How to Handle Grief on a Disney Vacation

Have you ever been on a magical vacation and received not so great news? Did you receive bad news before said vacation and decide to travel anyway? It happens more often than we think. This is a personal story from our very own Meredith about her real life situation. Read her take on how she handles grief on a Disney vacation.

How to Handle Grief on a Disney Vacation

To begin, I never set out to write this as a blog post. I just needed to edit my travel photos from a year ago and couldn’t bring myself to do it. I just sat down, and something compelled me to login here and write. You see, most of what we write here on The Mouse and the Monorail is informational or instructional in some way because we love to help you all get the most out of your Disney vacations.

However, this post is going to be different. Let’s talk about something entirely different. Let’s break the blog post mold today. Don’t worry, it’ll be okay. Buckle up, this may be a bit heavy both with subject matter and number of photos. You’ve been warned.

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Grief is Part of Life

We’ve all heard of the story of little Lane Graves and how a family vacation changed that family forever. Just the other day I read of another family who had a Make A Wish trip and lost their sweet little girl on their day at Walt Disney World. How magical and incredibly sad all at once! My heart goes out to all those who’ve experienced some sort of loss while vacationing.Sidenote: Did you know they’ve erected a memorial for Lane? Note to self: visit at the Grand Floridian next time I’m there.

Okay, so it’s not what you were expecting on a happy and fun blog about all things Disney, right? The thing is, though, life still happens regardless of when and where you are. It often happens in the moments you weren’t expecting. While many people see Disney parks as the happiest and most magical places on earth, there are many others out there who have experienced sadness there as well. Here I am trying my best to not cry with one of my favorite Princesses, Tiana.

Unexpected News on a Disney Vacation

My experience is a little more drawn out than most. You see, it all started last summer when Sarah, Amy, and I decided we’d like to plan a Mouse and Monorail squad trip to Walt Disney World. It coincided with training Amy and I were doing and was a perfect time to have fun on a ladies only getaway. I couldn’t wait to go and come back to share all the wonderful things we got to experience. We were going to report on how amazing it is to travel sans kids. We were going to cover Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party and talk about experiencing a passholder preview. I even happily snapped photos of the poinsettias and giant Christmas tree Disney had on display as they were my grandmother’s favorites during Christmastime.

It’s Not Always Magical

But then, like a Disney villain coming to pop our overpriced Mickey balloons on Main Street, life came knocking. Three out of the seven of us got calls during that week that our grandmothers weren’t doing well. Sarah and Jennifer are cousins, and I’m glad they had each other when finding out their news. My call came later in the week, during Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. How am I supposed to enjoy myself here at the Magic Kingdom and celebrate Christmas when my elderly grandmother is being admitted to the hospital?

Coping with Grief on Vacation

I managed. That’s the short version of the story. In my own head though? I was a mess! The party was still nice and I would definitely attend it again. I was glad, though, that we were heading home the next day. Things didn’t get better for my grandmother, and she remained in the hospital before passing away on November 19, 2017. We attended the November 9th party and she was gone in ten days. Everything stopped for me. That’s it, I thought. No more grandparents left. It’s a hard pill to swallow if you’ve lived to be 36 years old with at least one living grandparent. Unfortunately, Sarah and Jennifer were in for a similar fate as they too lost their grandmother in the coming days.

The Magic of Friendship

What I didn’t expect out of this trip was that I found a group of ladies that were there for me at just the right time. I couldn’t have asked for better women to be surrounded by during this time, even after we were back at home in various parts of the country. Not only had we all met in a single location and enjoyed a wonderful trip, we had gained true friends. To my squad ladies specifically, you will never know how much your kind words meant and still mean to me. I’m forever grateful.

Meredith’s Background

As an aside, before setting out to become a Disney blogger and travel agent, I was a photographer specializing in portraiture, but loved photographing anything and everything. I even went crazy one year and completed a full 365 day photo blog project with a friend. I still love photography and very much enjoy photographing my travels and experiences. I’ll be sharing more over our on Instagram account if you’d like to follow along.

