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Living Abroad

The Grief of an Expat

December 23, 2013

I have taken the past few weeks off from blogging to somehow start to come to terms with the recent loss of both of my parents. And while I now recognize grief will be a life long process I understand I am only beginning to discover what this actually means.

I never anticipated that like most aspects of my life, being an expat has an impact on how I am grieving. In more ways than one.

The Irish Don’t Know Them
I am truly lucky that I have an amazing network of family and friends in Ireland that dropped everything to help us out and be there when we needed it most. But the reality is, few of my friends here ever met mom and dad, and even fewer had an opportunity to really get to know them. It’s sometimes hard having to give adequate background information when I want to share a story or memory. And although everyone is so willing to listen and support me, they simply don’t have a memory or story to share with me in return.

How will I ever repay my friends?
It was the love and support of friends I have known for a lifetime that got me through two funerals in two months. There are no words of gratitude and I simply can not help but feel guilty and wonder how I will ever repay it to them. Will I even be able to be there and hold their hand when they bury their own parents?

The Randomness of Life
I think I have a great relationship with my sister and brother but the truth is they are busy and have their own families. Everyday I shared with mom and dad the randomness of life and all the experiences of living abroad. The truth is I miss so much being able to share the random things…..i just don’t think my sister or brother will care as much as mom and dad how I just discovered they actually do sell corn syrup here, only that it’s called something different. There are just some things that only your best people really care about and I feel like I’ve lost my two best people.

Everything Reminds Me
I thought I would get off easy with the memories. Mom and Dad were only able to visit me in Ireland twice so I figured it would be easier because few physical things or places would remind me of them. The truth is everything reminds me of them. There really is no way to escape grief.

I don’t think being an expat makes grief easier or harder but I do think it is different.

While there is crushing saddnes in our lives right now there is the immense joy that can only come with a new baby in the family. There are days when my heart moves from feeling painfully broken to swelling with wonder and love in a matter of minutes. The fluctuation of emotions is if nothing else exhausting.

And while this week will be the first Christmas without mom and dad, it will also be the Prince’s first Christmas…and we’ll get through it.



October 8, 2013

The last time I posted was the evening after Princess M’s 3rd birthday party.

I went to bed that night exhausted but content and happy with my life. Happy that all these years later I was making my life in Ireland work and still including my family back home.

It was craazy and chaotic that day but my mom and dad in New York were participating via FaceTime so much that when recalling who was at her party Princess included Grandma and Grandpa on that list.

What I didn’t know. What I couldn’t possibly have known was that would be the last time I would see Dad.

The next day he was to be admitted to the hospital for like the 5th time this year.

Having just gotten semi-good albeit not the best news the week before I was naive enough to think that this time was no different from previous admissions….he’d stay for about a week and then go home. I was thankful we had just traveled to see them in August, but confident we’d see him again soon.

By Monday night I had fallen into the all to familiar routine of being in constant contact with home, keeping myself as busy as possible in the morning to speed the agonizing wait for an update allowing for the time difference- daily phone calls to Dad’s bed sometimes brief because he was sleeping or being poked, prodded-texts and emails home-phone calls to my siblings that started with “everything is ok” instead of “hi.”

It was stressful and for sure I worried but I thought this time would be like the others.

Tuesday we even managed to mark the actual 3rd birthday for Princess.

By Thursday evening the situation had worsened and hospice was being considered. Deciding to waste not a second more we booked flights last minute and woke the kids at 4am with a surprise trip to America.

We thought we had time.
The doctors said it wasn’t imminent.
I just knew time was limited so we didn’t want to wait another day-we just wanted to go and be together for as long as was left.

Somewhere over the Atlantic after endless tears of what was to come a feeling of peace and calm washed over me.
We landed in Charlotte and the nightmare moment every expat fears became my reality.

Standing in a crowded terminal, walking towards our connecting gate, pushing the Prince in the stroller my world crashed.
We hadn’t made it in time to say goodbye. Dad went peacefully in his sleep as we flew over the Atlantc. We were now travelling home to bury him.

There are few details after that point that I remember. I remember carefully choosing my words to explain this to my just turned three Princess. I remember the King and I not giving a shit at who was looking at us in the crowded airport terminal. I remember a numbness and a feeling that my body was on autopilot for one more flight. And I remember collapsing into the arms of my two best friends who met us at the airport when we finally made it home.

As with all loss they days that followed are blur. And while I still have yet to leave home for my other ‘home’ I know I will fall into the arms of friends upon my return. My grieving process will be long. I’m sure it is for everyone.

Long before this tiny little blog ever got up and running, Dad was it’s biggest supporter.
Over the past year we have had countless discussions over post ideas, names and even technical bits….which neither of us knew anything about.

Over the past 9 months as his health deteriorated and I feared the end coming just before I was to give birth we talked about blogging.

With so few people in my inner circle knowing about my blog, mom and dad were my first followers.
In my 30s having built a life for myself abroad my Dad was my biggest supporter one final time.

With his failing health he stuck around long enough to meet his first grandson and to see this little blog get started. As the grief begins to really set in that is what I hold on too.

I love you Dad…