We have been here now for 5 months. As the calendar changed to September and we saw the welcome of Spring down under, it was a reminder of new beginnings and all the changes the last several months have brought. When we made the decision to move we knew there would be many. We did everything we could to prepare. But even in doing so, one can never prepare for what they don’t know. You can certainly try, but at some point, you realize you are simply putting one foot in front of the other, trusting it will all work out.
Over the weekend, as I was showing my mother around Sydney, I asked if she was enjoying her time here. She has been with us now for a little over a month and has another 3 weeks until she returns home. She got a look on her face, so I asked her what was going on. She misses her friends. I tried to remind her that her friends would be waiting for her when she returned home, but she quickly countered with, “well, don’t you miss your friends?” I was surprised she would compare the two situations.
The conversation stayed with me throughout the weekend. I realized I might be going through the stages of grief.
Before you roll your eyes and click the little “x,” let me explain.
Loss can be many things – the loss of a loved one, the loss of a relationship, the loss of a job. Anyone who has been through any of those things has likely read a multitude of articles about the grieving process and the different stages they will go through.
Moving abroad has been like compounding several of those things that are singularly difficult and piling them on top of the other. In my head, I envision a game of Jinga.
I had an “oh shit, what have we done” moment recently, which was followed by a bit of panic. I figured the reaction was normal, as we literally changed everything in our life. I sat with it but didn’t quite know how to process what I was thinking. We were so excited when we made the decision to move and all the reasons we did are still valid, so I was a bit surprised to find myself feeling that way.
But, sometimes feelings aren’t the reality of our circumstances. They are just ways in which each person processes and accepts certain things. Our identities are more than our emotional thoughts.
I happened to come across an article about expats and the stages they go through as they give up their old life. Their job. Their home. Their friends. Familiarity. Stability. It made sense. Don’t get me wrong, it was our choice. I get that. In fact, as I was reading the article that was my first thought – I am not allowed to feel this way. We chose to do this. So, why am I now struggling with it?
But as life would have it, I am.
I remember when we moved to Nashville from New York City. I was taking on a new role with the company I worked for, we found out we were having a baby, and we were planning a wedding. We joked then that we were jumping head first into 4 of the 5 major life events – moving, marriage, having a baby, changing jobs, and death. We were thankful to escape the death part, although we would cross that bridge a few years later when I ended up in the hospital needing emergency surgery after the birth of our daughter and had a reaction to the anesthesia that left me unresponsive.
I am still here, so we know how that ended.
Now, as we are going through some of those same experiences, rather than laugh at the fact that we escaped death, it seems I am mourning a death of sorts.
I miss familiar labels in the grocery store and carts that don’t drive sideways. I miss crossing a road without having to think about a million little things that could result in me being squashed like a pancake. I miss friends. I miss the routine. I miss our home. I miss colleagues.
I love it here and know we are exactly where we are supposed to be, but everything has changed.
I have found myself denying these feelings, because after all, this is what we wanted. I have found myself angry at times over stupid things that don’t matter. I have found myself bargaining – if we can make this happen, that will make everything okay.
The grieving process doesn’t happen in order. It doesn’t have a time frame attached. Some days are better than others. Some remind you of all the amazing experiences you have in front of you, waiting to embrace them. Other days, a photo of friends or someone celebrating a milestone that you will miss brings on sadness.
The key in all of it is to allow yourself to experience it – the good, bad, and ugly. By doing so, we eventually process it correctly and get to the stage of acceptance.
I am not quite there, but know waiting for us right around the corner, is a life that has yet to reveal itself. A future that is still unknown. Finding a way to embrace it while still celebrating our previous life is the struggle. Letting go of the things that need to be let go of, while holding on to the friendships and things that are meant to remain, despite the distance.
I used to joke that I was geographically challenged – moving far away from friends and family to pursue my career. Now, we find ourselves closer to my husband’s family but I am further from my own and from my network of friends that I spent a lifetime building. Geographically challenged. Still.
Perhaps I should embrace the familiarity of that!
This week, should you find yourself grieving a loss, whatever that loss may be – a loved one, a relationship, a friendship, a job, a home – it is okay to do so. Allowing yourself to feel, gives you the ability to process whatever it may be that you find yourself going through and to eventually accept it. And remember, the people who love you will be there for you, even if they are half a world away!
Cheers to a new week, a new season, and embracing the changes you may find yourself navigating through.