Animal Kingdom is going to have an INCREDIBLE summer!Usually returning home from Disney means time to have fun editing all the photos. This time, however, I just couldn’t bring myself to even look at how happy I was. I didn’t want to revisit it because I knew it would stir emotions in me. I didn’t want to revisit the sadness. Even if I did get them edited, I didn’t want to share them because it would look like I was happy to everyone when, really, I was hurting. Insert more life stuff happening and it soon became a matter of time as well. I had so many things going on, I just couldn’t squeeze it in.

Sailing Away with Disney Cruise Line

Fast forward to April, and I set sail with my family and extended families (both sides!) on the Disney Fantasy. We enjoyed the Western Caribbean itinerary and loved our Star Wars Day at Sea.Upon returning home, it was back to normal life. I was already so far behind with editing the squad trip photos that I didn’t edit the cruise photos either. Don’t get me wrong, I shared some. The cruise was a much needed break from reality and was a wonderful way to have my own moment to say goodbye to my grandmother. She was fortunate enough to be able to sail with us in 2016 and made our Castaway Cay day quite memorable.

It was bittersweet for me revisiting Disney’s magical island. I cried on my own and had a moment to reflect on all that we were able to do with her. I also grieved the fact that my uncle wasn’t with us. He passed before we set sail and making the phone call to remove him from the reservation was rough! That said, I’m so grateful to have had that cruise with my family, including my Aunt who still came along with us despite her loss.

What’s So Special About Disney Anyway?

Traveling with loved ones is something that I hope all of you are fortunate enough to experience. For a long time, I didn’t want to edit the photos because I didn’t want to feel those emotions again. In short, I didn’t want to end up crying at my desk. Last night, I sat down and began to finally cull through the thousands of photos I shot. What I found was all the joy I felt while experiencing it all. It’s okay to be happy in the moment! What’s more is that it’s okay to be happy remembering those happy moments too!To those who say to “put your phones down and just enjoy the moment” are oversimplifying things. While I agree we should live in the moment with those that we’re with, we should also take care to capture the moments we don’t ever want to forget. If that means having the phone up because it’s also conveniently a camera, then so be it! Record and capture it all! I promise you’ll want to look back on that experience one day.

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After editing a half days’ worth of photos and enjoying all that we did just on the first day, I took a break. I began to browse through the past vacations we’ve taken through the years. My grandmother went with us on many of those trips and I’m so thankful we were able to experience those moments with her. I’ll always cherish this photo of her and my oldest daughter enjoying the soon to be extinct Illuminations show at Epcot. There are many more of her enjoying all that Disney had to offer back then. Each one of them a snippet of time that I hold I precious. 

Why We Go Back to Disney

Many people ask why we love to go back to Disney time and time again. It’s so absurd to them to be the first in line at rope drop only to wait hours and hours for a ride later. Why on earth would we want to go see the same show over and over again? That’s okay though. I get it. Disney is not for everybody.Revisiting Disney destinations time and time again means holding on to the magic with your loved ones for as long as you can. It means squeezing every bit of baby, toddler, preschooler, elementary school, middle, high school, college, and every moment in between with our babies. It also means being able to reflect on past visits with those that are no longer with us. Somehow, it allows us to enjoy the current visit knowing that they’re there with you in your heart because you’re been there together before. We go back to hold those memories precious and near to our hearts. My grandmother had the most wonderful times at Walt Disney World and on the Disney Dream with us and those times will be near and dear to our hearts always.

It’s always going to be a bit sad, but we can make the best of those moments too! So next time I’m revisiting Disney without my Grandmother, I’ll be looking for all the little things she used to love and point out. Her favorite were always the flowers, and every time I snap another flower photo at Disney, I’ll have her with me. I’ll choose to let it make me happy to remember her and have her with me in that way. We carry our loved ones with us always and Disney can help us recall some of the happiest times together. I will always cherish the moments I’m able to travel with my loved ones! ~Meredith º0º