Goodbyes are all too familiar for expats, but they never get any easier.

Yesterday as I watched the bus containing my parents pull away, I felt that sharp pang in my heart and lump in my throat. The same feeling that washes over me every time I part ways with my loved ones.

And it gets harder as you get older.

I have lived away in different countries for many years like most expatHaarlem readers, and although I am all too accustomed to goodbyes, I find with every year that passes they get harder. The sadness grows deeper, the worry more intense and the longing a little more difficult to shake off. Regardless of your age, we live in a transient world- you have to hope a little bit harder that you will see the faces of those you love again and when you do that they will be happy and in good health.

Then the guilt sets in. Guilt because I live nearer to family than many expats I know, guilt because I know I can grab a flight and be home in the west of Ireland in a few hours if needs be, but distance however short still doesn’t take from the fact that you can’t experience their physical presence. I can’t sit beside my dad when he’s reading on my couch, I can’t smell my mom’s perfume or hear her singing to herself in my kitchen.

Goodbye Gerd Altmann ©

The absence

In French, I miss you; ‘Tu me manques’ more or less translates as ‘you are lacking from me’. Tidy up the translation a little and it resembles ‘you are missing from me.’ I feel your loss. I miss how I felt when you were with me.

Isn’t that lovely?

You are lacking from me encapsulates the emptiness you feel when their presence is gone. I find the first few hours of their absence the hardest. Seeing the near-empty cup of tea my mom is no longer drinking, the vacant bedroom, the silent dining room. The silence takes some getting used to.

You are missing from me.

The great thing about saying goodbye is that it reminds us of what is important. We are often so consumed with life, work and the daily grind that we forget what really makes us happy, what we really miss and what we need. Anything that makes us cherish what is important is positive and despite the temporary emptiness, it encourages us to look forward with optimism until we see our loved ones again.


Do you struggle with goodbyes?

Let us know in the comments.

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Fiona McGeever
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1 reply
  1. Kent Linneweh
    Kent Linneweh says:

    Hi, Fiona~ Thank you for this article. I think you articulated well what many of us try to grapple with. We have lived in the NL, on-and-off, for the last 15 years. With A daughter in Seattle, another in Estonia and aging (now deceased) parents in NY and California, it was a difficult decisions to move and stay in The NL. It is a decision that has to be settled deep within as we pray for some level of peace, otherwise the guilt of the possibility of “abandonment” or “irresponsibility” can set-in quickly. Since we are international church-planters in The NL, and now Haarlem, we feel we are driven by a grand purpose. Still, as much as you try to comfort yourself with your “calling”, it is always difficult, and impossible to deny, the lingering feelings when trying to justify your absence from the lives that matter the most… family. As Expats, we need to realize the value of our relationships and cherish them because we never know how long we will have those we love. It is wise to “take inventory” while we still have time to invest-in and value our friends and families. If done properly and timely, we can do major damage-control in our own lives while enriching our relationships… the only thing that eventually matters most.

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