Grieving Abroad: How I Managed Grief While Teaching Abroad
I would like to first start off by saying that not all people grieve the same way and that this post is a reflection on how I managed to cope with the feelings of loss I had while I lived abroad. I am in no way discrediting any other methods of grief management. I am sharing my method of healing as a way to provide insight for those who might one day be living abroad and feel similar. Some people might feel that returning to their home country is the best option and others may not have that option. As we all know, everyone is different and there is no right or wrong way to mourn. Time takes its course and it’s up to us to keep that person’s memory alive in our heart.
This blog will showcase a series of six months. It will show a progression of my journey through the grief and loss of my beloved grandmother.
Month 1: Numb
“The very worst part about pain is that the minute you think you’ve past it, it starts all over again.” – Meredith Grey
The first month after my beloved grandmother “Tata” passed was probably the hardest that I had while abroad; one of the hardest times in my adult life so far. The night she passed away I received a call from my father but leading up to that call there was a family member who was with the rest of the family that was giving me updates by the hour. When I received “the text,” the one that says “…she passed away,” and the one you never want to get, I remember feeling as if everything was still. I paused and mumbled the words “no” and looking back, there was an eerie stillness because it was as if I felt her leave the earth and our souls touched one more time. I have never experienced death like this either in the states or abroad and maybe it was better for me that I was away…or maybe it wasn’t. It all felt so surreal and leading up to that text, I didn’t believe anyone in my family that she was so ill. I didn’t WANT to believe that she was that ill. I had just seen her about two weeks before for Christmas Eve and she was singing and smiling. All I could think was, “no not Tata.” I couldn’t process what was happening. Pretty much for that first month, I felt numb to everything and in a sense, walked through each day, simply going through the motions. It was all I could do to press on.
Music Is The Answer
What helped that first month after my grandma died was forcing myself to go out and, interestingly, listening to music. Music was my way of escape and now remembrance. Sometimes we may not know what to do until we take the first step, and for me, my first step was meeting a friend at a musical that we had planned months before her death. At that moment, all I needed was to see a friend and feel a hug. It had been 10 days since I had human contact. I had talked on the phone and seen colleagues at work a few days after her passing. But, there was nothing like seeing a close friend, and hearing a very familiar American themed musical that I grew up knowing and loving. My soul felt better and I slowly was able to start accepting and not denying that she was gone.
Grieving While Living Abroad
- Go out and talk to friends, coworkers and even acquaintances. Try to remain as normal of a daily/weekly routine as possible. (You don’t have to talk to them about your grief but it does help to go out and make new memories while you are trying to let the pain subside.)
- Cry when it hurts but don’t let it consume you. Suppressing feelings is not a normal thing to do. It only results into delayed sometimes worse outcomes. Cry when you need to let out the sadness you feel, it is normal. However, the sadness should not stop you from seeing friends or going to work.
- Seek professional help or counseling if you feel like you can’t do your normal routine and things aren’t getting better.