The Journey: Robyn's Story

30 May 2023

Stories connect us, allow us to share our view of the world, teach us about ourselves, capture memories, and create emotional bonds with one another. Storytelling can also be a key part of the grieving journey, allowing us the means to not only tell the stories of our loved ones but assist us to process our emotions of loss.

Robyn Saynor is a member of our Centre for Care & Wellbeing community, and we're grateful to her for sharing with us her own piece of healing storytelling, detailing the cruise to New Zealand that she undertook in honour of her late mother, Meryl Saynor.

How do we survive through our loss of loved ones?

I lost my Dad, and then my Mum in 2019. I struggled through all the emotions of grief until finally, this year, overwhelmed by sorrow, depression and regrets, I suddenly booked a last-minute cruise to New Zealand on the Queen Elizabeth, leaving soon – in two weeks!

Mum had always dreamt of, and asked me, about going on a cruise.

On my first night aboard I was emotionally exhausted and I wanted to be left alone. But people spoke kindly with me. A couple of days later, I was ready to speak with people too, and over the following two weeks I connected, not only with Mum, but with others. I realised there were lovely people around me.

We exchanged acts of kindness. We shared compliments. We talked of life, loss and deep experiences. And we actually laughed, too!

I was told: “I am a traveler, travelling on a journey called Life”.

A kind soul even told me, “You will be alright” – and these last words I want to pass on to you now.

I now feel I am coming back to life.

So, how do we survive through our loss of loved ones?

Keep travelling through life. Keep giving yourself good experiences, even if only very small and only temporary. It’s all we can do.

You WILL be alright.

The Queen Elizabeth at dock (photo by Robyn Saynor).

I wrapped myself in a cocoon after losing my parents and leaving work, because I needed to.

I finally needed to emerge, to come alive.

However, to book a cruise, with all those people! And there was guilt, but also a sort of obligation to Mum, to do this for her, in memory of her.

It was very difficult to go. I had to really, really push myself hard. And push further once onboard.

I wished like crazy Mum was with me, enjoying it. Yes, there were some tears, there were many regrets, but experiencing those emotions in a lovely, safe, friendly environment helped me more than I could imagine. Being on this ship was like being in a bubble, to experience feelings, with such a physical detachment from life on land and to, in a way, experience a different life.

But I feel better. I am better. Even writing about this helps enormously.

It was after I returned that I suddenly heard the words one day in my mind like an announcement:

“I felt so bad about Mum’s death because I felt so bad about me. I feel better about me now, and so I feel better about Mum.”

When it seems difficult to do something, or go somewhere, after losing someone, perhaps try to grit your teeth as you would, for example, with a headache, bearing with it only briefly as you wait for a pain killer to take effect - because good things will happen; unexpected things will happen.

Inside the Queen Elizabeth cruise ship (photos by Robyn Saynor).

Many years ago, I met a Canadian man in Amalfi, in Italy, who, with his sister and brother, was completing a previously unfinished journey through Italy which he had begun with his late father, before his father had been taken seriously ill. In his last days, the father actually asked his son to finish the journey through Italy later, in memory of him. So here he was.

I was deeply moved by their story, although I could never imagine or understand then, what he was feeling. Now I can.

Years later, I lost my Mum, and lost the hope, and chance, to take a “dream journey” with her – our first cruise, to New Zealand, which she so often spoke of.

So, in my desperation, I booked my last-minute cruise ticket which departed from Melbourne on February 14th. However, this was not easy. I was torn between the regret and guilt of not taking Mum earlier, and the strong desire to pay a happier tribute to her and actually DO SOMETHING - something she would have enjoyed, something she, as my Mum, would want me to enjoy.

And these feelings were aside from my own mental and emotional exhaustion, which needed some healing. I’d sunk into a black hole of grief, really, not to mention, my shyness from people and society which had grown since our pandemic and Mum’s passing, and which had seen me spend three or four weeks at a time inside my home.

So, with my pre-paid booking, I was on my way, travelling alone, on my first large cruise, whether I liked it or not!

However, I desperately wanted to do this, and to make this a positive memory for myself and Mum – to somehow, and finally, take her on our dream holiday, even in spirit.

Meryl Saynor dresses up for 1920s themed parties in the 1950s (photos supplied by Robyn Saynor).

Then the little signs and connections started revealing themselves.

Preparing for my journey I started researching the ship and her services.

I found the Queen Elizabeth was the one ship in the fleet of Queens which was decorated in Art Deco styling, as a tribute to her past – a passion of Mum’s and mine.

Many years ago I had flown Mum to New Zealand for the annual Art Deco Festival in Napier, because she was so much in love with this era and style… as she was also with the 1920’s. I then discovered one of the formal occasion’s themes on this cruise would be “Roaring 20’s”!

I then read guests danced to an orchestra every night in the Queen Ballroom.

Since the 1950’s, Mum loved to dance formally. She regularly enjoyed her town hall dances. Her parents even played in their own band at these dances!

Then I learned of all the live jazz onboard, another of both Mum’s and my passions which we often enjoyed together. At a jazz performance, years ago, Mum met the “later” love of her life – and it was on Valentine’s Day!

Our first night aboard was Valentine’s Day too, and I accidentally wandered into the cabaret theatre midway through a performance by a singer from New Zealand. As I sat alone, she started singing Eva Cassidy’s ‘Songbird’. I was stunned – this was a favourite of Mum’s, and another of her passions was to sing. I was moved to tears that evening, there in the theatre.

View from the stern of the Queen Elizabeth (photo by Robyn Saynor).

So there were many times during my journey that I felt Mum with me, sharing so many of our passions in life, that I chatted with her as I watched the dancers and listened to the musicians. I wished deeply she was there, in life, enjoying it all with me.

I suspect though, she was with me; I think she guided me to people, and experiences, and she gently pushed me out of myself, and out of my sorrow, until I returned to my real self, and started to like myself again. I actually felt some happiness once more. I had some wonderful times with good, genuine people from all over the world, and even some people from neighbouring areas to my home. I also spent some very meaningful time with myself, and with my loved ones, in spirit.

I heard that “travelling helps us to learn who we are. We often see ourselves reflected in people around us”. This is what I experienced.

Well, my story is also about travelling – in many different ways.

Travelling through grief, emotions, time, through life, and even travelling through the ocean.

I spent some long periods of time at the railing of the stern of the ship, watching the churning wake as far as I could see it stretching behind us, like a pathway back to the horizon, and I felt I was flying over the ocean. I felt deeply that I was watching and understanding what we were leaving behind, where we had been, and finally, it was alright.

It was so moving; I will never forget that time and that feeling.

Please… just keep travelling through it all. You WILL be alright.

Back to Top