Instagram. A picture. A comment.
That is what sparked a 13day- trip that would bring me back to the land of the living. It had been a month in the hospital, a day of darkness and stillness when I learnt he was gone and a week to prepare saying goodbye. But now, there was no more hospital visits, no more funeral arrangements, no more busy work, dad was gone and it was time to move on.
The reality of his death was slowly kicking in, there was no more denying it. Then came the second stage of grief, I was angry I couldn’t do more for him, angry that the doctors couldn’t cure him, angry that he was in so much pain in the end and there was nothing we could do. I needed a distraction; I wasn’t ready to deal with all these emotions. So when a pal of mine invited me on a trip, I said yes without any hesitation. I desperately needed a ‘griefcation.’
To be honest, what attracted me about the trip was what was written on the poster.
We were to attend a 30-hour party in the forest, somewhere near Kampala. I thought 30 hours of loud music would definitely distract me from the consuming grief I felt. Did the party help? Yes and No. I mean there is nothing as fascinating as seeing how Ugandans party, these folks turn all the waaaay up. They don’t call Kampala the social capital of East Africa for nothing. They came dressed ready to party, drunk and danced for hours as each DJ came in and played their set. But not me, I was done and tired by midnight. 30 hours of partying was an epic fail.
Luckily, this was only the beginning of our trip as two weeks later, we would travel to 3 new countries and I would come back home ready to restart life. Here are ways the trip helped me come to terms with the loss of my father.
- Physical Escape
At home, everything I did everywhere I looked reminded me of my father. Sadly not of times when he was healthy and joyful, but his last days when he was weak and in a lot of pain. I desperately needed a change of environment which this trip offered. Visiting a new place and trying new things gave my mind time to reset. The constant images of hospital beds were being replaced with beautiful lakes and delicious food. It gave me time to get past the trauma my mind, body, and soul had experienced for more than a month. It gave a slight relief to breathe again.
- Long Bus Rides
We traveled by bus, sometimes for more than 10 hours. In these rides, I could not run away from my thoughts and feelings. I thought about my father a lot, I thought of the life he lived, the moments we shared. Some memories which I didn’t even think I had, became apparent to me. Like every time we were on our way to visit my grandmother when I was little, he’d always tell me names of the towns we passed through and make me memorize them. Such memories made me smile. But then there were moments when I’d break down, cry in front of strangers without a care in me. My travel partner constantly told me to feel my feelings, let them flow. She was always there to offer me a shoulder to cry on and comfort me when I got overwhelmed with grief.
- Candid Conversations
The next and most difficult part of my grief was talking about it. Luckily, I had the most amazing human travelling with me. My pal had lost a very close person in her life and as she shared her story, I found peace in knowing that life continues. We talked for hours; talked about everything including how death can leave someone feeling like you could have done more. I should have been tired from being on the road for hours, but surprisingly I always felt lighter and like a heavy burden had been lifted from my shoulders.
My trip to Rwanda also helped me in seeing how people recover after losing loved ones, especially to a senseless death. How the people, even after experiencing such a traumatic event like genocide, woke up each day and chose life and happiness was just so inspiring.
- Serene Environment
We were lucky to visit some of the most beautiful places I ever have seen, Lake Bunyonyi, for instance, offers a very peaceful and serene vibe, you cannot not fall in love with it. It is that space of peace and quiet that I was able to write down my feelings. I had a journal with me and every morning right before dawn, I’d sit and write down what I thought and felt. Sometimes I could I swear I felt his presence like I could talk to him. And I did. Slowly by slowly, I was able to let go and make peace that my dad was no longer a call away.
Getting over the loss of a loved one is not an overnight thing and each and every one grieves in their own way and time. It’s going to take me some time to move on but this trip definitely set me on the right path of recovery.