Bringing American culture closer to new immigrants
“You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place, I told him, like you’ll not only miss the people you love but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you’ll never be this way ever again.”
― Azar Nafisi, Reading Lolita in Tehran
Losing a family member is traumatic, but losing one while living abroad makes things even worse. I’m not even talking about the financial complications, time pressure, etc., but more about the emotional side of things. What expats and immigrants experience is loss and inability to deal with it using familiar methods. That’s one of those cases when distance counts. Unless you have some family members living with you, you’re pretty much by yourself to deal with your loss. People you’re close with can emphasize but, unfortunately, they cannot share your memories. You don’t get the relief of talking to your siblings about your grandfather, for example. Nor can you give them a hug and get a sense of ground under your feet. Moreover, going through the rituals that usually helps make sense of reality is, again, inaccessible. Thousands of miles away, your loss becomes your private matter, and it’s between you and the world to settle it. Having lost two family members and not being able to make it to the funerals, I have experienced all shades of this predicament. The shock, the slow realization, the guilt and wondering if I should have done more for them, flashbacks, and so on and so forth. The best solution I found for myself is to be honest with myself, find the support system among people that surround me, and take it as slow as necessary to process what happened.
I’ve shared a photo of my dear grandparents who, I hope, have happily reunited in a better place.