Dealing with loss abroad - my personal experience
There are a lot of difficult situations to living abroad that you have to face: homesickness, stress, loneliness or struggling with a foreign language. Unfortunately, I had to face a similar situation head-on a few weeks ago. I received a phone call at 8 o'clock in the morning from my brother to inform me that my grandfather had passed away an hour earlier.
Dealing with death is a struggle no matter where you might find yourself. Whenever you are abroad, however, there is certainly another element at play that goes beyond just the sheer shock of what has happened. I went into autopilot and started to book flights home to be with my family and to bury him.
I won't go into details as it is obviously private but I would like to explain what is difficult about being abroad. I was gone for one week; one short, crazy, surreal week. I didn't sleep for three days and came back to Palma de Mallorca, exhausted, a few days after he was buried.
I think that the fact that I wasn't in Northern Ireland when it happened made me break away from the reality of everything. Even now, almost a month later, it doesn't seem real. It probably won't until I return home for Christmas to be with my family. Grief needs time to pass. The world, however, is still spinning and won't stop. I had responsibilities to keep as a language assistant in Mallorca.
Living and working abroad is crazy. You are away from everyone you know and love. When someone you care about dies, it doesn't seem real. There really isn't a good way to cope with it. I still feel disconnected whenever I talk to my family and hear how they are struggling. Am I a bad person because I'm not crying or because I keep it from my mind? The truth is, I think, that it is the same as hearing about all of the awful things happening around the world in its own way. I am not there and, despite this being very close to my heart, how can I cope when after one week I was hundreds of miles away. It's like watching a film without realising that I was one of the actors. I guess this post is a way of coping; a way to face it head on, and just maybe it will help someone else who feels ... disconnected.