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Grief work isn’t just about losing a loved one. Grieving childhood losses means acknowledging the inner child’s pain from years of being abused, neglected, criticized. It can also include being compared to a sibling, being shamed and scapegoated, and being forced to keep family secrets.

Solo Travel and Grief Work

I’ve used traditional therapy, in-person and Virtual EMDR, recovery phone lines, journaling, and other therapy techniques that I created myself to aid in my trauma healing. However, once the bulk of the pain passed, I began using solo travel to refine and celebrate my growth and new life. It works, because I discovered it organically, and have benefitted from it for years now. It’s my honor to share with you what I’ve learned. Below are five ways to apply your healing to solo traveling.

Blurry black and white image symbolizes the pain and shame of keeping family secrets

Doing grief work has been my favorite part of self-healing. I created the saying, “I hate the pain but I love the lesson.” And the lessons all include learning to love myself, trust myself, trust God, share the message that you can recover, and of course, reclaim my inner child.

When I show up for my inner child’s lost pain, I’m telling her, “I know nobody was there for you before. I know you were alone, you weren’t seen, and it wasn’t safe to be you. But I’m here now. I see you, I hear you, and you matter. Let’s heal together and go have some fun!

Trauma work takes years, and there are many paths to get to the other side. What works for one, may not work for another. Being patient and gentle with yourself will get you there.

I’ve used traditional therapy, in-person and Virtual EMDR, recovery phone lines, journaling, and other therapy techniques that I created myself to aid in my trauma healing. However, once the bulk of the pain passed, I began using solo travel to refine and celebrate my growth and new life. It works, because I discovered it organically, and have benefitted from it for years now. It’s my honor to share with you what I’ve learned. Below are five ways to apply your healing to solo traveling.

1. Reflective Solitude for Forgiveness

The solitude afforded by solo travel allows for uninterrupted time to deeply reflect on the feelings surrounding loss. This can be a vital space for acknowledging and working through complex emotions, including grief and anger, and moving towards forgiveness. Whether it’s forgiving oneself for things said or done, or forgiving others who might have been involved, this solitude can facilitate a deeper understanding and acceptance of the past.

For a trauma survivor, sadness might switch to anger when it hurts too much. It’s not uncommon for the emotions to turn to shame or rage. Much of this emotional toxicity binds itself to you instead of the goal of releasing loss.

It takes time to work through the levels of destructive emotions to reach freedom from pain. But your healthy inner child that has been buried all these years just waiting to be reunited with you.

Crow flying high above the clouds symbol of peace and freedom found in grief work.

Sometimes grief can be reframed to be understood as stored loss. This process is helpful when looking at life choices that hurt you or others. By remembering that these patterns were learned in childhood, you can remind yourself that your inherent worth is already established. This separates self-shame and blame that comes from being defined by your behaviors. Remember, behaviors are something you DO and can be changed at any time. They are not who you ARE.

This understanding helps in self-forgiveness. By connecting the dots, you will see that the root of these patterns is unexpressed grief and loss.   By acknowledging the inner child’s sadness, you provide a safe space to heal. Journaling these losses during your trips helps you fully let go.

Grief work can be a monumental task when caught in the demands of day to day life. That’s why solo travel is so useful. The focus, the healing is solely on you. Doing things you love, spending time with your inner child, these are powerful acts of healing.

2. Reinforce Personal Narratives

Solo travel allows you to be the sole author of your experiences, providing an opportunity to rewrite personal narratives that may have been negatively shaped by childhood trauma. Each journey can be seen as a chapter where you redefine who you are and how you interact with the world, away from the constraints of past labels or expectations.

There’s a saying, “Nature abhors a vacuum.” I’ve found this to be true. So as you clear out the stuck grief, you will most certainly need to replace that vacuum with new and updated version of who you want to be. But first, you have to remove the heavy grief energy. How to do that?

It’s Like Having a Splinter….

It may seem like grief work will make you feel worse. I get it. It’s like, “If I already felt bad about those things, why dwell on it? Why go back there? It’ll just make it worse.

Very valid point. And it’s true, you will feel worse. Temporarily. You, you need the proper tools and strategies to get you to the other side.

So what are those tools?

What works for one person may not work for another. Tools I used include a qualified, non-judgemental trauma therapist, in-person and Virtual EMDR, and recovery groups.

However, to pinpoint grief healing, I specifically used the Al-Anon phone line for years. I’d call in twice a day on weekends: 1pm and 4pm EST. There are also a meetings on Thursday morning and two on Friday morning. All use the same book, Opening Our Hearts, Transforming Our Losses, to heal from grief and loss. I’d listen to other members share countless ways they were self-healing from their losses.

The meetings provided powerful healing to me and my inner child. I am deeply indebted to those members that shared their recovery with me, an anonymous woman in New Jersey.

So, back to beginning your grief work….

First, let’s agree that it is an option to skip grief work all together, and keep it stuck. It’s kind of like a splinter. It’s there. But it’s not killing you. It’s not life threatening, you just pick at it now and then. 

Sometimes it gets sore, and it hurts. Other times you pick at it and it interferes with what you need to do. Maybe you even like the distraction…it gives you something to do, something to focus on.

But still. It’s a splinter that shouldn’t be there.

Just like your grief.

Author standing alone, overlooking a vast canyon, symbol of grief and lonliness

You weren’t created to be burdened with heavy grief energy. You were meant to be happy and free.

Back to the splinter…maybe you think it’ll just magically pop out by itself one day. Sometimes it seems like it’s about to.

Or maybe it’ll get worse and start to infect other parts of your body. Perhaps begin to take away hobbies or activities you once enjoyed. Maybe cause arguments with loved ones because you want to keep the splinter lodged and they suggest otherwise. 

This way of dealing with the splinter represents avoiding, numbing, and minimizing your pain, rather than practicing self-care and resolving the problem in proactive, loving ways. 

The pain of removing the splinter is temporary. The splinter comes out and it heals.

It’s the same with grief work…it isn’t a lifetime of suffering. Rather, it’s short-term pain for long-time wholeness.

Pretty grass lined sand path symbol of wholeness

That’s how grief works. It’s seemingly benign, until it isn’t. When you uncover those parts of yourself that can’t get past things no matter how hard you try, it might be grief splintering through and causing this low-level persistent pain. 

You might even be diagnosed with depression, but still can’t get to the joy and peace you long for. Even with a mental health diagnosis (I have a few) grief work can help.

It’s a hard sell, I know. Another getting your hopes up only to have another disappointment so why bother? Well, because stuck grief can and usually will lead to chronic illness, dysfunctional relationships, self-pain and blame, loneliness, addictions…the list goes on. It’s good, preventative self-care.

Solo travel is an excellent place to start the process of healing your grief. It is an act of faith and forgiveness of yourself, proving you are worthy of loving yourself unconditionally.

3. Provide Opportunities for Ritual Creation

Solo travel allows you to create personal rituals that can help process and honor your experiences of trauma and loss. For instance, you might choose to write letters to your younger self, or release symbolic items to symbolize letting go. These rituals can provide a sense of closure and a way to address the emotions related to past experiences.

I like to burn things. That’s my ritual for letting do of grief that has outlived its usefulness. But how to get to that point?

The sad thing is, trauma in childhood usually breeds a morbid fascination with the past. It’s like you can’t look away and you can’t be present to experience the joy of living in the moment.

Repression is a key component to surviving past overwhelming emotions. It compartmentalizes them until you’re ready to feel and process them. Therefore, opening up this repressed part of you, your locked away precious inner child, helps move out of the disembodied past.

Dark colors of forest reflecting the pond, a symbol of the dark past presenting itself again in the present if grief stays stuck

By listening and hearing the child’s version of the past, in her own words without edits or judgment, you begin to grieve all that you lost in childhood. It hurts, but the pain does end…unlike repression and other mechanisms that keep grief stuck.

So what have you processed from your past that you desire to tangibly release? Pack it in your travel bag and acknowledge the significance it holds for your inner child, and you. Create a special moment in your solo travel to honor the grief, and the new beginning.

4. Cultivate Patience and Acceptance

Solo travel often involves unforeseen delays, changes, and challenges. For individuals healing from trauma, learning to accept what cannot be controlled and developing patience can be transformative. These skills are crucial in the broader healing process, helping to reduce anxiety and frustration associated with the need for control.

pretty orange and pink sunset over the water to balance healing and past need to control

Learning how to recognize our losses is the first step in grief work. When raised in a trauma-based household, expressing emotions was not safe. In fact, most families abided by the ‘don’t talk, don’t trust, don’t feel’ rules of generational trauma. Therefore, it’s nearly impossible to  access this grief.

However, there are strategies that work. One of my favorites is non-dominant hand writing. Since I’m naturally right handed, I would put the pencil in my left hand, and write. It’s a fantastic way to connect to your inner child who definitely has something to say. More importantly, she has feelings to express and by giving her this time, love, and attention, you will be creating a safe bond to heal together.

Taking solo trips helps you feel safe to do this unfamiliar work. The need to control lessens, because you are completely calm in this environment you created for yourself and your inner child. Being alone in your private comfort zone gives you the peace and courage to continue moving forward with your healing and releasing grief. Take as much time as you need, it’s all for your self-care and self-love.

5. Memorializing What Was Lost

Solo travel can provide a meaningful way to honor and remember the losses of your inner child. Visiting places that were significant to her can serve as a tender tribute. This act of remembrance can be deeply therapeutic, helping to process the loss.

Unfortunately, sometimes grief is ‘stuck’ and embedded into unhealthy behaviors such as food, shopping, perfectionism, etc. In fact, anything that numbs the long lost trauma and keeps you dissociated will block the stuck grief from moving out.

author alone contemplating taking the hard first step of doing grief work

Why would anyone want to do that? Well, it’s simple: because feeling the original wound hurts like hell. So subconsciously, the mind uses techniques to numb the body and keep the grief buried. But it’s still there and will continue to undermine the freedom, love and true joy you seek. 

By taking solo trips to meaningful places, you tell your inner child, “I’m not forgetting you. What’s important to you is important to me. Let’s travel together.

When you slowly allow yourself to be vulnerable with the pain, and trust yourself that you can live through it, your grief begins to loosen its grip. Eventually, it releases.

Starting Solo Travel To Heal Grief

Grief work is about slowly and gently allowing the feelings to rise in and around you. It’s having faith that you will not abandon your inner child when old pain surfaces and triggers appear.

If you truly and deeply seek a life of joy, the grief has to go. It’s hard work, but you will receive an unshakable foundation for emotional stability. Eventually, you realize, even in pain, there is joy. Because you are feeling. You are alive. And that is the true gift of grief work. Integration, spiritual awakening regardless of outside circumstances.

Can solo travel really help heal my childhood trauma, grief, and loss?

Yes. In addition to therapy, recovery, and journaling, solo travel offers solitude needed for deep reflection. It provides safe space to process emotions and apply growth to your goals and dreams.

How can I start using solo travel as a healing tool for childhood trauma?

Choose safe, meaningful destinations. Set clear intentions for your healing journey. Stay connected with support systems. Engage in mindful activities. Keep a journal to document your experiences.

Is it safe to travel alone when dealing with grief emotions from childhood trauma?

It’s safe with proper planning…assess your emotional readiness. Start with short trips. Maintain access to support. Choose safe destinations. Listen to your instincts to adapt plans as needed.

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