Grief Travel: Tips for a Pilgrimage to Heal the Wounds of War – End-of-Life University Blog

For the past 30 years since my father decided to take his own life I have been searching to understand why he made that choice. What had caused him so much pain that he would destroy his own existence and deeply damage the lives of everyone who loved him in the process?With information I received from a psychiatrist who specializes in treating war-related trauma in members of the military I concluded that Dad had been carrying hidden pain from his experiences during World War II that he had never been able to resolve. I realized that in order for me to heal my own grief over Dad’s death I needed to conduct a pilgrimage to explore more closely the pain of war that haunted him.On my journey I discovered lingering echoes of the devastation and suffering created by the war. But I also found people eager to share the stories of heroism and honor that had taken place on their soil and I found a connection with my father I had never before experienced. Ultimately my pilgrimage helped me understand the deep wound he had been carrying that undoubtedly contributed to his death.Here are some tips for planning your own pilgrimage to heal the grief of war:Do your homework before you goGather information wherever you can: from old letters and photos, the memories of those who knew your loved one during their time of service, historical information about the war itself, and military records available online from the National Archives.  Use this information to help you decide which sites are the most important for a visit so that you can keep your itinerary manageable.I spent several months doing research before I began my travels. I knew that Dad had spent at least part of the war in Iceland, England, and France but I had no further details. After finding Dad’s uniform I was able to determine which division he served in and I also utilized conversations with relatives, and multiple online sources to piece together enough information to get me started. I was surprised to learn for the first time that Dad had been part of the Normandy invasion so one focus of my pilgrimage became a visit to Omaha Beach.Visit a museumPlan to tour a war memorial museum as part of your pilgrimage if there is one available to you. You will have a chance to learn the overall scope of the war and to take in details that you may not have known. Also you may see a picture of the war from the perspective of another country, which can also be useful as you begin absorb the immensity of war and its impact on everyone it touches. Learn about some of the WWII museums in Europe here. My pilgrimage included the Mémorial de Caen Museum, in the city of Caen, where I learned the history of the build up to the war starting with World War I. Through the informative exhibits there I learned about significant events on both sides of the conflict that contributed to the start of the war, the impact of the war on the people of France, and the importance of D-Day to the entire European theatre. I also came away with a much better picture of the timeline for the war and recognized that my father’s training in England had been part of the preparation for the Normandy invasion.Enlist a guideOn your pilgrimage consider utilizing the services of a guide trained to offer tours through the region. You are likely to discover sites and hear stories that you might have missed otherwise and a guide can help you get the most from your visit for the time you have available. When choosing a guide make sure they speak your language fluently, have been trained in the history of the war, and specifically focus on the sites you want to see.I knew from my research that my father’s division had landed at Omaha Beach so I booked a guide who would take me there and to other significant sites in the area. She found out the date his division landed, which was five days after D-Day, and she showed me a map that traced the route his division followed after surviving the landing. We discovered from the map that Dad would have been involved in the Battle of Saint-Lô, which serendipitously turned out to be the town where she grew up.Meet a localOn your pilgrimage spend time talking with the locals in the area who have their own recollection of the war or can share stories that have been passed down from older generations. As you hear about the suffering endured in their lives you will begin to see how we are all connected in our grief, particularly after a brutal war for freedom. We do not mourn alone but our pain is shared with others all over the world.The fact that my guide’s family had lived in Saint-Lo during the war and my father was part of the battle that took place there helped create a bond between us. Though she hadn’t been born yet during the war she had been told many stories of the bravery of the American soldiers who fought to free France and she immediately expressed her gratitude for my father’s service. At that moment I knew I was on the right track and my pilgrimage was lead

Source: Grief Travel: Tips for a Pilgrimage to Heal the Wounds of War – End-of-Life University Blog

About Sue Rosenbloom, M.A., C.T.

Thanatologist: Loss and Grief Coach - My blog is for educational purposes only. I am not a licensed professional counselor - Bachelor of Arts in Human Studies - Marylhurst University (2007)- Certificate in Thanatology - Hood College (2008) Master of Arts in Thanatology - Hood College (2009) Certificate in Thanatology - The-Association for Death Education and Counseling (The highest level of loss and grief education). * Hospice, Alzheimers and Senior's Advocate * Former first responder for Trauma Intervention Program, Inc. (TIP) * Hospice and Bereavement Volunteer for Providence Hospice Bereavement Program * Association for Death Education and Counseling Member * National Alliance for Bereavement of Children * Hood College Thanatology Association * American Group Psychotherapy Association * Marylhurst Gerontolgy Association * Oregon Gerontology Association * Hospice, Loss, Grief and Bereavement Researcher * Creative Writer
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