Experts find grief retreats can significantly help people cope with loss

A surfer with his surfboard at the dunes looking to the waves (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
A surfer with his surfboard at the dunes looking to the waves (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Travelers are increasingly finding catharsis in grief retreats.

Travel can help those afflicted with grief get outside their day-to-day lives and provide the space and time to process their emotions. In a 2020 study published in Research on Social Work Practice, researchers found that grief-focused retreats could significantly reduce the distress caused by grief, their findings remained true when they followed up with participants later on.

With Condé Nast Traveler’s calling “grief-related wellness” one of the top wellness travel trends of 2024, it isn’t surprising for many in the travel industry that grief retreats are becoming more popular. The trend comes on the heels of the industry increasingly curating niche travel experiences and therapeutic retreats, with wellness becoming a focal point.

Programs for people dealing with major loss and struggling to cope have seen a spike in interest, especially since Google searches for the term “grief retreats near me” have been up an estimated 23 percent over the past year alone. Travel expert Stephanie De Santi-Davis explained to Popsugar, “[They] offer a supportive environment where [people] can share their experiences, their emotions, and coping strategies with others who understand the pain.”

Many people are booking these grief retreats to deal with the dark emotions that can feel too difficult to handle at home. Although some retreats treat grief a bit broadly, including not only those coping with the loss of a loved one but also people grieving the end of a relationship or the loss of a job, other programs are tailored to help with the former.

Donation-funded programs like Minnesota’s Camp LIVIN are geared toward grieving family members who died of suicide, while Ohana Oasis offers retreats nationwide to address child loss. “The idea is to provide a place where people are given permission to feel all the emotions of the loss,” licensed counselor Rita A. Schulte said to the outlet. “These things can be very cathartic.”

Taking a grief retreat also opens up the opportunity for those grieving to learn how other cultures cope with loss and mourn their loved ones. Some programs like Grief Space’s Earth Medicine include traditional plant-based medicine like psilocybin, meanwhile, the Lama Foundation’s Ecstatic Grief retreats take a page out of Burkina Faso rituals including live drumming and singing as well as co-creating a grief altar.

“I’ve had friends who have explored different traditions related to death and mourning, and it’s really broadened the understanding of grief and provided new perspectives on the grieving process,” De Santi-Davis said to the outlet.

If you are experiencing feelings of distress, or are struggling to cope, you can speak to the Samaritans, in confidence, on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email, or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch. If you are based in the USA, and you or someone you know needs mental health assistance right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Helpline on 1-800-273-TALK (8255). This is a free, confidential crisis hotline that is available to everyone 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you are in another country, you can go to to find a helpline near you.