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Camino as a balm for grief

ouroboros

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances from St. Jean to Santiago (2012)
Camino Portuguese Porto-Santiago (2017)
I returned a couple weeks ago from walking the Portuguese from Porto to Santiago with my husband, Stuart.
On my 9th day of walking, somewhere near Caldas de Reis, I got news from my sister that my mother died that morning. I knew that she was in decline before I left for Portugal, but did not see a reason to cancel my pilgrimage, and did not tell her that I was going overseas, as I did not want her to be concerned about that.
I knew that my sister and nephew were with her, and I visited her bedside with my sister virtually on FaceTime, and my sister and I were able to grieve together.

I feel that the Camino was a good place to be to process my grief, and almost wonder if the universe conspired to put me there for this this reason. After walking the CF in 2012, my father died shortly thereafter, and I felt my pilgrimage helped me navigate the enormous upheaval in my life at that time.

This time, I walked for three more days, and thought about my mother deeply and at length as I walked hour after hour, honored her with a candle at the Sepulcher of St. James, with a bouquet of flowers left on the Camino Portugese Great Gate outside Santiago, and poured my grief into the landscape, which absorbed and reflected its serenity back to me endlessly. My camino family comforted me also. A photo of me holding flowers 5 km outside Santiago shows me looking like the spitting image of my mother, so I know she walked with me somehow.
Now I am home, and dealing with the details of her death, and my complex web of feelings arriving in waves, and I feel so blessed to have been able to walk the Way at this time. It will forever mark this chapter of my life.
 

Rebekah Scott

Camino Busybody
Camino(s) past & future
Many, various, and continuing.
I met an Australian woman a month ago whose husband died in Leon last summer, right in the middle of their camino journey.
With the support of those around her, she dealt with the immediate storm. Then she started walking again. She finished her camino!
This April, we dedicated a memorial tree and stone in his honor, just outside Astorga. Ron Duke's is the first marker in the Pilgrim Memorial Grove of Valdeiglesias. His wife Shirley and his sister returned for the little rite, stopping in the middle of a pilgrimage they made in his honor. Several of those people from Leon who helped Shirley last year came over for the service.
The stalwart ladies scattered some of Ron's ashes on the site, and continued onward the next day.
There's great courage on the camino, and great pain. And amazing healing, too.
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF Sep/Oct 2015
C Primitivo Sep / Oct 2016
Portugese Sep/Oct 2017
VdlP, Muxia 2018
One of my Camino friends did this without any problem. Suffice to say that this element of their was private and it was a very personal journey and did not share the information with others.
 

Kieran Kenneally

Inspired
Camino(s) past & future
Stages on both French and Northern routes. Plan to walk Tui to Santiago in June 2017
For those with faith,the moment we are born we believe, we are born for eternity. Nobody knows the span of ones life that we leave to God. Walking the Camino can be cathartic it is where we can be alone with our inner most thoughts where we connect with the real self. Life can sometimes drag us down but God raises us up more often than not through the people he sets before us. I pray that you found comfort and will continue to gather strength be rest assured that your mam has received her eternal reward. God bless you
 

nycwalking

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF: (2001, 2002, 2004, 2014). Hospitalera: 2002, Ponferrada. 2004, Rabanal del Camino.
May your spirit heal here and your loved ones there. In Estella, I met a guy on Camino who's mom was fatally hit by a car one week into his camino. He went home to bury her, then returned to walk. A Jesuit priest/ pilgrim heard his story listened to him that day, then left our group to walk with him the next day. I/We never saw him again, his pace was very fast. I wish death weren't so insistent ... but, it is. Well, as Spock says: "Live long and prosper"!
 
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Kiwi-d

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances Sep/Oct 2014
Although I didn't realise it at the time, part of my reason for walking the Camino was grief for my sister, who had recently died. The night before I left New Zealand, in a half dream state, I saw my sister Lila walk past on the trail. She was wearing her glasses, which I hadn't seen her do for years and had her head down watching the trail. She had a little pack on her back.

At the airport the next morning, I texted my children to say it looked like I wasn't going on the Camino on my own after all, Lila was coming with me.
 

