*Little disclaimer to start things off, I was rather emotional writing this post and sharing some of the stories from other bloggers, so if it reads like a bit of a rollercoaster, that’s because it is…
Last week I received some really bad news from my Mum; a member of our family had died. And I was sad, sad because a member of my family was gone and also sad as my Mum and Step-Dad were both devastated and I’m hundreds of miles away and I can’t help in the way that I want.
Since I’ve moved to Belgium and begun my expat journey there have been two deaths in my immediate family, and I’ve only been out of England for two and half years.
Getting this news when you’re away from your family is really hard, firstly because you are dealing with the grief and sadness just like everyone else, but on top of that there is the guilt that you probably haven’t seen this person anywhere as regularly as you wanted to and now they are gone. And then there is more guilt that the people you love are really hurting and you can’t be there to help. And the icing on the cake is that you don’t have your family around to help, you can’t grieve together, you’re dealing with it on your own.
I’m not saying that getting bad news while you’re away is worse than getting it at home, it’s just a different set of emotions that you are dealing with.
And it isn’t only people dying that will mess you up, there are loads of other gems, like the fact that a member of my immediate family was diagnosed with cancer this year and has had surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy all while I was away and couldn’t help. Which makes me feel like crap, I’m pretty sure he feels worse of course, but you know what I’m saying.
My husband and friends in Brussels are lovely, I got lots of hugs and treats to try to cheer me up, which is great – thanks guys.
I know I’m not alone with this, I’ve watched friends deal with dreadful news and tried to support them however I can. So I thought I would put a little list of tips together for ways to deal with it all.
- Accept that it’s OK to grieve and that as you are grieving you will go through the loss cycle, which is different for everyone, but will involve something along the lines of: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and finally Acceptance.
- Arrange a video call with a close member of your family as soon as you can; Skype, Facetime, Hangout, Facebook Video Chat, any of them will do. Even if you spend most of the call crying, it still helps to know that you aren’t alone and that you can comfort other people, while they comfort you.
- If you aren’t able to get back to your family, try to surround yourself with things that remind you of home. As a complete comfort eater, I head straight to the British Shop and stock up on crumpets, chocolate Hobnobs etc. (there was also a full-on afternoon tea).
- Arrange a trip back, even if can’t be for another year, just knowing that you have a definite date for a visit will help both you and your family.
- If it is a death and you aren’t able to attend the funeral, as well as sending flowers, send a little note to be read out during the service. You can send it to the funeral director, rather than your family if you’d rather.
The lovely Sheralyn from Escaping Expectations has had her fair share of bad news to cope with since she started travelling, this is how she deals with it;
You have to shut down part of your emotional side, and make room for your logical side to take over more, otherwise you can end up wracked with guilt over being so far away from everyone you care about back home. You have to remember that realistically, there is only so much you can do – feeling guilty won’t fix anything. Yeah, it’s normal to feel sad, just don’t let it take over everything and destroy you. And keep busy – I find that allows your mind to process the bad news gradually in the background, without being overwhelmed by it
You may find that embracing the customs of your new home will help; the fantastic Charli from Wanderlusters shares her story…
Sadly my Grandpa recently passed away. It was very sudden, within 2 weeks of first complaining of ill health he was gone.
It was particularly hard for me to come to terms with as I have been nomadic for the last 4 years, and hadn’t been home to visit in just over 11 months. Prior to my travels I’d lived in the same village as my Grandpa for most of my life. I was as close to him as I am to my father.
I was on Oahu, HI when I got the call. Well, I say that, I actually saw a Facebook update from my young cousin who took solace in writing a digital goodbye to our Grandpa. I wept uncontrollably for hours.
While being away from your loved ones in times of crisis will always cause great pain, I found solace in partaking in a traditional Hawaiian custom to honour the departed.
Setting a handmade lei into the ocean, I sat and watched as the flowers were carried out to sea. For me the act of releasing the lei helped me cope with the idea of letting go of the grief I felt. It gave me time to remember the years I had spent with my Grandpa, to cement those happy memories in my mind, and carve out a place for his memory to live in my heart.
The Red Cross can help American families abroad by providing financial assistance with getting home in case of a crisis or for burial of an immediate family member.
Unfortunately there aren’t any magic fixes to make everything better, but if you have had some bad news, I hope you know that you aren’t alone. Reach out to your local expat groups if you can, the chances are they have definitely been through something similar and should be able to help.
If you have any tips or stories you would like to share, please do include them below.