Friday, 18 October 2013

Guest Post: Dealing with Unresolved Grief

Greetings! We hope that all of you are doing well! Once again, we welcome a guest blogger, who has shared a personal story that I'm sure many Expat Teens/TCK's can relate to. As usual, the experiences shared are those of the guest blogger, and do not necessarily represent the views of the authors of Expat Teens Talk.
Dealing with Unresolved Grief
At the age of seven I moved to Nigeria with my parents. Looking back, this move, and the many moves that followed, have had a huge impact on me as a person. I was uprooted and had to leave everything behind. On Friday, I was still in The Netherlands, on Monday I was at school in Nigeria. At the age of 15 we moved to Singapore. From the first moment I arrived in Singapore, it did not feel right for me to be there.

While living in Singapore, I was extremely unhappy. It was difficult for me to settle down and make friends, and I secluded myself from everything and everyone. It was a very lonely period. A period in which I felt that no one understood me. I blamed myself for feeling the way I did. I felt stuck in Singapore and wanted to go back to The Netherlands. In my mind, everything would be okay if only I could return to The Netherlands. After two years, I left Singapore, alone, and I went to boarding school. Back in The Netherlands, my feelings did not change, and I still asked myself the same questions: “Who am I?” and “Where do I belong?”

After years of struggling, I was already in my twenties, and I decided to get help. It took me several years to finally find a therapist that understood what I had gone through. She explained to me that most of my suffering was caused by the losses I had experienced in childhood. Realising this marked the beginning of my healing process.

What is grief?

Leaving a familiar place and people you love is a loss and needs to be dealt with properly. Grief does not go away, and unsolved grief can lead to, for instance, depression. Usually, grief is associated with the death of a loved one (child, partner, friend). However, unsolved grief can also be caused when there is not enough time to process a loss. Everyone that suffers a loss needs time to deal with the pain, mourn their loss, and, eventually, accept their loss in order to move on. How can you, as a Third Culture Kid (TCK), mourn for your loss if there is no ceremony, like a funeral, and the people around you have no idea what you are going through? They might even get impatient with you when you are not enthusiastic about the (new) move. Because the loss of a TCK is less visible, a TCK will be comforted less frequently than a widow.

Being a TCK means you will be exposed to losses, some being more critical than others, and some experienced differently by each family member.

Below you can find some examples of loss:

- the loss of your home
- the loss of your friends and family
- the loss of your favourite places, like the park, a sportsclub, or your favorite restaurant

You are struggling. You feel that there is something wrong but you cannot nail it down. Well, this is grief or, even, expatriate grief! It might surprise you. You had no idea that it would be so hard to leave, for instance, your friends or sportsclub behind.

To mourn a loss is a difficult but healthy process, and it is never too late to deal with unsolved grief! You cannot go back in time, but you can talk to your parents about your experience as a TCK, both good and bad. Discovering that your feelings are “normal” can help you to understand your feelings more cleary. This will not solve all of your problems but it can be the beginning of your healing process.

Anne-Marie Faassen