Grief Counseling

Expats Know Grief

Expats know what it’s like to grieve. At any given time we’re grieving locations, people, things, experiences, relationships, imagined trajectories, opportunities, identities, routines, careers, comforts, etc. It is a lifestyle filled with ups, downs, gains and losses.

Expats tend to minimize the role of grief in their lives – maybe even being totally unaware of it – particularly if they are grieving something other than a loved one. Traditional grief experienced after the loss of a loved one is universally understood. Feelings of unbearable, all consuming sadness and an inability to feel “normal” again are to be expected. Society at large seems to understand that kind of grief.

But what about the grief of leaving behind a career track you worked half your life to get? Or, the grief of having your daily routines completely altered by changing security situations? Or, the friendships that are never quite the same after you move. On the surface, you may dismiss that type of grief as self-indulgent and trivial. It is not, however, either self-indulgent or trivial. It is very real.

Traditional Grief Symptoms

Signs of Grief

Expat grief can resemble the symptoms of traditional grief over the loss of a loved one.

  • Insomnia

  • Disturbing dreams

  • Trouble eating

  • Nausea

  • Muscle weakness

  • An utter lack of motivation to do almost anything

Symptoms can seem quite extreme, particularly when there’s an overlap of traditional grief and expat grief. This overlap happens in situations where we’ve lost a loved one, and our expat lifestyle further complicates the process.

Expat Grief Symptoms

  • Homesickness: A deep longing for the familiar and the comfort of home, which can lead to feelings of sadness, nostalgia, and a sense of being disconnected from the present environment.
  • Isolation and Loneliness: Feeling socially disconnected and emotionally distant due to being away from family, friends, and support networks.

  • Anxiety and Stress: The challenges of adapting to a new culture, language, and lifestyle can lead to heightened anxiety and stress levels

  • Depression: Persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a lack of interest in activities that were once enjoyable. 

Expat grief counseling
  • Difficulty Sleeping: Insomnia or disrupted sleep patterns, often caused by the emotional and psychological strain of adjusting to a new environment.
  • Cultural Shock: A sense of disorientation and confusion when confronted with unfamiliar customs, norms, and social practices.

  • Loss of Identity: Struggling to find a sense of belonging and questioning one’s identity and purpose in the new environment.

  • Guilt and Regret: Feeling guilty about leaving loved ones behind or regretting the decision to move abroad.

  • Physical Symptoms: Expats may experience headaches, digestive issues, or other physical ailments as a result of the emotional stress they are experiencing.

  • Difficulty Concentrating: Difficulty focusing and making decisions due to the emotional burden of adapting to a new life.

  • Withdrawal and Avoidance: Avoiding social interactions and withdrawing from social activities as a coping mechanism to deal with the challenges of expat life.

How long does grief last?

There is no standard answer for either expat or traditional grief. It lasts as long as it lasts. There is no prescribed timeline. As each person is unique, so is their bereavement experience.

How do you grieve properly?

You may have heard this by some well-wishers in the aftermath of a loss of a loved one. “Make sure you take time to grieve.” What does this mean?? I have no idea, honestly. There is no “right” way to mourn. Pop psychology has furthered the idea of the “seven stages of loss.” But, not everyone will experience all the phases. They may or may skip through them out-of-order.

Does grief ever go away?

We like to use the analogy that grief is the period before the wound becomes a scar. It is very painful but does scab over. Now it’s not crippling agony, but it still hurts if you pick at it. You try not to, but sometimes you can’t help it. This goes on until the scab falls off and you’re left with a shiny, sensitive scar. That mark of fresh, new skin that reminds you of how much pain you felt. But, it’s also a reminder of your ability to heal. You can run your finger over it without crying and sometimes, there’s a faint smile of remembrances. So, no I don’t think that grief ever actually goes away. It instead morphs into something that’s not very painful every day.

What to do?

If you are stuck in the fog of grief and would like to have a guide help you navigate your way out, please contact us. We’re here to help you. There is no “right” time to seek help. Your loss may have occurred recently or sometime in the past. Regardless, grief counseling can help turn your painful wound into a scar.

Begin Grief Counseling

Learning to cope with grief can feel impossible at times. But, we can help equip you with the tools to get unstuck from your grief. The caring therapists at Apricity Behavioral Health are ready to support you during this hard time. To start your therapy journey, please follow these simple steps:

1. Click below to schedule your free 15-minute consultation.

2. Meet with a counselor

3. Feel at peace as you work through your loss.