A Pilgrim is a person who travels to a sacred place. A Pilgrimage is the journey the pilgrim makes.
It is a journey to a nostalgic or sentimental place. It is a journey with emotional significance. It is undertaken for a specific purpose. A considerable amount of time and distance is usually involved. It is a journey the individual feels compelled to make accompanied by a very strong yearning.
There are ancillary benefits from a pilgrimage to your past. It often brings a mature understanding of who you were and who you are now. You can see with adult eyes, your life and your relationships. You can see if your memories, your perceptions and your feelings hold up and whether or not they are true. Reliving and re-experiencing happy times can confirm your identity and validate those memories that it was a happy time and place and you were happy. It is a good idea if you are feeling sad or disoriented in life, to go back and look for past happiness. Things may not be as you remember them. The place may be gone or drastically changed but there is still value in making the trip.
After a loss a pilgrimage can make the bereaved feel closer to the departed. Part of your departed’s essence is still there. You are walking the streets that you walked together. You are seeing the people and places that you saw together. It can help the survivor to accept their loss on a different level. It can bring closure of a sort and serve as a final farewell. Although, temporarily, there may be increased feelings of longing for the loved one and for the good times it can be psychologically very healing.
People do not usually return to places that were unhappy or painful. However, these journeys can also bring closure and healing. Sometimes, such a trip will allow the individual to finally leave the past behind them and move forward.
Patricia Frank is a Licensed Psychotherapist. She can be reached at 305-788-4864