The pain of missing family when you live abroad

I first moved abroad when I was 20 years old. I was doing a degree in French and Spanish, and part of my third year involved me spending 5 months in France and 5 months in Spain. I vividly remember a very emotional farewell at the airport, as two of my uni friends and I headed off on this new adventure.

I remember I was sad to say goodbye but mostly so excited to be heading off into the unknown.

Since then I have had more airport farewells than I care to think about, and the pain of missing family has increased and intensified every time.

The pain of missing family when you live abroad: l Happy you, Happy them. Put YOUR oxygen mask on first.

My parents, brothers, sisters and me at my brother’s wedding in 2013

When I moved back to the UK from France in 2010 I put the wrench of saying goodbye behind me. My parents were now just an hour’s drive down the road. Two of my siblings lived in the UK, and when the other two came back to visit I was around to see them.

Moving to London a few months after we arrived back in the UK put me at a 45 second walk from my brother’s flat, and a 15 minute wander from my cousin’s place. The pain of missing family dissipated and almost completely went away.

For 5 years I had my family around me, for the first time in over 12 years.

When I went into labour with Clémence, it was my parents who drove over to take us to the hospital, and who looked after Léna for us.

Ben, our girls and I developed a deeper closeness with my parents, my brother and my cousin, who were all so nearby.  We would see my parents around once a month, whilst my brother and cousin would often pop over after work.

It was incredible. For us. But also for our daughters, growing up in this extended family.

Then Ben and I made a decision which brought that lovely little world crashing down.

We decided to leave London, and to move to Mauritius, a 12 hour flight away.

The thought of leaving not only these people behind, but also my sister and her family (recently moved back to the UK), and my other brother and wife, living a couple of hours’ away, and who’d just become parents for the first time, the thought of leaving all of them behind was nearly enough for me to do an about-turn on our decision.

When you live abroad and far from your family everything becomes a far bigger deal. You miss out on family gatherings and when someone is ill or is going through a rough patch Skype just doesn’t cut it.

Without a shadow of a doubt the only time I’ve regretted leaving London and moving to Mauritius, and the only time I’ve missed “home” has been when my family are all together and I’m not there, or when those I’m close to are going through tough times.

Not being there to dispense advise, hugs, large amounts of alcohol and junk food is very hard.

Do I regret my decision to move to Mauritius?

No. Not in a million years.

But I do really wish that someone would find me a way of whizzing back to the UK for a day or evening catch-up with those close to me.

I don’t think the pain of missing family when I’m abroad will ever go away, it fades to a dull ache most of the time, but then intensifies into an almost physical pain when I’m missing out on get-togethers or when one of them is going through something hard.

So would I recommend moving abroad?

There is so much to be gained from living in different cultures, environments, climates and speaking a different language. And that is something I will always recommend. Living in a sunny climate doesn’t hurt either 😉

But the price you pay is the pain of missing family, and there ain’t no way around that I’m afraid folks!

To my lovely family,

I’m sorry I up and left, I’m sorry our daughters are not there to play with their cousins and to spend time with their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins (the direct ones and the once removed ones). I’m sorry I’m not there for random meet-ups, just because we can. I’m sorry I’m not there to commiserate and to celebrate. But know this, I think about you all the time, and I miss you and the times we used to have together.

I love you and look forward to seeing you later this year when we holiday in the UK. Until then, Skype?

Sophie xx


10 Responses

  1. Karin Joyce says:

    Great post Sophie! I always have people asking me what I miss most about the US. I miss Cheetos but really, the only thing I miss is my family. However, I too would not change a things. People used to ask me if we would ever move to the US or why we didn’t move to the US. I feel at home here and while I miss having my Dad available to pop in for a cuppa or look after the kids, here is where we belong at the moment. Thank goodness for modern technology though, right??
    Karin xx

    • Franglaise Mummy says:

      I so agree Karin! When I lived in France I was always asked if I missed anything from the UK and my answer was always just my friends and family. The large downside to moving abroad 🙁 And hurray for modern technology! xx

  2. Trace says:

    You have basically just described how I feel about living in France! I do love the area, I have some lovely friends, we have a good life and of course the wonderful weather but there have been times when I have felt a “longing” to see certain people back in England. I am very close to certain members of my family and I also have some very close friends that I used to see a lot and it can be hard knowing that I can’t just pop round and see them or organise a social “do” every now and then.

    You hit so many nails on the head with this post! How many times have I “missed out” when there are family or friend get togethers or special occasions that I can’t get back for? How many times have I wanted to give someone close to me a big hug when they’re having a hard time? Lots! But I made that decision to live away and most of the time I don’t regret it! (I say that because when I have felt down in the past, I’ve asked myself if I do regret it!)

    You have actually found a great way to describe how the pain never goes away but fades into a dull ache and then intensifies when you know you’re not there for something. I totally agree. And as for goodbyes……I thought it would get easier with time but it’s actually the opposite!

    However, on the upside, we have a happy life here, we have achieved a lot both personally and professionally and I’m lucky enough to be “close enough” to fly back quite easily. Oh and the vineyards are everywhere and the wine is very good and very cheap 😉

  3. Mel says:

    Lovely post Sophie, and I really like your new design (it’s all about happiness, folks!!).
    I admire you for making the choices you have made and for living your dream! It is also good to reflect on tougher issues like missing family. It makes your dream life sound ‘real’ if that makes sense. Sending you all lots of love xx

    • Franglaise Mummy says:

      Thank you for your lovely comment Mel – glad you like the new design, and yes, it’s all about the happiness 🙂 I totally get what you mean, and even in dreams there is sadness at times. I love, love, love our new life here in Mauritius, but the pain of separation never goes away, I just find ways to deal with it. Hope you are all well, so glad we got to meet before we left Blighty xx

  4. Siena Says says:

    It’s funny I would happily up sticks and move to Spain, but the one thing stopping me is family!

    I spent a year living in Mallorca at 19 and then a year in Valencia (as part of my degree too – Hispanic Studies).

    Since I left Uni a million years ago I’ve been back a lot (it helps that husband did same degree as me and shares the passion). I miss it all the time and when I do go I feel like I’ve come home.

    I just don’t think in brave enough to make the break though. The parents are all getting on (mid to late 80s) and my sis is having health issues.

    I think it must be a fabulous life for you out there and you are so brave to do it. I can imagine there are times when it’s a wrench not having your family nearby x

    • Franglaise Mummy says:

      I miss Spain lots – I loved living there during my year out, so I totally get you. It is so hard not having my family nearby, and that was the hardest part of our decision to move, I have no regrets but it really isn’t easy, especially when you’re close like we are. Keep enjoying Spain as and when you can, and maybe you can move out there when the kids have flown the nest? x

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