Prairie High School graduate Ashley Bugge was pregnant when her husband died in a scuba diving accident.
In an effort to share the journey of how Bugge overcame her grief, she released a new book on Oct. 1 titled, “The Ocean is Calling.”
“It is about my life as a military widow,” Bugge said. “It starts off where my husband passes away in a scuba diving accident while we were living in Hawaii and I was six months pregnant at the time. He was active duty Navy.”
She said part of how she coped with the loss was by backpacking across Europe with her children.
“(The trip) was kind of my aim at working through life after loss,” Bugge said. “My husband and I had traveled extensively before we had kids, and then we had a 1- and 3-year-old when he passed away, and then obviously giving birth shortly after he died, I was working through some very complex grief.”
She decided she needed to find a way to navigate her grief in a similar way to how her husband, Brian, and her children, used to spend time together.
Bugge trekked through eight countries, which included the Netherlands, Switzerland, Poland and Malta, over a two month period when her kids ranged in age from 11 months old to 4 years old. They also made stops in Norway, Greece, Ireland and Iceland.
Bugge said Norway was Brian’s favorite country to visit, which is why she decided to take the kids there. They also visited the Auschwitz concentration camp, where she taught the children with “kid gloves” about the concept of grief and loss. They celebrated her daughter Addy’s first birthday in Greece during a sailing trip, which is something Brian also loved to do.
“A year prior, right after he died, I didn’t even think I was going to have her and so to be able to celebrate out in the water like that was very special,” Bugge said.
The trip helped her heal in a number of ways.
“Making new memories as a family was the biggest part,” she said. “After experiencing loss on that level with such young kids and being pregnant, your life is just shattered. You don’t think there’s going to be life after that, so revisiting this part of myself where travel had always been such a part of my life, revisiting that and knowing that I was still in there and that I can still be a good mom to these three kids how Brian and I would have wanted to was the biggest takeaway.”
During the trip, Bugge said she had Brian’s ashes turned into a living reef. She then went to Hawaii with a dive team and spread a portion of his ashes there. The remainder of his ashes were spread in other bodies of water in Europe throughout the trip.
The Ocean is Calling can be purchased online at ashleybugge.com/product-page/the-ocean-is-calling.