We are looking forward to our first Living with Loss Pilgrimage next week.
Our route the Finchale Camino in County Durham. It is officially part of the Camino de Santiago and is signposted with the typical yellow shell markers.
We begin at Finchale Abbey and finish at Escombe Saxon church. We’ll be visiting Durham and Bishops Auckland on the way.
It’s not a very long walk – about 22 miles in total – and we’ll take our time over the three days to visit the sights and pause to reflect.
The symbolism of pilgrimage
There is so much symbolism attached to pilgrimage.
For starters, it’s not just a long walk or a meander through countryside. It’s a walk with purpose or intention. There’s a starting point, a journey, and a destination. The only way to reach that destination is to go forward, one step at a time.
We walk in remembrance. Everyone walking on this pilgrimage has been bereaved. Someone – or more than one person – who has been significant in their life journey has died. We walk in company with those who understand this difficult grief journey.
Some of us will be carrying pebbles to symbolise sorrows or burdens that we will leave at the end. This very much fits within the theme of we are all unique individuals, with our own life stories and loss stories too.
Even though we are all on the same basic journey, it will be different in some ways for each of us. Some of us will be slower, some of us will be faster. Some may prefer to walk silently while others will chatter.
“Be kind to yourself” is essential for coping with grief. Some people are purists about pilgrimage, but that’s not us. In recognition that we are all of different abilities, ages and health limitations, and in honour of the “be kind to yourself” principle, we have a kindness plan for anybody who get too tired: our support team (John) will be ready to give them a ride along the way. We’ve also got some nice meals planned for the evenings and a few treats along the way. We have some comfy self-catering accommodation to return to each evening. Yes, we’ll be kind to ourselves!
Being out in nature is enjoyable and relaxing, and there is also a spiritual element to this. Celtic Christianity see nature was one of the two sacred texts of revelation, alongside the scriptures. “Just as God can speak through the words of the scriptures, so can we hear the voice of the divine in the elements, the creatures, and the land.” (Christine Valters Paintner) This will be an opportunity to reflect deeply, if this is what we want to do.
We’ll be walking with Brother Sun according to the weather forecast. Here’s hoping!
The merry band
This is our first “Living with Loss” organised pilgrimage. There are 15 of us, including John who is the support team. If you’re in the Durham area between 10-12 June, keep a look out for our group and say hello!
What exactly does this pilgrimage mean to everyone taking part? What do they hope to gain from it? We’ll be talking about that on our first evening, so I can’t tell you for sure. For some, it is a holiday and a chance to be in nice company. For many of us, it has been a motivation to train and get fitter. And there may be deeper reasons too.
I will write more after the completion of the walk, but if you want to follow our journey and our preparations, please head over to my other blog here. The recent posts are written by John, one of the pilgrims (another John, not my husband)
“Buen Camino” or “Good way” is the greeting shared on the Santiago de Compostela, a route that winds under a field of stars (the actual meaning of Compostela). Buen Camino to all pilgrims!