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.
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?