You might wonder what I mean by ‘mourning’ and how it can be applicable to you. Mourning is not just something you go through when a loved one passes away. It’s also a process that you go through when you lose something or go through significant change. For example, losing your job, losing a friend, losing abilities, leaving a community, divorce, changing your lifestyle and in my case leaving your country. The range is quite extensive and can also differ from person to person.
In general the process looks like this:
1. Denial – It is a defense mechanism that carries us through the shock. We deny the reality and facts of the situation in order to cope with the pain.
2. Anger – As reality starts to sink in, we still do not know how to cope with the change or loss. We feel guilty. We might cast blame or harbour resentment due to the intensity of the pain.
3. Bargaining – We struggle to let go. We feel helpless and this often makes us want to regain some kind of control. We bargain with the “what if’s” and the “buts” and how things could have been if…
4. Depression – Sadness, lack of motivation, craving comfort and support. We sense a void left behind.
5. Acceptance – We gain new perspective, peace settles in and though slowly, we start moving forward.
You might not experience all of the above for the same duration or intensity, but they will be present somewhere. The duration of the process also differs significantly from person to person and from situation to situation and thus the items should be viewed as guides through the process and not a fixed schedule.
It would be to our benefit to define the stages, realise what we are going through, properly work through each stage, deal with the emotions and remember that it’s a process and not a race. It also helps us to identify what our needs are during each stage of the process in order for our partners, family or friends to support and comfort us.
The stages are not intended to scare us. It is merely a tool to help us manage the stage that we are in and understand why we think and react the way we do. Take heart, the light at the end of the tunnel is knowing that the last stage is acceptance and that the process does not have to last forever. It is true that some aspects will never be forgotten, but hopefully through managing the process we can reach a point where painful moments can become beautiful memories.
Picture credit: myquoteshome.com
Give yourself a break and have some fun! Give yourself a break from whatever keeps you busy, even if you are the one giving yourself a hard time. We can so often become slave drivers to ourselves, not allowing for mistakes to be made or sufficient time to rest.
We cannot be the best version of ourselves, if we do not look after ourselves. It is not selfish, it is our responsibility. We need to look after our bodies and emotional well being so that we can be the best version of ourselves at work, socially or to our families. Sometimes we care so much about work, other people, our kids or our spouses that we forget to take time out for ourselves. At the end we become drained and a terrible version of ourselves and in actual fact, we only have ourselves to blame.
It might seem selfish to you if you do something relaxing like read a book, go for coffee with a friend or watch a movie by yourself, but in actual fact you are just giving yourself the reboot needed to be the best version of yourself for the rest of the week. In this way you feel appreciated and loved by yourself. It is surprising how much love we can show other people, but how little we sometimes show to ourselves.
It sounds strange, but it’s true. We need to show love to ourselves. You need to show yourself that you matter, that you are loved and appreciated. You were made to live life and life to the fullest. It is important that we find joy in our daily lives. This can be difficult if you are in a new country, but think of things that you enjoy and find something similar that you can do for yourself. Spoil yourself and go find some fun!
I miss my parents.
I miss my sister.
I miss my friends.
I miss my bed and the smell of my linen.
I miss my tea.
I miss my dad’s braai and my mom’s home cooked food.
I miss recorded TV on the couch.
I miss good coffee with friends.
I miss options, selection and variety.
I miss the sun.
I miss mountains.
I miss my car.
I miss singing in my car.
I miss familiarity.
I miss routine.
Cry a little or a lot.
Cry big tears, small tears, long tears or short tears, but cry. It’s normal, it’s healthy and it’s in the best interest of you and your family. The more you cry, the less you’ll take your emotions out on them, the less frustrated you will be and the more relieved you will feel. You can apply this to any traumatic experience. Crying or talking about your emotions release emotions and bring relief. It’s a not a sign of weakness, but a way to strengthen you emotionally. If you don’t release emotion, then I can assure you that it will pop out its head somewhere in your life and most likely not in the way that you would have liked.
So it’s official! The visa has been approved and I have 9 days to pack up my life. Looking back it sounds kind of crazy, but that’s exactly how it happened. How do you say goodbye to a country, family and friends in 9 days? Honestly, I don’t know. I don’t know if anyone knows the ‘correct’ way of doing it.
Fortunately, I have already moved out of my flat 2 months before, so all the admin surrounding that has been sorted and I have just been waiting for the last few months. But still, I was left staring at a few boxes representing my life in Cape Town, 29 years of my life in Cape Town to be exact. I threw away or gave away 90% of everything I had, but then I’m left with a few boxes of selected things. The difficulty is that most of the things I’ve kept has no really value at all, but were gifts or sentimental items. Some things are neither, but just irritating to throw away, for example beautiful wrapping paper and gift bags that I bought, those buttons that you get extra with your coats and blouses, your sewing kit with all its bits and bobs, a selection of make up and nails polishes that I don’t use every day, but is nice to have for a specific occasion, random stationary and cards and the list continues. These are all things which are worth nothing, but nice to have and thus irritating to just throw away. Then I haven’t even mentioned beautiful kitchen equipment, tins, bowls, oven dishes, books, magazines, dvds, etc that I have bought over the last few years. Pretty things, things that are mine and things that I chose.
Don’t get me wrong, I parted with them all. So little time, so little space, but it wasn’t always easy. Moving house is difficult as it is, but at least you can take your junk along. Moving countries is a different story, but now sitting on the other side and looking back, I’m glad that I didn’t bring all my junk along. Sometimes I still find it irritating to buy something which I already had, but then I tell myself that at least someone is enjoying the benefit of my items in Cape Town and I get to buy a brand new one. It’s a process.. I keep telling myself that.
So I’m off to a good start in The Netherlands. I do feel like I need to do more things, start working on my business more, finish my teaching English course etc etc, but I seem to keep myself busy with menial daily tasks like washing, cleaning and cooking. Things which I do enjoy and which do need to be done, but I do seem to have this nagging feeling of “I have to be doing more”. I guess it’s not unusual to think this way since I come from a busy 8 to 5 (often later) corporate job and housework has always been very peripheral to me.
I think though that it is important for me to identify which activities are better for my emotional health at this stage. The whole moving to a different country is not to be taken lightly and too much too fast can lead to emotions not being processed. This in turn can lead to a build up of emotion which will definitely pop out sometime or other and probably not at the most convenient time. So it’s a balance of being aware of emotions, dealing with them, but not being ruled by them. It’s good to be aware of what is happening emotionally so that one can manage the emotions instead of the emotions managing you.
One might think that focusing on career and money will bring emotional stability, but it might not necessarily help. I think it’s best to determine what are the most important things in our lives, the things which bring us the most joy and focus on these first. It might be building new friendships, organising your home environment, joining a sports club or if you have a family, maybe bringing stability to your spouse and kids by supporting them with their individual challenges. Never underestimate the support that you can give by organising your home and assisting your family, even if it means having less money at the end of the month.
I think that at this stage focusing on organising our home gives me great comfort and makes me feel like I’m building something new, even if the tasks are seemingly menial. At the end, building a new life is what we are doing right now and nothing should have to rush me through it.