Purky

The Dutch guy
Camino(s) past & future
Breathe properly.
Stay curious.
And walk a camino.
Death and the camino are inextricably linked for me also, I am sorry to say. My father died in 2013, which prompted a feeling of my own mortality and the desire to do something that celebrated, and embraced, life. I quickly decided upon walking to SDC in 2016.
I 'met' my dead father in the herbal gardens of Leuven (he had been a garden architect) in the first week of my camino. There I finally cried for him, for the first time.
In week six of my walk a very good friend passed away. She was diagnosed terminally ill a year before I left, and I helped her with weekly massages and pain relief in the three months before I would leave.
We talked a lot about my plans, and she enjoyed my enthusiasm. I talked with her about postponing the walk, but she wouldn't hear of it. We both knew that we would never see each other again after that last time I came to visit, three days before my departure.
And in the second to last week before I arrived in Santiago, a close colleague of mine suddenly died. Young guy, full of life, was also battling cancer and was said to have a good chance of beating it. It turned out different.
Through all this I kept walking. And in a strange way, the way kept me grounded and embracing life.
 

tomnorth

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances: September 24 - October 31 (2015); February/March (2020)
My Dad died a week before I left for my Camino in 2015. I found the Camino to be deeply healing. On three occasions I felt my Dad's spirit rush past me as I walked. I will never forget the feeling. At Cruz de Ferro we had an impromptu memorial service for him and I left a remembrance of him at the foot of the cross. At his request, there was no official memorial service, so this was the only memorial service he received. I was the lucky one.
 

ouroboros

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances from St. Jean to Santiago (2012)
Camino Portuguese Porto-Santiago (2017)
Thank you all so much for your prayers and stories. They are all healing and very comforting.
The Camino is a blessed place to celebrate and contemplate mortality. And always there are angels coming to meet us on the Way to help us through our grief, and sometimes we find we are also those angels who are there to help others through their sorrows.
Strange thing, but just as I was hoisting my pack on the second day of my Camino, a few days before my mother's death, I pierced my finger on a loose pin which held my pilgrim shell to my bag and cried out. Within moments, a man glided towards me out of nowhere, with his hand outstretched towards me. Silently, he took my offered hand, the one which was not bleeding, and looked me in the eye for several moments, emanating compassion, not uttering a word, and then he released my hand and moved on, just disappeared out of sight as mysteriously as he had appeared. Someone later told me that a wound is considered to be a form of blessing. I don't doubt that. But I immediately felt that that was an angelic encounter.
 
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Purky

The Dutch guy
Camino(s) past & future
Breathe properly.
Stay curious.
And walk a camino.
But I immediately felt that that was an angelic encounter.
As a completely unconventional side note: your Forum name sounds exactly like a character that was famous in Holland when I was very young. Oehoeboeroe, a wise owl, was one of the friends of Paulus the Woodgnome, a very popular Dutch show for kids back in the day.
The owl in Native American legends is of course the messenger between humans and different planes, or spirit and substance if you will. Just letting you know... ;)
 

susanawee

susanawee
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances-(2013/14/18
Camino Salvado Perth -(2015)
West Highland Way (2016)
Lyon France 2017
My thoughts and prayers are with you. Reading both your story and those of others this morning has been, in many ways, uplifting and comforting. Both my parents passed away prior to my Camino walks, and I was unable, for many reasons, to be with either of them at the time of their deaths. Walking the Camino gave me time with myself, to process my grief around this and to find peace. Thank you all for sharing your stories here. :)
 

KinkyOne

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
I'am not perfect, but I'm always myself!!!
My sincere condolences for your loss @ouroboros !

All of my Caminos were somehowe related to death of someone I knew but the one "coincidence" I really remember happened three years ago at Cruz de Ferro. My paternal grandmother died that year and although she was hard-core old-school communist and I'm no church going person, I took her 1€ worth (aluminium or was it peuter?) necklace with me. kind of as a companion on my walk because I had this very strong bad feeling I wasn't spending enough time with her while she was still among us (although I was the last to see her alive). I stashed that price-wise worthless necklace deep down in my backpack and when I came up that mound at Cruz de Ferro the necklace was gone. Went down the mound and put everything out of the pack but couldn't find the damn thing (was never found...). In that moment I felt like somebody went with (her) fingers through my hair. We, me and my grandmother alike, very much liked being touched gently through our hair. That was also the last way I touched her before she died. And I knew everything is OK with her, she was kind of there, saying to me that she got the message.

I believe your mother was walking with you. Grieving on Camino is kind of experience not everyone is up to but it is an experience par-excellence and surely gives very different perspective.

