The day started with your spirits low. You try to cheer yourself up but there is that nagging melancholy in your chest. You go throughout the day doing what you are supposed to do because you have to. As a responsible adult, there are some tasks that cannot be postponed.
As you end the day sitting on a chair pondering, reflecting what has got into you; it dawned on you suddenly why, oh why, you feel so down and out. You are experiencing a sudden sneaky attack of HOMESICKNESS.
Migrants out there know this emotion well. It comes in waves. Some days, you can dismiss it. Other times, the feeling is heart-wrenching, you just break down and cry.
People cope differently when this feeling wreck their emotional stability. Some have coping strategies that are effective, others destructive.
- They count their blessings.
Every personal development book I read always mentions gratitude. Be thankful for all the blessings you have. Most of the people living or working overseas far away from their loved ones are in first world countries. They have access to all the resources their relatives could only dream of.
When homesickness strikes, they start to list down what they are grateful for.
- High-paying job
- Exposure to authentic multicultural food
- Resources provided by the government ( parks, libraries, etc.)
- Freedom, safety and security of the country
- Capacity to purchase items you really like – jewellery, fancy cars, branded clothes etc.
- They can support financially their families back home.
- Living and working in a first world country is a dream for many and you already have it.
- They pray.
For others, faith in God gives them the strength, wisdom and the courage to manage homesickness. You miss your family so much. You want to hug and kiss your family but you have to stay employed and stay overseas just to support them. As if you are always facing a crossroad of choices: go home or stay overseas. Offering your worries, doubts and fears to the Lord gives you the strength to bounce back when this feeling assault your senses. You hold on to the belief that everything will be alright.
Photo by Milada-Vigerova
- They talk about it.
The person who could understand you better is the person experiencing what you are going through. Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries, new year and other important occasions trigger homesickness so much. One way to handle it is to release your heaps of emotions to a trustworthy person.
You have that heavy feeling in your chest that you want to be with your loved ones on these special days of the year but you just can’t. Unburdening your grief is a must or else it will drive you insane.
- They cry it out.
Acknowledge your feeling. Don’t dismiss it. Burying deep down the feeling of homesickness will only make you depressed. Cry… Cry… Sob if you must. If you need a box of tissues then so be it. It feels so good to cry. You might have puffy eyes, tomato nose and a messy room full of wet tissues but that’s okay.
After crying for hours, you will notice that you have no more tears to shed. You will have sorrowful sighs and deep breaths. Then, you gradually start to feel better. It will reach the point that you tell yourself, it is time to move on. Quit moping around and stand up. You are better than this.
Photo by Volkan-Olmez
- They call the people from their country of origin.
Video chats are gifts of the modern age. You want to see and at the same time talk to your loved ones back home. It is just a tap or clicks away from a smartphone app or laptop.
It is so nice to hear their voices and see their faces. However, the quality of the conversation is the key. If the families back home start telling you financial issues that you need to solve immediately, better postpone that call for another time.
- They eat a lot.
Stress-eating is one way of coping for others. If others lose weight because of homesickness, others tend to eat more than necessary. You got access to all the delicious food you wouldn’t have the chance to eat in your country of origin.
When migrants go on a holiday to their country of origin, most of the comments they get are:
“ You gained weight, my friend.”
“ You are so fat, what happened to you?”
“ Maybe you always eat good food there that is why you look like that now.”
If you are not polite, you could have told them to keep their opinions to themselves. However, with friends like these, who needs enemies, right? You still love them anyway.
- They work harder.
Working double shifts or even triple, you just challenge your body’s limits to the fullest. You just want to bury deep down the attacks of homesickness. Your life revolves around your job. Your fear is, if you stop working, you might just weep because of loneliness and frustration.
It is Sunday but you are still busy doing your job. In the long run, you are just punishing yourself for a future avoidable illness. Is it even worth it? It is a regret in the making.
- They visit their country of origin.
Even if you buy an expensive item, deep inside you there is still an unmet need that gnaws inside your head. When all else fails, the only cure with this dilemma is to go back and visit your country of origin.
It feels tremendously good to visit and step on the soil of the country where you grew up. Even if you enjoy a better life in your second home where you migrated, you still want to see the sights, the familiar faces and places that were parts of your special memories inside your mind.
- They divert their thinking by entertaining themselves.
In one of my blog posts entitled How to Cope When You Miss Someone, I enumerated the different ways on how to divert your thinking by entertaining yourself.
One of the ways to distract yourself is to do something that makes you happy. Does watching a movie make you happy? Does buying an affordable luxury item make you feel elated? Cooking? Gardening? Going out and sight-seeing? Singing? Dancing?
- They develop new friendships and relationships.
Migrating to another country gives you the opportunity to start anew. Culture shock is real. One way to handle homesickness is to reach out and develop new friendships and relationships both personal and at work.
The wonderful news is there will be people you will meet that will make you feel loved. They may or may not be relatives but there is a reason for these random people coming into your life. They may stay or not in your life but one thing is sure. You will learn something from them. Remember that.
Photo by Evelyn Mostrom
- They focus on their WHY.
Most people migrate to other countries because their reason is the future of their children. When they begin to feel that yearning for home, they focus on their reason why are they doing this?
They tell themselves: FOR MY CHILDREN, FOR MY CHILDREN, FOR MY CHILDREN. This is an effective way for most family-oriented middle-aged adults.
Comparing your situation back home before, you couldn’t even afford to buy famous brands like Nutella, Spam, Ferrero Rocher and other branded items because the salary you get there isn’t enough. It is not practical to obtain such luxury goods. At present, you can buy them when they are on sale.
My dear reader, if you know someone who is a migrant or an overseas worker, please reach out to them especially if they just arrived in your country. They may look, speak or act differently but they still have the same feelings as you. People want to feel they belong to a community.
According to Dalai Lama, love is the absence of judgment. Set aside your bias and the person could be your friend for a lifetime.
My fellow migrant, wherever you may be, I hope you find the happiness, love, peace and security you are looking for. Homesickness will always be a part of our lives. The good news is we have the choice on how to handle it well. Choose wisely. Focus on the idea that we are so lucky. Take good care of yourself. Don’t forget that.