Coping with loss and grief abroad as an expat

Living abroad can sometimes feel like a total detachment from reality. In a city as exciting as Tokyo, it’s easy to get carried away by the excitement and adventure of immersing yourself in a new culture. In the meantime, life in our homeland seems to have come to a standstill.

Unfortunately, for many, that blissful bubble can burst with a dreaded phone call – a loved one has passed away. Suddenly, the city we call home becomes the loneliest place on earth. The rush of mixed feelings is not felt. We are struck with grief compounded by distance from family, regret for not spending enough time with them and guilt for making a selfish choice to live as an expat.

dr Mira Simic-Yamashita, a Kobe-based psychologist and therapist, offers advice on how to overcome these feelings.

What’s the best way to overcome the guilt of missing out on time with a loved one before their death?

One way to overcome grief is to focus not on what you didn’t do but on what you did for them while they were alive. You may have spoken to them often, encouraged them, or helped them financially. Maybe you were able to experience special moments together because you lived far away. You will probably find that you did more than you thought you did and that you showed your love and devotion in different ways during your lifetime.

How can we support grieving loved ones from so far away?

Support is so much more than just being with them in person. Talking to a loved one and sharing the grief about it can often deepen the bond between family members. It is a precious opportunity to reconnect while keeping the memory of the deceased alive. You can also offer practical help:

Call the insurance companies

Help make some funeral arrangements

Order takeaway

Send financial support

All of this can be conveniently done remotely. Not only will it help them, but it will also make you feel part of the process.

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