Most Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people know the tradition of ‘Sorry Business’. For those who don’t know, Sorry Business is a time of mourning involving responsibilities and obligations.  Similarly, organizing mourning ceremonies and attending the funeral plays a large role.

Pathways for Navigating Death

For many indigenous Australians, Sorry Business is a clear pathway through which to navigate death and process grief.

By contrast, my ‘Anglo’ upbringing left me ignorant of the processes of death and grieving.

After my mom’s sudden passing, I was struggling to cope. Life doesn’t prepares you for death or dealing with the hospital, funeral directors and extended family members.

Tears were my only answer to questions like “Do you want to bury or cremate your Mom?” Conversations starting with, “In the event of my death…” never took place in my family.

With no knowledge of mom’s last wishes or cultural traditions to fall back on, the decision to cremate mom was guilt-ridden. Did I do the right thing? That question kept me in an emotional straight jacket for decades.

Perhaps a lack of a mourning tradition gives light to why millions around the world are turning to therapeutic travel to cope with grief.

Theraputic Travel – The New Way of Mourning

A new study in the Journal of Consumer Research shows people are turning to travel in search of settings that provide outlets for their grief and feelings.

Researchers refer to these spaces as ‘Therapeutic Servicescapes.’ Unlike typical holiday resorts, these destinations are emotional safe havens. Expressing grief and showing vulnerability is all part of the experience. Afterwards, visitors leave with a much-improved sense of emotional well-being.

One such therapeutic servicescape is Lourdes in France. Over 6 million people visit per year. The city abounds with religious activities, providing opportunities to attend mass, say the Rosary, partake in daily Candlelight Processions or visit holy sites.

Start Talking About Death

I’m not one to pass up an opportunity to travel, but life would be easier if we grew up talking about death the way traditional cultures do. Perhaps families without a mourning culture could make a new custom called ‘Happy Business’.

The best time to discuss last wishes or whether burial of cremation is preferred is when everyone is happy and healthy.