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About loss while being abroad (& how to deal with it)

I just came back to Mexico after a month being home in Germany. I was sitting on the couch of the hostel and was busy working. Then my mom told me, please look for a quiet place, something had happened. I was in the middle of work but immediately knew it was something bad. “Your grandma had an accident today while walking through the roundabout where we always go through when driving to them, she didn’t have a chance. She didn’t survive it.”

I couldn’t believe it, only two days ago I talked to her on the phone. She was close to crying when she said goodbye to me. The last goodbye I could ever tell her. Only eight days ago, we celebrated my brother’s birthday together. And now from one moment to the other she is gone? The toughest and fittest of my grandparents gone just like this.

She didn’t do anything wrong. She was waiting on a traffic island for the car to pass. But it didn’t pass. The driver hit her and she had no chance at all. I do not know if he was on the phone, drunk or “just” to fast. My granddad doesn’t even want to know that. I guess the person is already punished a lot with knowing it himself why he had killed an innocent person.

This fast a life can be gone. But how do you deal with it when you are far away from home?

In my case I was quite “lucky” (I know that’s a weird word to use when talking about death) but I had and have my boyfriend and several friends here who have helped me a lot going through this. Who helped me going through sadness, anger, having images in front of my eyes and being afraid of crossing a street full of traffic. I’m so thankful for each person who has helped me with this.

So the questions are if something like this happens – should I go home or stay where I am and if I stay how should I deal with it? I cross my fingers that it won’t happen to you but sometimes it’s unavoidable.

Going home or stay abroad?

That’s a tough question you have to think about thoroughly. I just came back to Mexico after being a month in Germany. Of course I wanted to support my family and be with them in such a hard time. But the thing is Can I really help them when I’m in Germany?

It doesn’t change anything. My grandmother is gone and of course I can support them while grieving, with preparations of the funeral. I probably would have gone back to Germany when I hadn’t just been there. I’m not sure. But my parents as well as my grandfather said that I don’t have to do that. That is would be crazy.

Additionally it scared me to be on the plane all by myself for 12 hours without having anyone to talk to. Is that egoistic? I am still not sure. But what I know for sure is that I have an awesome family and that they support each other a lot. My dad and my uncle have been with my granddad every day during the first hardest days. My dad has my mom and my brother and my uncle his family. Of course they are happy when I am there but they are strong and I know that they are able to deal with it even though I am not there.

I am lucky to had spent a couple of days with my grandmother when I was there. Birthdays, Christmas, I showed her photos of my travels and spent quality time with her. I am very grateful for that. I am grateful that even though I couldn’t say goodbye…or that I didn’t know it was the last goodbye, I was able to spend some of her last days together with her. It would have been harder if she had died a couple of weeks before when I hadn’t seen her in 1.5 years.

Dealing with grieve abroad

Be among people

If something like this happens to you, please try to be among other people. Do not stay all alone in your hostel or hotel room and be sad.

I know it’s hard as you probably don’t know these people around you very well but something like this brings you closer together. People will help you. People are good, they understand your sorrows and your grief. Even though they don’t know you, they will help you, believe me. And sometimes the realization that strangers who are not obliged to help you, do it anyway, is an amazing one.

Either they have gone through a situation like this and know that you shouldn’t be alone or they are sorry for you and think that this is a horrible situation they wouldn’t want to experience on their own and want to support you. Remember: People around the world are generally good!

It is important that you do not go alone through this. If you do not know anyone, try to meet people. Stay in hostels, go on tours, to couchsurfing meetings or whatever. Even though it’s hard to get out there and make friends with strangers – in the end, it will make you survive the situation.

Talk to your family/friends at home

You probably have a stronger bond with your friends and family at home rather than the people of your hostel dorm. Talk to them. Use Skype, Whatsapp or whatever is available to talk to some people you truly trust. People you know for years.

Talk to them about what happened to you but also change the subject and try to distract you a bit. Don’t ignore your feelings but do not spend 24 hours thinking about what happened.

Try to distract yourself

Don’t stay inside all the time. Get out there, continue to live your life and try to distract you. Your beloved one wouldn’t want you to be sad. Of course, you should grieve and accept that the person is gone and not completely ignore it. But there is a difference between ignorance and distraction.

Go and do some sports, explore a new place, cook, work and try slowly to continue as usual.

Tell that you love them

A loss often makes you realize that you haven’t told the person how important she or he is to you in a while, if ever. My boyfriend told me before I went to Germany that I should tell the people I care about that I love them. Unfortunately I didn’t told my grandmother. I am convinced she knew, so I’m ok but I should have done it anyway.

He has lost his brother and his father when he was very young and never got a chance to make it up to them. That is why I beg you: take his advice to heart and tell the people you care about that you love them. Tell them before it might be too late.

Have you lost someone while being abroad? How did you deal with it?

This post is dedicated to a wonderful woman – my grandmother. Rest in peace. I love you.

4 thoughts on “About loss while being abroad (& how to deal with it)

    1. Stef Post author

      Yes I was thinking back and forth about going back or not but in the end I decided to stay. I just came back from Germany three days ago and could spend time with my grandma. Luckily.

  1. Katie

    Having dealt with death on the road, it’s never an easy decision of whether to stay or whether to go home. Don’t beat yourself up too much about it, but try to dedicate some part of your travels to the memory of your grandmother. Hope you are doing ok recently… sorry.

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