March 28, 2007
It's the End of the Relocation Honeymoon, Part I
I have a light developing post on Durable Gift Giving and another on Family Firsts in 2006, but a more pressing topic has taken over for the moment. I'm realizing that we are going to be living here near London (UK) for at least another year after this one, and I'm not sure what to do with my feelings surrounding that fact. Last year at this time we were gearing up for our next big move, and I didn't have to think about anything else. International moves have a way of completely taking over one's brain space. Staying somewhere, by contrast, leaves plenty of time for feeling and thinking. After eight months, things have settled down. Who am I again?
You've heard of the Stages of Grief when someone dies. People here in the expatriate community talk about similar stages of transition regarding international relocation. I wasn't able to find too many obvious webpages to illustrate this, but I did find some helpful paragraphs scattered here and there:
From the Amazon blurb about a book by Barbara Cummings, partially entitled The Sociological Impact of Corporate Relocation on the Family System:
"Relocation is not an isolated event but a process of adjustment over time involving emotional stages similar to the stages of grief and loss. Each family member may experience the relocation differently and progress through the stages at a different rate. This creates a period of disorganization and disorientation for the family similar to a prolonged jet-lag, which I call Relo-Lag(TM). This period of adjustment for the family system is the most frequently cited short-term effect and can last up to two years."
"A change of circumstance of any kind (a change from one state to another) produces a loss of some kind (the stage changed from) which will produce a grief reaction."
"Significant grief responses which go unresolved can lead to mental, physical, and sociological problems and contribute to family dysfunction across generations."
"We don't have to go through the stages in sequence. We can skip a stage or go through two or three simultaneously."
"Grieving only begins where the 5 Stages of "Grief" leave off. Grief professionals often use the concept of "Grief Work" to help the bereaved through grief resolution. One common definition of Grief Work is summarized by the acronym TEAR:
T = To accept the reality of the loss
E = Experience the pain of the loss
A = Adjust to the new environment without the lost object
R = Reinvest in the new reality
This is Grief Work. It begins when the honeymoon period is over, [...] everyone thinks you should be over it, and everything is supposed to be back to normal. It's at this point that real grieving begins."
They also described a funny example of finding your car battery is dead, and how people deal with this "loss."
From the Synopsis of a paperback by William Bridges, Transitions: Making Sense of Life's Changes:
For something that we have been experiencing all our lives, most of us handle change very badly... each change brings with it new fears and further confusion. How can we better handle these difficult, painful experiences? And what new insights can we learn about ourselves from these transitions? ...the three stages of transition:
1. Endings - every transition begins with one. Too often, we misunderstand them and confuse them with finality. We must recognize endings as opportunities as well as losses, and even celebrate them with rituals designed to open new doors.
2. The neutral zone - the second hurdle of transition: a seemingly unproductive "timeout" when we feel disconnected and things in the past are emotionally unconnected to the present. The most frightening stage of transition, the neutral zone is really an important time for re-orientation. How can we make the most of it?
3. Finally, the new beginning - in transitions we come to beginnings only at the end, when we launch new activities. A successful transition requires more than persevering: it means launching new priorities and understanding the external signs and internal signals that point the way to the future.
From A Portable Identity, by two ex-pat women:
"Women moving overseas primarily in support of the husband’s career are often referred to as the trailing spouse. With each overseas move, the life of the trailing spouse alters dramatically. She experiences a loss of continuity, a loss of connection to familiar surroundings, and a loss of contact with people who have been central to her life. She experiences a wide range of thoughts and feelings that may not make sense to her. How she defines herself – her sense of who she is in relation to her world – becomes unclear. Her identity is undergoing a process of change that she may not fully understand.
The research shows that the spouse's satisfaction during an international relocation is key to its success."
Continued in Part II.
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" everyone thinks you should be over it, and everything is supposed to be back to normal. It's at this point that real grieving begins."
That is so true. You want the world to stop for your loss, but it doesn't.
I sometimes have to guard my heart when I read your blog because you go to so many wonderful places and it is my dream to travel, and it is not happening for me anytime soon. But there are trade-offs and I know I would feel lonely moving as much as you have. We all have trials to face. God sees us through. Do you remember how long it took me to get used to CA when we first moved here - I think it took a year before I was ok about moving. Keep trusting the Lord, allowing yourself to feel and work through those feelings. I'm giving you a understanding cyber hug!
Posted by: Helen | Apr 6, 2007 4:57:46 AM