“Most TCKs go through more grief experiences by the time they are 20 than monocultural individuals do in a lifetime.” David Pollock
Anyone who has lived in an expat community knows that transition, change, and leaving are constants – sometimes the only constants. Whether you are the one leaving, or the one left, it can be painful.
Two guest speakers came to the youth groups in Phnom Penh in early December last year. They spoke about the changes and transitions faced by both the “leavers” and the “stayers.” They spoke on the RAFT model and how that process is an important one to think and act through whether you are a leaver, or a stayed who needs to farewell someone leaving.
They did an excellent job at leading the youth through some guided reflection, but it stirred up in me another thought – mostly that you can say good bye well – but then you are still left to live with the loss.
I think part of what becomes so wearisome is that these changes are constant – a constant stream of hellos to new people and a constant stream of goodbyes to old friends. And as blessed as we to have facebook and skype, nothing can take the place of a hug, a cup of coffee, a late night talk, a shared glance that speaks an entire conversation, the little everyday exchanges that are so important.
I LOVE the movie UP; it shows this so well. The characters are living with loss and grief. The old man has lost his wife and throughout the movie we see him missing her, the sense that “she was supposed to be here.” Russell has also lost his Dad and he mourns the loss of the little everyday things – “I might sound boring, but I miss the boring stuff the most.”
Russell’s new friend learns to see past his own hurt, his own sense of direction, and is willing to have a new adventure with Russell. And at the very end of the movie when he returns home, he joins Russel in watching the cars go by.
When Kris Rocke spoke on pain and loss, he said that it is only by facing our own pain that we are free to enter the pain of others. So I suspect my role as a spiritual caregiver is twofold, (and not only as a spiritual caregiver, but also as a child of God).
- Help youth acknowledge their own loss – not only the loss of a friend, but the loss of that friend’s house as a safe place to go, the loss of a group of friends. Sometimes this loss is cumulative; even familiar places can become hard to visit, as it brings with it the reminder of times when others were around. Grief is a process – one that takes time and energy. Unfortunately, at the end of the school year when so many people are leaving, both time and energy seem to be in short supply. In the midst of exams and end of the year celebrations and goodbye parties, TCKs need to somehow find time to grieve in their own way. As adults, we can model this and be open about our own grief processes.
- Help youth move into a place of entering others’ pain – becoming compassionate, caring individuals and remembering that others’ losses are significant. We, and they, can learn to come along side others and give of ourselves. Like the old man in UP how we can move from focusing on our own situation into helping another person in need.