Coping with homesickness; what exactly is it?

This is a topic I know much about but unfortunately never let on that I do suffer from at times.  In this day in age with social media, it is so easy to give the impression that we are always happy and life is perfect. Is it though?  Many people will tell you, if you are homesick, you should take a trip back home or move back even.   Now that is a loaded sentence.  Home.  Where is home exactly?  The room I am sitting in typing this is my home, which is located in Bavaria, not Michigan where I am from.   Many of us just can’t pull out 840 euro for a plane ticket every time we are feeling a bit sad because we miss someone or something.  To move back, just because you are sad? Not very realistic.

Others may argue that you should expect this because you are the one that moved away but homesickness is suffered by people who may only of relocated 20 miles away or moved to a nearby city.  Fault is something that should never be placed on anyone in this situation.

Moving to a foreign country can be a bit terrifying, especially if you don’t speak the language.  Believe me, I know this firsthand!   Everything is different from heating systems to the fact that grocery items you were previously used to purchasing do not exist in your “new” home. Systems like trash pick-up is not what you were used too.  Perhaps your make-up brand isn’t even sold here and who do you have to talk to about it? No one. Those loved ones from back home can’t begin to comprehend your new situation unless they have been through it themselves. This is the beginning of homesickness at times.

Anything can trigger it, the smell of a particular type of coffee, certain colors even an image of something that reminds you of home.  Sometimes when I see a lake I will get very quiet and sad and not even realize it.  I grew up on a lake and loved my life there.  Anything can trigger a memory of home.  Even in this globalized world we live in many still struggle.  In fact it is proven that Social media can even aggravate homesickness.  When you see all your friends and family together or doing things you liked to do and the comforts of home you are missing, actually rubs in the fact you aren’t there and can make you feel worse than you already do.

Even for people who have lived abroad before, it doesn’t make the next time around any easier.  Mixed nationality marriages are so much more common these days which means that one spouse will not be living in their home country.  That partner has to come to grips knowing they may never live in their familiar country or hear their native tongue spoken around them again.  I believe this takes a while to come to terms with.  In fact, honestly, I still am working on this.

Some signs of homesickness are similar to symptoms of depression.  Many suffer from anxiety, panic attacks, nightmares, insomnia.  Social withdrawal may also occur.  I am going to put myself out there right now.  There were times when I was feeling so lonely and just cried.   Sometimes while baking cookies and especially after looking through Facebook.   To make myself feel better I would just lay on the couch, with some comfort food and watch marathons of shows either on Netflix or YouTube.  This way I wouldn’t have to feel and it made me forget for a short time but honestly it just makes you feel worse.  While I am being open here, I also suffer from nightmares and insomnia which I rarely had before.  Social anxiety was another issue for me which has gotten so much better this past year, I am very happy to say.

So how does one deal with this?  Immersion helps immensely.  Learn the language, spend time walking around your city.   If you are home alone and homesickness strikes, try taking a walk.  Maybe there is a park nearby or gardens that you enjoy walking through.  Take this time to think about some things you are grateful for.  Sometimes this is enough to help it pass.

Take a break from Facebook.  Seriously.  It helps you to gain some perspective and honestly,  If the people in your life really care, they will find a way to contact you and share important items with you. Try spending some time making your surroundings comfortable and homey.  Even if you rent, it is easy to make the space yours.  Put your stamp on it.

If you find yourself in a situation where you are sad, anxious, depressed and missing home, please talk to someone about it!!!  I can’t stress this enough!  Do not keep it to yourself and try to put on a happy face.  Talk to your spouse or others who may be in your situation.  There are expat groups and even counseling that can help you through this difficult time.  I am very blessed that I have my Mom to talk to about homesickness.  Moving abroad when I was younger, she had to cope with this and had a hard time herself.  It took a while for me to open up with her about my problem but it has been life changing for me.

Lastly, if you feel homesick, pray.  I ask God to protect my heart and give me the strength to be strong and courageous and to guide me through this difficult time.  Also to Bless those I am missing. Never underestimate the power of prayer.

There is a book by Brigid Keenan titled Diplomatic Baggage  (The adventures of a trailing spouse) that was highly recommended to me.  Next time I am book shopping I plan to pick up a copy.  Maybe this book would be interesting for some?

Are you a sufferer of homesickness? How are some of the ways you cope?



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