Again, so sorry for your loss.
 

ouroboros

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances from St. Jean to Santiago (2012)
Camino Portuguese Porto-Santiago (2017)
As a completely unconventional side note: your Forum name sounds exactly like a character that was famous in Holland when I was very young. Oehoeboeroe, a wise owl, was one of the friends of Paulus the Woodgnome, a very popular Dutch show for kids back in the day.
The owl in Native American legends is of course the messenger between humans and different planes, or spirit and substance if you will. Just letting you know... ;)
Oehoeboeroe! That is a wild name.

Ouroboros is the esoteric symbol of the serpent eating its own tail: eternity.
Thanks, Purky, for that fascinating side note.
Hoot.
 

ouroboros

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances from St. Jean to Santiago (2012)
Camino Portuguese Porto-Santiago (2017)
My sincere condolences for your loss @ouroboros !

All of my Caminos were somehowe related to death of someone I knew but the one "coincidence" I really remember happened three years ago at Cruz de Ferro. My paternal grandmother died that year and although she was hard-core old-school communist and I'm no church going person, I took her 1€ worth (aluminium or was it peuter?) necklace with me. kind of as a companion on my walk because I had this very strong bad feeling I wasn't spending enough time with her while she was still among us (although I was the last to see her alive). I stashed that price-wise worthless necklace deep down in my backpack and when I came up that mound at Cruz de Ferro the necklace was gone. Went down the mound and put everything out of the pack but couldn't find the damn thing (was never found...). In that moment I felt like somebody went with (her) fingers through my hair. We, me and my grandmother alike, very much liked being touched gently through our hair. That was also the last way I touched her before she died. And I knew everything is OK with her, she was kind of there, saying to me that she got the message.

I believe your mother was walking with you. Grieving on Camino is kind of experience not everyone is up to but it is an experience par-excellence and surely gives very different perspective.

Again, so sorry for your loss.
@KinkyOne, Your story brought tears to my eyes. Thank you.

Another moment on the Camino: I requested that my husband, who was walking with me on the third day after my mother's death, take my picture at the 6km milestone from Santiago, holding a bouquet of wildflowers I had picked in remembrance of her over several km that day. I had been praying that she would come to say goodbye to me on the Way. Later, looking at the pictures on my phone, my mother-in-law said I looked exactly like my mother in that photograph. Strange how many ways there are for souls to travel side-by-side.
 
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Purky

The Dutch guy
Camino(s) past & future
Breathe properly.
Stay curious.
And walk a camino.
Oehoeboeroe! That is a wild name.

Ouroboros is the esoteric symbol of the serpent eating its own tail: eternity.
Thanks, Purky, for that fascinating side note.
Hoot.
I know the meaning of Ouroboros, or tail-eater. In Holland we have an artist/sculptor/designer, Henck van Dijck, who is big on environmental issues and recycling. He often uses the Ouroboros symbol to underline his points, such as this one:

Ouroboros.jpg
 

ouroboros

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances from St. Jean to Santiago (2012)
Camino Portuguese Porto-Santiago (2017)
I know the meaning of Ouroboros, or tail-eater. In Holland we have an artist/sculptor/designer, Henck van Dijck, who is big on environmental issues and recycling. He often uses the Ouroboros symbol to underline his points, such as this one:

View attachment 34306
!!!:)
I love that!
 

Kieran Kenneally

Inspired
Camino(s) past & future
Stages on both French and Northern routes. Plan to walk Tui to Santiago in June 2017
I have heard many experiences of people who have passed on making brief appearances ( some within my own family). This life is transitory the next we know nothing about yet but its outside space, time existence as we know it. Thanks for sharing that SEB
 

Kieran Kenneally

Inspired
Camino(s) past & future
Stages on both French and Northern routes. Plan to walk Tui to Santiago in June 2017
I found it difficult to discuss what happened at O Cebreiro with the result that my post was clumsy in expression, so wanted to clarify a point. @Kieran Kenneally thank you for your reply, it has always seemed to me from my limited personal experience that such matters are dealt with more easily in Ireland. Two generations ago my great grandmother moved from Antrim to Leith in Scotland. She was a Protestant and her Scottish (first) husband - she was widowed twice - was a Catholic. From a small child I was brought up hearing stories of her second-sight which I found equally scary and thrilling. Before he died, my partner and I shared a conversation about the possibility of an afterlife and he was firm in his Christian belief that there would be no supernatural appearances by him, even if such visits, if possible might provide consolation. I don't believe what I saw at O Cereibro was him, but rather a visual manifestation of a message, probably from my subconscious, )but who knows, as you say Kieran, perhaps from somewhere else), that it was time to accept certain facts, and make emotional adjustments, not to move on which seems to imply 'moving on' and 'leaving behind', because as Thomas Campbell wrote "To live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die."

