Imagine this scenario: Your partner got a fabulous career opportunity with his or her company in a foreign country, and you move the whole family over to start a new life abroad. You’re sitting in a new environment with all the luxuries that you couldn’t afford back home such as a beautiful apartment in a chic part of town, private schools, exotic holidays, memberships to the swanky social clubs, and domestic help. But far from basking, you are feeling depressed, anxious, and isolated among all the trappings.
What Is There To Be Unhappy About?
Just about everything according to expat expert and writer Robin Pascoe. In her book Raising Global Nomads she states, “Few people are willing to shout this out loud, but culture shock and grief are closely related.”
When you relocate to a foreign country, you mourn for your former life just like you’ve lost a loved one. You’ve abandoned your life, family and friends. Nothing around you now is familiar. You miss everybody and everything that once orbited around your last place of residence.
You also left behind your culture and language, which strike a core of your essence, values and perspectives.
I recently conducted a research interview with over 40 expat participants. One of them said, “You feel a loss so deep that it is like you soul is split in two when you move to a new land.”
It is odd to think that you would grieve terribly for the familiarity of places and things in your life you left behind—things both intimate and commonplace such as schools, shops, places of worship, and routine activities. But it happens.
Why Leave If You Knew You’d Be Miserable?
Pascoe says, and I agree, that moving overseas is a life changing, enriching positive experience that shouldn’t be missed given the opportunity.
According to grief experts, when you uproot to a new location you have to work through it the grieving process in order to move on and enjoy the benefits of the adventure.
How Can You Say Goodbye To Your Home And Feel Peace Before The Move?
I recently spoke to Annabelle Breuer-Udo, a coaching colleague, who specializes in Leadership and Relationships coaching and is a Process Facilitator, about her recent experience moving from a small town in Germany to Munich and finally to America. Annabelle shared a wonderful process about about letting go of her former home to create a new place of happiness in her adopted city.
Annabelle wrote a gratitude letter to her life experiences in the former town thanking it for what she had experienced and loved about living there. She thanked all the places she used to visit such as cafés, shops and sport clubs stating the positive things they gave her and how she has to now let them go in order to open space for new experiences. Afterwards, she crumbled the letter and threw it in the river.
What Are The Benefits Of Writing A Letter Of Gratitude?
I asked Annabelle how she felt after writing the letter. She said, “It allowed me to create space for new experiences. I came to a state of peace and balance in letting go of the old and opening a place for a new life. I have peace with my decision.”
Writing a farewell letter to your current residence thanking it for the gifts of joy and abundance it gave you before packing up is a great way to work through the emotions of letting go. The benefits are therapeutic which could ease some of the distress that comes with the move. It’s the first step to pave the way for a new adventure.
For some making a new home and diving deep into the new culture come as a welcome change. For others, they feel like lost souls wondering endlessly on a desert island. If you are feeling the latter, it is important to get counseling or coaching with a professional expat coach to work through all the stages of grief.
Over To You
What is your experience with relocating to a new place and saying goodbye to your former residence? I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments.