Spas To Heal Grief

08/09/2022, Anna Pasternak

One of the tangible aftershocks of the pandemic is that most of us have experienced grief in unprecedented ways. Now we are mourning our monarch. There is a feeling of tremendous loss in our lives. Loss of our figurehead, loss of jobs, loss of income, loss of a relationship, loss of health, loss of hope, loss of a sense of self. Grief is a defiant, unruly emotion. You can convince yourself that you have pushed it down but ultimately, it refuses to be contained. Often, if we try to deny it, it erupts as volcanic anger when we least expect it or embeds as depression or lethargy. It is an emotion that we don’t honour in British society and yet, it can be our greatest medicine. Shamans say that without grief we cannot love. Oscar Wilde said: “where there is sorrow there is holy ground.”

So how do we learn to tread softly in our sorrow? To soothe our bruised hearts and aching bones? I have spent the last decade becoming intimately acquainted with my grief. The sudden death of my mother from a stroke threw me into an abyss of despair. What I have learned is that grief needs space. It needs to be seen, acknowledged and tended to. When we are working through grief, we need rest. Deep rest and expert body work. The body can freeze with the shock of grief. We need help to release, to allow ourselves to decalcify.

It’s almost impossible to give our grief the attention it needs while we grapple with everyday life. Because grief triggers old grief. You can think you are beside yourself because the dog died, when in fact, this pain then unearthed a relationship trauma. Which is why spas can be genuine havens of healing for the bereaved. Not strict European detox spas, as we need nurture, nourishment and nature. I first went to Kamalaya in Thailand, a month after my mother had died. Rigid with shock, I could not have chosen anywhere better to begin my grieving and healing journey. Tucked in the heart of the resort is a Monks Cave, once the wellspring of Buddhism in Koh Samui. The spiritual energy amidst this hypnotically beautiful jungly hillside resort is so pure and intense, that the tears fell unabashed. Here, visiting monks offer mentoring sessions, superb acupuncture facilitates release and oily Ayurvedic treatments coax your body back to life. Kamalaya has a unique healing essence.

Equally restorative is Como Shambhala, Bali’s spiritual hideaway. Yes, there are wonderful intuitive healers- after one massage, I sobbed uncontrollably in the spa reception while the therapist calmly held my hand – but let nature work her magic. Absorb the dense vertiginous jungle to one side of the resort, dropping to the fast-paced river below. Hanging above the river are crystal-clear rock pools for swimming in. It’s like being in the Garden of Eden. This is the place to come to be quiet. To listen within. To reconnect to your intuition. The grounds are blessed twice daily by resident priests. Staff zone into your needs before you can register them yourself. Allowing yourself to be looked after and acknowledging what you need is a huge step forwards in grief-tending because when we are in emotional discomfort, we tend to abandon ourselves. Learning to accept help is a profoundly important act of self-care.

All of the mind-body practitioners at these world class destination spas, whether yoga teachers, nutritionists, naturopaths, acupuncturists or Ayurvedic doctors offer invaluable support in the grieving process. They help to release, to soothe, to calm and to reassure you that it is safe to let go. At the new AyurMa Spa at the Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru in the Maldives, four Indian doctors, experts in ayurveda, naturopathy, acupuncture and botany, work together to calibrate a healing program that is profound. As grief is an extreme stressor to our systems, we need to come back into physical balance to regain emotional equilibrium. Here cold mudpacks on your abdomen improve gut microbiome, while massages include cranio sacral therapy, which is excellent for uprooting exiled pain in the body.

At Chiva Som in Thailand, they also carefully curate a programme that meets you exactly where you are. Impressively, they know that we all heal at our own pace- whether that is in releasing the tension in our bodies or allowing our hearts to open – so here there is a sense of gentle guidance. In all of these spas, you feel energetically held. The crack team of therapists work in tandem to bring emotion to the surface and support you as you quietly (or not so quietly) fall apart. The Japanese style acupuncture, with moxibustion and blood letting, is worth the flight alone.

If you are too depleted to fly long haul, at Preidlhof in the South Tyrol, spa manager Patrizia has amassed a team of healers worthy of any Eastern destination spa. This hodge podge hotel, tucked amidst the apple orchards, isn’t sleek and glossy like the Eastern spas but for nurture, it is unparalleled. There is ancient healing with a master in Chinese medicine, crystal singing bowl sessions that pierce your heart and the piece de resistance, sessions with Stefano Battaglia. A shamanic osteopath and trauma specialist, he has hands like hot irons. Electric currents shoot through your arms when he touches you. He plugs your flagging body back into its own natural grid of energy.

Finally, if you want to stay on home turf, the best retreat in the UK is The Arrigo Programme, where you can either stay in Somerset cottages where gifted local healers attend to you, or you can join Fiona Arrigo and Nici Harrison’s Grief Retreat. Fiona, a wise therapeutic counsellor, has amassed a network of practitioners that unearth sediments of sadness from your core. There is TRE, trauma release shaking that helps the nervous system relax, shamanic fire ceremonies, intuitive masseurs and transformational breath work. Allowing yourself time in any of these hallowed temples of healing is a true gift to yourself. As Fiona Arrigo says: “by rejecting your grief, you are narrowing your bandwidth of experience.” Excavating and facing our sadness, frees us. I often think of Khalil Gibran who wrote: “the deeper that sorrow comes into your being, the more joy you can contain.” A visit to any of the above spas, facilitates that joy.

About The Author
Anna Pasternak is the international bestselling author of The American Duchess, the Real Wallis Simpson, a biography which pulls back the curtain on one of the most misunderstood women in British royal history, The Duchess of Windsor. Anna’s work regularly features in just about every British national newspaper including The Sunday Times, The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail as well as in magazines such as Vanity Fair, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Town & Country, and Tatler. She is also a frequent commentator on television and radio offering insights about the Royal Family, women’s issues, and modern relationships.


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