On a related theological point, and not being a Catholic I am not certain of this, but in the film The Way when Tom disperses the ashes of his son in small amounts in different locations, is this contrary to Catholic doctrine which I understand requires the deceased's earthly remains be either kept in a suitable container or scattered in their entirety on sacred ground.
Hi Seb this is a subject one could easily write a book about ad infinitum. I think sightings of ones dearly departed are very few and far between in reality. Some may put it down to extreme grief which may be a factor in some but not all cases I believe. Personally I know people who have witnessed such events and they are very credible and not prone to fantasy or over emotion. To be honest they don't talk openly about it in fear of been thought of as cracked. I think the Irish are very good in how they deal with death, the traditional wake been a case in point. Death is as much a part of life as been born but it is something we shy away from because it reminds us that we are mortal.
As for your question on ashes the Vatican raised it recently and the
Ruling says deceased’s ashes should be stored in ‘sacred place’ such as a cemetery or church and should not be spread. It is even frowned upon keeping them on the mantle piece. I think it is all to do with the sanctity of the body.
 

KinkyOne

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
I'am not perfect, but I'm always myself!!!
Ruling says deceased’s ashes should be stored in ‘sacred place’ such as a cemetery or church and should not be spread. It is even frowned upon keeping them on the mantle piece. I think it is all to do with the sanctity of the body.
Sanctitiy of the body??? But what/where the body is at that time really? I know you just copy/pasted that...

Cool, that's OK and we knew that all the time (I've been baptised etc. although in former Yugoslavia ;))

BUT if God is everywhere that means that the sacred place is everywhere so the remains can be scaterred... Or not???
Also you can see relics of the same "person" in churches as much as 500kms apart. What about that?

Anyway I think it's US and not THEM that we wish to remember/cherish etc., so it doesn't make much difference where and how somebody is buried. Put in the earth or thrown in the wind... What difference does it make to John Doe as long as you remember him/her (put any word in here) .................

I was the last to see my grandmother alive, some of my friends commited suicide, my climbing partner died in my lap, it has been a tough life about that... But death is more about us, living than those passed away.

All I want to say is that unless somebody really has (recorded) special wish of how/when/why should be put to rest, it's all up to us. Mortals, still... ;)
 
Camino(s) past & future
Caminho Portugues (2017)
I returned a couple weeks ago from walking the Portuguese from Porto to Santiago with my husband, Stuart.
On my 9th day of walking, somewhere near Caldas de Reis, I got news from my sister that my mother died that morning. I knew that she was in decline before I left for Portugal, but did not see a reason to cancel my pilgrimage, and did not tell her that I was going overseas, as I did not want her to be concerned about that.
I knew that my sister and nephew were with her, and I visited her bedside with my sister virtually on FaceTime, and my sister and I were able to grieve together.

I feel that the Camino was a good place to be to process my grief, and almost wonder if the universe conspired to put me there for this this reason. After walking the CF in 2012, my father died shortly thereafter, and I felt my pilgrimage helped me navigate the enormous upheaval in my life at that time.

This time, I walked for three more days, and thought about my mother deeply and at length as I walked hour after hour, honored her with a candle at the Sepulcher of St. James, with a bouquet of flowers left on the Camino Portugese Great Gate outside Santiago, and poured my grief into the landscape, which absorbed and reflected its serenity back to me endlessly. My camino family comforted me also. A photo of me holding flowers 5 km outside Santiago shows me looking like the spitting image of my mother, so I know she walked with me somehow.
Now I am home, and dealing with the details of her death, and my complex web of feelings arriving in waves, and I feel so blessed to have been able to walk the Way at this time. It will forever mark this chapter of my life.
Ouroboros, Even a whole year later, I was very moved by your post. I couldn’t think of a fitter tribute to your parents, nor can I think of any better way to deal with your grief. God love you.
 

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