Grief & Living Away

Grief is a funny old beast, usually reserved for loved ones who die, but can also sneak up on you for people who have left, for an incarnation of who you once were, or for a place or time when things were good; different. Living away from home can sometimes seem to be a never ending cycle of grief, renewal, loss & hope.

In many ways we are really privileged. There are reasons many of us came to where we are – usually the employment opportunities and pay is better than in our home countries, for one or both of us. Our Instagram feeds are filled with photographs of far off destinations that we are blessed to be able to travel to because of proximity, low cost and said better pay. Even when we’re not on holiday, we often live in countries where the sun always shines, looking like we’re having a fabulous time. According to our Instagram feeds. And it feels somewhat spoilt to talk about the other side of living away. Because living away is a choice that we make. We are not fleeing war or persecution. We’re looking for jobs, opportunities, adventures… no one forced us here. Even those of us whose employers told them they had to move had the choice to look for alternative employment. Granted the alternative could be unemployment in our home countries, but it’s still a choice and one that lots of people left behind may also make if afforded the opportunities we had.

But yet still. Despite how shiny our lives look there is an undercurrent. An undercurrent of not quite fitting in. Of finding people we connect with, who we love, who become family, who move on. People who inevitably leave. It’s like falling in love then losing that person year after year. When you stay in your home country, your family & your friends (for the most part) remain the same. Abroad we try desperately to make a connection to then find it’s ripped away. We find someone we want to hang out with, then discover they are leaving 6 months from now.

Some of us grieve for who we once were. We might have been someone in a previous life. We may have had a career, aspirations, achievements that other people knew us for. People knew our story. Yet when we move we are a story that hasn’t been read yet. A book maybe people aren’t too interested in. A book that has been placed on a shelf way at the back, that perhaps can’t be bothered anymore to try and be read.

With every move there are gains. And with every move there are losses. Unresolved grief can strangle us into depression and unsurprisingly many people who have moved multiple times can find themselves suddenly and unexpectedly mentally unwell. On top of this can come guilt for being ungrateful for the life you have. How can I be unhappy when I have all this? Why am I constantly angry even though I have all this? Which can send you spiralling further…

It’s okay to grieve and not feel okay. Talk it out with someone if you can. Find a therapist who understands transition and unresolved grief. Make a list of everything and everyone you’ve lost along the way – acknowledge what they meant to you & say your goodbyes again. Give yourself time to heal.

72 Five Minute Stress Relief Ideas

  1. Cuddle your pet
  2. Do 20 star jumps
  3. Drink warm milo
  4. Walk around your house
  5. Smell your favourite perfume
  6. Stretch as high as you can
  7. Try to touch your toes
  8. Sing
  9. Dance to an upbeat song
  10. Be silly
  11. Look at a photo of a happy time
  12. Have a shower
  13. Have a snack
  14. Draw something simple & silly
  15. Go outside
  16. Listen to the birds
  17. BREATHE slowly & deeply
  18. Play an instrument
  19. Talk to a friend
  20. Scream
  21. Fake laugh for two minutes
  22. Laugh at something funny
  23. Watch baby animals on youtube*
  24. Moisturise your skin
  25. Wash your face
  26. Pray
  27. Talk to your siblings
  28. Do something nice for someone
  29. Send someone a text saying you appreciate them*
  30. Pretend you’re 5 years old
  31. Cry
  32. Shake your body
  33. Draw every noise you hear
  34. Listen to upbeat music and try not to move
  35. Skip
  36. Roll your shoulders and your head
  37. Write a list of all the things you are looking forward to
  38. Write a list of all the things you can do to relieve stress
  39. Change your clothes into something more comfy
  40. Watch a K-Pop video and try to copy the dance moves*
  41. Visualise your life after the thing causing you stress is over
  42. Write a letter to yourself
  43. Meditate
  44. Remind yourself about times you have gotten through stress before
  45. Take control of unhelpful thoughts – rationalise panic
  46. Tell yourself you can do this
  47. Organise your workspace*
  48. Try to think of a vegetable for every letter of the alphabet
  49. Do nothing*
  50. Write a poem
  51. Write down all your thoughts and worries
  52. Brush your hair
  53. Brush your pet
  54. Rock yourself gently
  55. Ask your parents/siblings for a hug
  56. Smell the flowers in your garden
  57. Take a break
  58. Write a list of your strengths (what would your best friend say about you)
  59. Do 20 sit ups / press ups
  60. Make a list of everything you have to do, PRIORITISE them and put together a schedule
  61. Try to balance on one leg
  62. Do a handstand against a wall
  63. Identify the source of stress & problem solve it if you can – ask is this worth stressing over?
  64. Make a song up as you go along about being stressed
  65. Write out motivational quotes*
  66. Make fun of this list
  67. Do some calligraphy
  68. Close your eyes and listen to your breathing – try to slow it down as much as possible
  69. Blow bubbles
  70. Blow up balloons & whack them around your bedroom
  71. Lie on the floor and tense then relax all your muscles
  72. Ask for help…

*has the potential to send you into a procrastination spiral so stay away from if you cannot trust yourself.

Originally written for The Wallflower Project.

See you soon.

Peter Pan Homesickness

Its that time of year again. People are selling up their belongings. Students are leaving to go on study leave. Both saying goodbye to friends and looking on post July to new postings, new jobs, university, new friends, new lives…

And us? The stayers are left in limbo watching the chaos around us. The frantic selling of toasters, of cars, of the remnants of lives. My house is populated with clothing that will never fit, a sewing machine I will never use, lettered ice cube trays, half bottles of cleaning sprays, jewellrey, bags, reclining chairs, kitchen appliances, books, towels, a lamp… items that didn’t make the transition with their owners. Owners, friends, who are scattered across the globe. Owners who used to fill my home with noise and laughter now leave inanimate objects in their place.

And we say “see you soon, yeah?” And we mean we look forward to seeing your posts on Facebook. Seeing the sanitised version of your messy new life. Cue photos of new friends in new places; laughing and smiling to ease the transition. To ease the homesickness for a place that no longer exists.

Leaving sucks but staying without you is harder.