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Diaspora finds it hard dealing with death of parents abroad

15 Sep 2017 at 21:42hrs | Views
It is very difficult to manage death of a parent anywhere. it is more painful and hard to better manage dealing with the death of a parent abroad, or family and friends.  It's hard losing a loved one but then to live so far away seems to make it even more difficult. Death has never been something you get used to and losing a parent is devastating and indeed emotional feeling. it took years to go over the death of a is a sorrowful loss. The situation is incredibly hard for those abroad and their family. The death of a parent abroad is very hard to deal with and you will be feeling both guilty and upset. While it is the difficult but logical consequence of your decision to live abroad, this choice suddenly took an unexpected and much more dramatic and tragic turn. When parents visit you and the succumb to the unknown ailment or actually undiagnosed ailment. You will experience a bunch of mixed feelings during that time. When you made the decision to move abroad you didn't have an inkling that you would end up in this situation.

I often think there's a blessing in not knowing what lies ahead of us. When you invite your parents to come abroad to visit you the last thing you think is to send them home in a coffin. Certainly from many peoples perspectives, had they known what was lying ahead of them they would not have invited parents.  The thing is that we do the best we can with the knowledge that we have, and little denial here and there to help us find the courage to fly. There is no right and wrong in this situation, only the tragic sadness that life sometimes throws our way.

Most times parents are so silent about their illness, when they visit abroad the sickness is brought out by the advanced medical technology. Sometimes in the process of getting them well they get worse. They breathe their last breath away from their ancestors. it is obvious that given the choice you would have wanted her to live many happy years yet. But given the fact that she was dying, and that it put you, her and others in an unbearably painful place you still look up and say God I did my best. Remember, the people we love and lose to death, only experience that separation once, while we can sometimes create a living hell for ourselves by experiencing it over and over again.

The process of grief is the adjustment of the psyche to the absence of something that was present and is now gone. Death and loss leave an aching hole where once we found emotional, physical, spiritual or mental nourishment. The psyche reacts by 'looking' for the missing piece, trying to fill the hole again. Most people never thought as much about their parents as they did in the months following their death. Grief is also about the loss of the imagined future that their loss now causes. the worst thing is when those at home start throwing the blame game and blame you for their death.

On the way back to England from her father's funeral in Zimbabwe my friend kept repeating to himself 'my father is dead, I have no father', and mentally trying it out in various conversational settings. And that adjustment, that recalibration of who we are in the light of the loss that we've suffered, is part of the process of grief.  

Doing your grieving abroad is different from experiencing it in the physical intimacy of a shared village, town or even country. I think it is fair to say that no one leaves their home country unless they feel a strong sense of independence and a need for freedom. And despite Skype and FB we become used to the lack of our parents' and friends' physical presence in our lives. We may love or hate the intensity of visits home but we become used to experiencing the home front in small intensive bursts. That's a hinder when it comes to grieving abroad.

This situation teaches you very fast to be strong brave and totally grown. You learn to make decisions of life and death alone. The phone calls you get from home are so stressful that comforting. No one calls to say anything constructive. a friend told me that his uncle called him and asked him why did he invite his father to England now he has killed him.

it becomes difficult to make a meaningful arrangement with those at home. you grieve to go home and you will know you are going to face a court and you will be the accused. Those who talk too much contribute too little.

And this process might be more supported by the fact that others who also mourn this person are in close physical proximity, so that you can be sad and remembering together. But being already quite independent and free from the person who has died, a foreign grieving process can feel more abstract. It can be easy to lose ourselves in the everyday that didn't really include our loved ones and thus, psychologically, avoid triggering the ache of this inner 'hole'. We might even feel out of synch with the people back home, avoiding contact because they're in the midst of their grieving process and they vent their grief on you.

Each phone call they will ask you what happened. This will be a long record. Nobody wants to give you time to arrange and grieve, every phone call they need explanations or you will be labelled.

Most people hold their breath, holding back their emotions until they could safely fall apart back in England. And yet, when they were home they felt so alone and lonely with their grief that they became quite the expert at pretending that they had transcended it altogether and had found rapid inner peace. Thankfully there were wise people on their path who knew better, and who teased the grieving process out of them anyway.

So in a way, just as with many other things, Internationals have to work that little bit harder at grieving effectively. it is hard to stand on your own two feet. But you are hindered by the fact that we're away from the grieving environment as so can find the process more abstract and harder to engage with. Most may feel regret, or guilt, and suddenly see how the choices they have made, and are making, have great consequences, and this too can be part of a process of adjusting their view of the future. But it is oh so important to separate the pure pain of loss from guilt and regret about having invited them to the UK and not having a physical presence in their lives in the way they might have had if they had been at home.
The reality is your parents loved you for choosing your own best life, and would never want their death to compromise that decision.
It is true that staying put in the town of your birth, close to your parents, had given you more shared time with your parents than those abroad. Death has a way of stripping away the fluff and making us look at what is real and unavoidable. Death and loss, in many ways, are all about reminding those of us left behind that we need to embrace life, as much as we can, with as much of ourselves as we can dare to be. And yes, the choices that honour that commitment may require certain sacrifices, from ourselves and even from others. But rather than letting the resulting feelings of guilt stand in the way of making the most of the relationships that are still there for us to enjoy, let it be the spur that pushes us to cherish and care for the people we love, in the best way we can, within the bounds of our choices. And then accept that when the time comes, it is what it is.

Losing parents abroad is more painful, the people at home do not make it easy. Inviting our parents to see the other country is not a death trap. The bad things happens but let's have our parents medically checked and that we know their true medical situation. Surprises are very ugly.

Source - Dr Masimba Mavaza
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