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Far from home: Coping with loss and grief as an expat


Far from home: Coping with loss and grief as an expat

Inspire is delighted to have teamed up with Expat Life magazine to bring you more great content to do with Thailand

Expat life is full of contradictions. Enviable on many fronts –Instagrammable holidays, eclectic cultural experiences, friends from around the world. Yet it is a life that can also be quite sheltered. One is buffered from home country problems and turmoil in ways that are positive and negative. Life in a foreign country fosters resilience to manage many life changes and challenges but also puts a strain on family relationships and friendships back home. Those in one camp can’t really understand or relate to the experience of those from the other camp. And only you, the expat, can straddle the difference. The expat, by default, cultivates the development of two distinct communities that truly never overlap – the “back home community” as in the people who really know you or think they do, and the “expat community” populated by unique, often fast-moving situational relationships. Most often, we as expats toggle between these communities with ease. It’s only when major life moments happen – a wedding, a birth, a death – that the longing for loved ones back home and the insufficiency of these disparate communities comes into focus. The sheen of expat life then loses a shade of lustre.

The longer one lives abroad the more likely the possibility of dealing with the death of a loved one. It was here in my 10th year overseas when our family was faced with this. It happened over our summer holiday in the United States. A dear family friend, Bill, passed unexpectedly at the young age of 52. We were fortunate to be “back home” and to spend time with him in the days before he passed. A Friday night outing into the wee hours debating the merits of egg-white based cocktails and an ageing jazz band. A Saturday afternoon spent teaching my children card tricks and having the patience to listen to my daughter’s lengthy demonstration of her robotics project from summer camp followed by an early dinner. He appeared to be his normal healthy self, perhaps a bit tired and a touch of grey, as we all are. It was inconceivable that less than a week later, he would be dead. Far too soon. A bright star extinguished. We were in shock. Outraged and confused. We spent the remaining few days of our trip preparing to fly back home to Bangkok and grappling with the aftershocks. How did this happen? Why him? What next? Would the funeral take place before our flights back? What about having some time to distill and internalise the finality of it all with those we love before flying back to our expat community where our grief would be invisible.

Bill was the kind of friend who made everything beautiful. Incredibly creative, funny, and always finding a reason to smile, Bill was a close friend for 25 years. He was the friend who would whip up a tray of perfect mojitos in a flash at the summer beach house for “the six-ish” sunset cocktail hour. The one who would regale us for midnight runs for icebox cake at NYC’s West Village outpost of the famed Magnolia Bakery before that was a thing. The one who could always be counted on to give succinct, yet humorous, critiques on our fashion or home décor fails, then spend hours designing and restyling the most gorgeous outfit, home, garden, whatever. It would only be Bill to get everyone in the pool for hilarious “synchronised swimming drills” the night before my wedding. The one you could count on to gossip or vent with at any hour. Only Bill would drive the scenic, winding roads of New York’s Hudson Valley agreeing to deliver a dozen softly-chirping baby chicks, ill-advisedly and humorously Face Timing the entire experience. As much as I loved him, my children profoundly did too.


Source: Expat Life Thailand

Inspire is delighted to have teamed up with Expat Life magazine to bring you more great content to do with Thailand

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