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.
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.
Find out how a psychiatrist is successfully helping veterans with unhealed trauma by using alternative practices.
In this episode I am featuring an interview from the Death & Afterlife Summit with Dr. Jeff Black, a psychiatrist who uses unconventional methods to successfully treat trauma in veterans. A few clips of this interview were featured in the Suicide Series and I wanted to share the entire interview with you.
As a follow-up to the Suicide SeriesI want to further address the issue of suicide in veterans: at this time 22 veterans take their own lives every day. This statistic is a heartbreaking tragedy and it’s time we work hard to help heal the emotional and spiritual burden that veterans bring home from war. Dr. Black and others describe the aftermath of trauma as “soul loss” and he uses shamanic rituals to help his patients recover the pieces of their souls that have been taken away by war.
In Episode 92 I performed a Fire Ceremony for my father to heal his wounds and to release my grief. This was recommended to me by Dr. Black and during the ceremony I felt the power of ritual to transform our losses into grace. I hope you enjoy this conversation with Dr. Jeff Black.
Tune in every Monday for a new episode! Until the next time …
The story of my long journey of healing after my father’s suicide death – told in a series of 8 episodes. Part 1: The Phone Call If you are currently experiencing a crisis or feeling hopeless please know that you are not alone. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for free and confidential support available […]
The story of my long journey of healing after my father’s suicide death – told in a series of 8 episodes.
Part 6: The Purple Heart
If you are currently experiencing a crisis or feeling hopeless please know that you are not alone. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for free and confidential support available 24/7 for people in distress:
or Text HELLO to 741-741.
This episode consists of:
How hospice work help me get “unstuck” on my grief journey
How I uncovered my anger at my Dad and my need to forgive him for taking his life
The “secret” my Aunt Lena told me about Dad and World War II
What I learned from psychiatrist Dr. Jeff Black who treats war veterans for trauma and “soul loss”
The RAIN formula from Jack Kornfeld for healing trauma:
Recognize the effect the trauma has had on your life
Acknowledge and accept the pain you are experiencing
Investigate the patterns
Non-attachment to the “story” of the trauma
A message of hope for those grieving a suicide and for anyone who might be considering suicide at this time:
Please don’t give up. There is light in the darkness, there is love for you, there is grace. I have survived and I am here to spread hope.
Please call 1-800-273-8255 for help if you are thinking about suicide.