Can The Camino De Santiago Heal A Broken Heart?

Why are so many people drawn to walking the Camino de Santiago? One is the need to heal a broken heart.

I saw many people grieving during my first Camino Frances in 2016, sitting by the side of the road, alone. Sometimes, I would join them, offering a shoulder to cry on, and a tissue to wipe away their tears. They’d lost someone dear to them. They were on the Camino to heal.

It works, my friend, like an emotional cleanout. The Camino can take away the pain. The Camino gives a person who is grieving the opportunity to reflect, not just on the loss, but on the life their loved one lived.

Yet many people aren’t grieving the loss of a loved one. They are healing from the pain of the past, the hardships they have suffered, the mistakes they have made, and the losses of living a life with a lack of emotional ease. Broken hearts are often caused by people who are still living. Indeed, we often break our own hearts.

I’ve come to see the silver lining of a broken heart, through the pain and all the tears. A broken heart means that one has loved long and well, even if they lost out in the end only to find strength in their vulnerability.

Which is how I have come to see my own Camino journey. While I’ve worked as a guide and lived on the Camino de Santiago, my journey reflects a tremendous amount of healing on an emotional level during the last ten years.

You see, I was once a lawyer in the UK who lived a high-pressure lifestyle despite loving the great, big wide and the freedom of travelling. The stress and strain of a high-pressured job coupled with wounds from childhood experiences meant that I burnt out so badly. I needed to heal.

So off I went to Spain, leaving behind a job that was destroying me. What did I find? Freedom. Yet I was living with a broken heart from emotional wounds from my childhood that kept me chained to the past.

I found my way to the Camino in 2016 when I walked the French Way. I gave as much of my pain as I could to the path until I walked on sunshine in the Meseta yet still, I could not heal.

So, I found myself on the Camino Portuguese in 2018 after the end of a turbulent relationship and devastated by the recent loss of my ten-year adventure partner-in-crime, Sally my beloved dog. Her death was a trigger for all of the old childhood pain and wounds I was carrying. I practically sobbed the whole 300 kilometres and still, I could not heal.

So, grief became my companion for the next couple of years, as I worked through the layers of confusion, the pain and the tears but still, I couldn’t feel a sense of emotional ease.

So, I found myself yet again wandering solo on the Camino again in 2021. I chose to walk the Portuguese coastal route and the sense of relief was immediate. This time, I knew it. I’d finally healed.

How did I know? Because I am finally at peace. Peace with the past and the decisions that I’ve made. Peace with my mistakes and the errors that kept me chained to the past. I’m at peace with the world and the people all around me. The sense of peace I experienced often brought me to my knees in tears.

So, I continued on my journey and travelled back to the Camino Frances to walk the Leon to Sairra stage.

Even in the days leading up to the peak of the walk, I felt such a deep sense of gratitude just to be alive. To live in the moment. To settle into taking step after step with ease.

Gone was the grumbling from my previous Caminos. Instead, I smiled at my blisters, as I praised my legs and feet with every step I took. I let my chest expand in and out as my lungs pumped me through. I thanked my brain for keeping me on the straight and narrow for all of these years. For giving me a sense of willpower and determination to see everything through.

Most of all, I loved my heart for having the courage to express my vulnerability and soften my hard edges. To no longer wage a war of disharmony around me, fighting over this and that and instead settle into a soft, gentle sense of peace.

And so I found myself approaching Cruz de Ferro, a place where many pilgrims pledge to set down their worries, their pain and their fears. Many place a stone at the top as a symbolic gesture. For me, I was looking for the final release.

The weather was unpleasant, with rain steadily drizzling as the wind howled at my ears. My hands were frozen as I huffed and puffed up the mountain side yet still I persisted without a grumble or fear. In the end, as I reached the top, I felt as if something in my heart released once and for all. I was finally free.

I used to search for joy or euphoria on the Camino, even laughter or tears, yet I’ve come to realise the true gift of the Camino is really a sense of peace.

So, if you like me, want to find a sense of peace, go walk the Camino and see for yourself whether the Camino can take away the pain and heal a broken heart.

(c) Samantha Wilson 2021. All Rights Reserved.

Samantha is a Life Coach and writer. She inspires her tribe of women to grow wilder and bolder with her tales of adventures, lessons learnt along the way and general musings on life.
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