5 Things to Pack for the Grief Journey

Author: Erin Jacobson

What to Pack for the Grief Journey

Whenever we travel to a new location, there are elements of both uncertainty and promise. We try to pack our bags in anticipation of planned activities, weather and terrain. The grief journey takes us to unknown places, and while we don't know all that we will encounter, we can be mindful to pack some things to help us on the journey ahead.

  1. Self-care: We pack our toiletries to help us take care of our appearance, health and physical needs. So too on the grief journey we need to be mindful to take care of ourselves. Be aware of your needs. Do you need time alone? Or do you feel like being around others? Are you overwhelmed about making a decision? Do you need a break from the day? Tell others if and how they can support you. Grief is exhausting. Take time to sleep and rest. Make food choices that will help fuel your body for the long road ahead.
  2. Memories: When we travel, we make sure to pack our favorite clothes, the most comfortable pajamas - even some fuzzy slippers are nice. These are some comforts of home. So too, we bring our loved ones with us on the grief journey as we remember them. They are a part of our former selves. Take time to remember your loved one's laugh, smile and hug. Share stories of your loved one with others who understand this journey, or make a sacred space where you can go to intentionally remember him or her.
  3. Compassion: For our trips, we often bring with us the "what if" items - a nice outfit in case we go out, an umbrella because what if it rains? or spare band-aids in case of any falls or cuts along the way. Trips don't always go as planned. There will be delays, unexpected weather and events that didn't meet our expectations. Grief has its ups and downs and unexpected moments. Compassion for ourselves gives us the flexibility and the attitude to cope with the unexpected.
  4. Presence: A camera helps us document our presence on the journey. It takes a snapshot of a moment in time. In grief, we honor our loved ones by being "in the moment" with our grief. Make time to be still and take in your surroundings. Take a walk at dawn or sunset as a time to reflect and regroup, and take in the beauty. Take grief one moment at a time.
  5. Open mind: Our passport enables us to have adventures worldwide. A zest for adventure helps us open our hearts to our grief and to others who are grieving. When we become adventurous and open to experiences, we can be there for others, sharing our travels and honoring our loved ones. Take a step out of your comfort zone to experience something new. Attend an event you think your loved one would have loved as a way to honor him or her and yourself.

Every grief journey is unique and every sojourner has his or her incomparable story. Traveling together makes the adventure a positive and healing experience.

Are you interested in sharing the journey with others?
Pack your grief gear and plan to attend an event with your TAPS family this year. Find out more at TAPS Events.

Erin Jacobson is Senior Advisor, TAPS Outreach and Engagement and the surviving fiancĂ©e of Cpl. Jason Kessler, U.S. Army.