Most Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people know the tradition of ‘Sorry Business’.
Sorry Business is a time of mourning that involves responsibilities and obligations to organize and attend the funeral and participate in mourning events, activities or ceremonies with the community.
For many indigenous Australians, Sorry Business is a clear pathway through which to navigate the death of a family member 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 with all the practical stuff no one prepares you for such as performing last rights by washing the body 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 a sense of cultural tradition 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.
A new study in the Journal of Consumer Research, by Dr Leighanne Higgins, from Lancaster University Management School, and Dr Kathy Hamilton, from the University of Strathclyde, 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, therapeutic servicescapes are an 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.
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 many traditional cultures do. Perhaps families without a sense of mourning culture and tradition could make a new custom called ‘Happy Business’.
Discussing last wishes, talking about death, understanding mourning and learning what to expect is much easier when everyone is happy and healthy.