This soul-searching series showcases my grieving process over the course of the most harrowing and heartbreaking six months of my life. It offers a window into how I worked through the processes of loss and resiliency after the passing of my beloved grandmother. Perhaps it will be of benefit to you if you are struggling to cope with a similar situation.
To read the previous article in this series, please go here.
The sixth part of Resilience Abroad is an unfiltered version of what worked and what didn’t – I’ve looked back at my first post, “Grieving While Teaching Abroad,” and had time to think about what I could have done differently, which may be a post for a different time. For this post, I’ve decided to share excerpts from previous blogs in this series that I found most useful. I also included things that I found helpful in managing loss. I’ve also included things that were not as helpful as I look back.
What helped after my grandma died was forcing myself to go out and, interestingly, listening to music. Music was my way of escape and now remembrance.” – Leesa Truesdell
All of the music I quoted in this series directly relates to my writing. I listened to all these songs during that month. The song that I had listened to every day during my commute on the Metro was Record Year by Eric Church – it was about a break-up. However, the lyrics of the song didn’t cause that comfortable and soothing feeling on my way to school. The rhythm and the melody itself comforted me.
I also loved the song’s wordplay, specifically its double use of the word “record” in Record Year. This song remains a firm favorite as I still listen to it. Looking back, it made me feel linked to home somehow. I listened to the entire album, Mr. Misunderstood, at least once a week. It was comfortable and soothed my soul.
If you find yourself listening to a song over and over again, ask yourself why. Since I started writing about my musical preferencesI have been more aware of my music selections and habits. Typically, I am more prone to hitting repeat on a new song and listening to it over and over. However, that was not the case with Eric Church’s album while I was in Madrid. I also listened to other songs that I downloaded onto my iPod. I won’t ever begin to fully understand why I chose those specific songs, other than that they made me feel comfortable and reminded me of home.
Resilient Challenges and Goals
Before moving to Spain, I wanted to continue to challenge myself by setting goals to expand my comfort zone. Although I might have listened to comforting music, I still met those goals. I felt completely displaced in a new country and culture. That was my logic in all of the uncertainty: my anchor was, and will always be, music. Having music to ground me gave me some much-needed support.
I went to Spain to build on skills that I learned earning my master’s degree from Florida State University. I wanted to accomplish lifelong goals that I knew I would regret not completing. The older I become, the more ambitious I feel and the more I realize the value of my time. Tata’s death has been a good reminder of the limits of time. It showed me that we are here to live, impact things when we can, and inspire others. Most of all, however, it showed me that we should always stay true to ourselves and the rest will work itself out.
My year in Spain gave me the confidence to travel wherever I wanted when I wanted. Most importantly, it made me feel more empowered to travel. ” – Leesa Truesdell
I’ve always been one of those people who searched for answers and looked for meaning in life probably more than I should have. Having worked in many different environments, and with many different people, I feel blessed to say that I am proud of the work I have accomplished. I continue to search for more meaning because at the end of the day, it’s what fuels my ambition.
That being said, it doesn’t mean life’s curveballs haven’t been difficult for me, because they have been. However, it has been those difficult times that have forced me to recover more quickly each time. Resilience was the key to overcoming rejection, failure, and (my most recent experience) the loss of my beloved grandmother. Each time I have felt those negative feelings, I have used determination and resilience to refuel my ambition.
Goals Accomplished ✔
Before I left for my one-year journey in Spain, I created some goals that I wanted to achieve while abroad. I was fortunate enough to have accomplished all of them. Below is the exact list from my journal excerpt that I had written before I left for Spain.
- Become a better writer.
- Get more classroom experience as a teacher.
- Start my own website with a team (background: I’ve always wanted to be on a team where I knew I belonged!)
- Improve my Spanish language skills.
- Take a solo trip to a different country while living abroad.
Some of these I have accomplished more fully than others, and some I will continue to work on for the rest of my life. I will always try to practice my Spanish – but, for me, writing has always been on the top of my list. Why? Well, that’s a story for another time.
Let’s just say for now that Dreams Abroad and its mission isn’t just about being a resource of writers– it’s so much more than that. I dedicated this site to my Tata and others who lost loved ones while overseas. But, it’s also a site about encouraging a team of young professionals to follow their own path, whatever that path may be. It’s a site about establishing an online community that empowers global professionals to achieve their dreams by sharing their own experiences so that others can learn, question, learn again, and hopefully, achieve their own goals.
Dreams of Writing
Writing wasn’t one of my stronger skills, and I still work on it every day. Part of the reason why I started writing to Tata, to begin with, was to practice my writing. However, if you don’t start somewhere, you won’t go anywhere.
I’ve had a dream and writing was part of that dream since I was young, and it didn’t exactly go as planned. For the longest time, I blocked that dream because I was told I couldn’t do it – that I wasn’t up to the standards. Part of what made me abandon this goal was during a timed writing test. I was disheartened that I didn’t make the extremely high score I needed at the time. However, the lesson I learned during my early twenties is that what we think we want at the time is not exactly what we need. Feeling heartbroken about my fate, I chose a different path. Looking back, the dream that I thought I wanted would not have been the right fit for me.
Self-discovery is a beautiful thing when one takes the time to truly identify who they really are – flaws, mistakes, and imperfections included. But, before I get to the next number on my list, I want to thank every person who has been with me on this journey from graduate school at FSU, through my journey in Madrid, to now, back in the States.
Support Is Essential
I lost a very special person in my life, and at first, it felt like the pain was never going to go away. That might have been because I had written my way through the grief. As I’ve said, we all grieve differently. My point is that I couldn’t have healed the way I have without the support of my family, friends, and colleagues from then to now.
So, thank you so much for believing in me and, most of all, for being so supportive of Dreams Abroad. We’ve come a long way and we have only just begun! For those of you who feel like I did during that difficult time, and who have just recently lost someone (especially those living abroad), please don’t think you are alone. What you are feeling is valid, so please share your feelings in a way you feel most comfortable.
Please take the time (if you haven’t already) to make your own set of goals – some that have deadlines and some that will last a lifetime.
Building The Essential Checklist:
Here are some helpful tips that I developed as I dealt with the grieving process abroad:
- Go out and talk to friends, coworkers and try to remain as normal, following a routine. You don’t have to talk about your grief, but it helps 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 in delayed, and sometimes worse, outcomes.
- Seek professional counseling if you feel like you can’t follow your normal routine and things aren’t getting better.
- Try not to internalize your sadness. Write to your family and friends back home or write to a stranger. Maybe talking to someone you don’t know as well as someone you do know will help you get out some of the suppressed feelings you are experiencing.
- Find a hobby and find a way to focus on making it as meaningful as you can while you are abroad.
- Listen to feedback from friends and family. Be aware of what they say and whether or not you need to adjust your lifestyle choices. Resilience begins once you understand your behavior and its effects, and how you should adjust to being able to recover from grief in order to become your better self.
- ENCOURAGE people in your life to try their best. Teachers, get to know your students’ needs, and most importantly, get to know your students before telling them they CAN’T do something. This type of behavior causes learner anxiety and self-doubt.
- Take time to mourn and reflect the way you feel in order to start healing. Make plans ahead of time during a holiday break to enjoy yourself by doing something fun. Do the things you need in order to find peace within.
- Whatever you might be feeling on the inside – reflect and let it guide you. Let it propel you toward accomplishing whatever it is that you went abroad to do in the first place. Acceptance comes over time but doing your job is important. Keep that in mind and try to move forward.
- Find a song or album that makes you feel comfortable. Find an album that, if you knew you were going to be tested on some of your hardest days, you could listen to and it would make things feel ok.