Courage to Travel Alone While Grieving.

Original Pastel of the Possibilities from Travel
Original Pastel of Ghost Ranch scenery

Last week I returned from my Road Scholar journey to Santa Fe called “Finding Your Bliss in the Land of Enchantment.” It was a women’s retreat full of self-exploration activities.  It took courage to travel alone, but Road Scholar trips are groups so I didn’t have to be alone if I didn’t want to.

The trip was an amazing experience.  I had been awarded one of their Caregiver Grants, which gave me both the ability and the initiative to do something for myself, which I was sorely lacking after the years of caring for my husband and the months of grieving.

As I drove to the airport in Tampa in the dark of night, I felt a great relief leaving everything behind. I was going to a place with no memories, no family, no grief attached to it.

Yes, I brought my grief and certainly cried at times. But it was reassuring to know that I could also have a good time. “Both/And.”  I could revel in noticing that I only had to worry about me, take care of me! One afternoon while journaling in front of a fire in the hotel lounge, I watched a couple negotiating what they’d do next.  It was kind of nice to know I could just go off and do whatever I wanted, and I did!  (I did crash when I got home and felt pure anger at not being able to share retirement with Larry.)

I came back with a new sense of possibility about my future alone, a sense of renewed confidence in my own ability to make things happen.

The trip itself was a perfect choice. I was glad to have been on an all women trip as it created an atmosphere where vulnerability and intimacy was easy.  Plus I was never the odd single among couples.

Our guide, Vannetta Perry, was amazing – creating a “safe” environment for all of us. As a professional facilitator, I have often cringed when encountering unskilled leadership. She was exceptional – making everything easy. Her knowledge of the area culture, geology, and history was a great part of our learning experience.

I’d never been to Santa Fe and found the art, cultural diversity, architecture, and natural beauty to be stunning. The breadth of experiences that were part of the trip – cooking, art, Zen meditation, yoga, hot springs, women healers, history – were themselves diverse and enriching. The hotel was great, the meals were great.  And I found enough time on my own to take advantage of a few of the amazing museums.

I even wondered what it would be like to move to Santa Fe, or any place where I had no history, creating an entirely new life.  I’m not ready for that, yet, but it was nice to have as a thought to consider.

I felt courageous for having chosen to travel alone, courageous for taking an extra day on my own, courageous for having rented a car to go out of town into the foothills and find Sanctuario de Chimayo, an ancient healing spot.

All in all, I returned with a sense of my own “agency” – ability to make things happen.  Someone asked me if it helped with the grief, and what I answered was that it helped me separate the grief from the pain.  I’ll always feel the loss but I don’t always have to feel in pain – a victim of the loss.  Making things happen and feeling courageous is a great antidote to self-pity.

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