“Are you excited?” My husband asked me on the way to the airport. “You know,” I said, “it's always such mixed emotions.” I'm excited to go home, but then I think, wait, where is home? I'm excited to see my family and friends whom I miss very much, excited to see my loved country, to be around familiar culture, smells, and tastes. Yet, traveling always involves such mixed emotions because home is there, but home is here too. As much as it’s exciting to see my loved ones overseas, it’s difficult to say goodbye to my loved ones here and the routine I’ve grown to love.
I've been wondering a lot about the farewells and reconnections we experience in each location we belong to. How can we prepare ourselves so we can alleviate the pain of separating from the people we love? If we've experienced relocation, are we doomed forever to feel torn between two places?
My 7-year-old daughter is an expert in farewells and reconnections. She was born into a reality of life between two countries and effortlessly adjusts to each location and connects with loved ones everywhere so naturally. She can also part without any pain or difficulty. She just says goodbye and moves on. I’ve learned a lot about how to reconnect and manage goodbyes from observing how she manages herself every time we travel or host family and friends from overseas.
Here is what I've learned from years of goodbyes and reconnecting:
1. Practice Gratitude
I don't think that my daughter actually practices gratitude. But I've noticed that she is happy and feels complete everywhere we are.
Practicing gratitude in the context of relocation can mean being grateful for belonging to more than one place. Often, individuals who have experienced relocation tend to feel as though they belong nowhere. Being thankful for the opportunity of experiencing life in different locations can help you feel a sense of belonging and connection to both your original and your current location. This can make it easier to say goodbye or reconnect, as both places are home.
2. Invest in Creating Meaningful Relationships in Every Place
Meaningful relationships are the core of feeling a sense of belonging everywhere you are. It's not the place that makes you feel at home, but the people around you.
I've noticed in my practice that some individuals worry that if they'll invest in relationships in their current location, it will affect their connection to their original home. Such an assumption can actually create the opposite effect. Instead of feeling more connected to your home, the loneliness and homesickness may lead to high expectations from your loved ones far away, and each visit can become emotionally loaded. In this situation, it makes sense that reconnecting or saying goodbye would be challenging.
Developing new and meaningful relationships where you currently live can help you feel less homesick and more connected to both places. With the support of the people you love who are there for you in each location, reconnecting and separating will be less challenging.
3. Focus on The Here and Now
Visiting your loved ones involves a range of emotions. Sometimes knowing that your time together is limited can cloud your interactions.
A 7-year-old doesn't think about the future farewell. Instead, she naturally focuses on the here and now. Being able to enjoy the moment to its fullest, without thinking about separation, allows you to better connect with your loved ones without the dark cloud of a goodbye hanging over your time together. It's easier said than done, but it is definitely a skill that you can develop with practice. One way you can focus on the present is by practicing mindfulness and taking notice of what brings you joy during your visit.
4. Create a Schedule for Your Visit
Here is a practical suggestion. Open your calendar and schedule family gatherings, coffee/lunch with friends, quality time with your parents/siblings, dinners, shows, and whatever you want to do during your visit with the people you care about. If you’re traveling with your family, plan ahead how you want to spend your time together and apart. Creating a schedule can help you maximize time during your visit so you won't feel as though you missed something or someone when it's time to say goodbye. Also having set plans can ease the process of reconnecting with family and friends you haven't seen for a while.
5. Plan the Next Time You're Going to See Each Other Again
Sometimes not knowing when the next time you'll see each other can put a lot of pressure on your visit and increase the difficulty of saying goodbye. Therefore, if it's possible to have a general idea of when you’ll be seeing your loved ones next can help you focus on enjoying your current visit without worrying about the farewell.
6. Create Fun Goodbye Rituals
When my daughter was 4 years old, she asked me a day before our flight back to the US not to cry at the airport. I was surprised to discover that she had noticed it was a difficult moment and wanted it to be different.
Being aware that farewells can be emotional and may be painful can help you prepare for the actual moment. Fun goodbye rituals can alleviate the pain when separating from the people we love. Maybe a funny handshake or a hug, sharing the top three moments from your trip, or have a special saying when looking in each other’s eyes can replace the tears of goodbye. Such rituals can add a sense of playfulness to an emotional moment and help you focus on your loved ones and appreciate the time you shared together rather than on the sadness of separation.
7. Make it Short and Sweet
Ruminating about farewells makes me wonder if time is a factor that influences the moment of saying goodbye. Meaning, if we spend a lot of time with our loved ones or have a long farewell, will separating be easier? Is it like recharging a battery and when it's fully charged it becomes easy to part ways?
Years of goodbyes have taught me that time doesn't necessarily contribute to easing the moment of separation. Saying goodbye to people we love and care about can be difficult regardless of how much time we've spent together or the length of the farewell.
While observing my daughter, I've noticed that she adopted from a very young age her own way of separating from friends and family. She makes it short and sweet as though she's about to see them tomorrow.
Too long a visit or farewell can make it more difficult to say goodbye. Consider how long you plan to be with your loved ones so it won't be too long yet you'll have enough time together. Also, try a short and sweet farewell; maybe you'll discover that if it works for a 7-year-old, it might work for you too.
8. Keep in Touch
Keeping in touch with family and friends sounds very obvious, but with a busy routine, it's sometimes difficult to maintain long-distance connections. Technology today provides us with so many ways to stay in touch with the people we love, even if they are on the other side of the planet. Yet I've noticed in my practice that staying in touch involves mixed emotions as well. Some express the need to stay in touch, but at the same time describe a pain in being so far away which then leads to avoiding connection. Although it makes total sense that maintaining relationships from far away is not easy, it's essential to have some routine of keeping in touch with the ones you care about.
The more you avoid maintaining a connection with family and friends while being away, the more disconnected you may feel from them, which evidently affects the process of reconnecting and separating when you finally see each other.
Reconnecting with family and friends from far away after relocating involves a lot of mixed feelings that can become even more emotional because of the impending goodbyes of your return back to your new home. Remember to stay focused on the present, be grateful for your experiences, and see if these tips will work for your own successful and fulfilling reconnection and farewell with loved ones!