed full of her daughterís snapshots, with her on the trip and she did. When she returned, she called me and happily announced that it had made a difference to her, releasing some of that emptiness she had felt. So take a chance and try something different to help your heart. You might surprise yourself!

Other bereaved friends could not bear to stay home for major holidays and off they flew to far-away vacation spots. That worked for them, getting away from the hoopla of the holidays and the family gatherings that they did not feel strong enough yet to attend. Some of these bereaved families said they found a respite from their grief while "on vacation" but that coming home was the hardest, causing feelings of depression when they returned. So, we all have to find the balance that fits our lives. It doesnít happen overnight. Itís something that requires "trial and error" by us to find the blend that lifts our spirits.

Vacations can be a time of "renewal" for us. We all know that we need a vacation "from grief." We just have to figure out what kind of vacation our own heart needs. Good luck!