How Do You Grieve When You’re Traveling?

It’s snowing right now in Geneva, a new place to which I have just arrived, consumed with feelings that aren’t what one anticipates during travel.

I sat down to write, but what I wanted to put down wasn’t happening. Instead I’m consumed with the passing of a childhood friend, news that was delivered over invisible airwaves from another continent, a place that feels worlds away.

Grieving while traveling, when you’re far away from the people you want to give your love to, hurts.

I won’t be here long…but the time between now and my return is enough to feel like I’ll miss the chance to “do it right”. Time zones prevent asking questions, wanting news, yearning to hear voices. Counting the moments until my EST home wakes up and I can reach out without waking them, wondering if it’s too early to try. Texts can’t replace spoken word, and Skype doesn’t replace the closeness of sitting silently with those that are also feeling loss.

Being somewhere new where there’s no one to speak with is a silent process. My fingers fly over keyboards, but they can’t replace what I need.

The only thing to be done is to recall the time I had with the individual, and my strongest memory keeps playing. When we were young, my friend saved me from drowning. The moment seared into my mind when I was pulled underwater and unable to breath, sinking in the wrong direction, water closing over me. They spotted me somehow, in the chaos of the splashing pool, and brought me to the surface, bringing me to the air.

Instead of seeking out the places to see as a traveller, I’ll be looking for places to see as a tribute. My steps will be guided by your memory and they will be how I grieve.

Today I will seek out a quiet place, an old church that’s got no sentimental value to me, a place I’ve never seen, a spot I found because of a guide book. The walk there, the lighting of a candle, the quiet contemplation. This is how I will mark the occasion in which I say my goodbyes.

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