You’d think it would get easier after the third, fourth, and perhaps, fifth time. I mean, I should be used to it. As a TCK, it’s a normal part of my life.
My family recently moved from one of South Africa’s biggest cities to a little town in the Western Cape. I thought I would handle it pretty well. After all, this isn’t the first time I’ve moved across continents this time. We were still in the same country and the culture hadn’t changed.
This will be the easiest move ever, I thought.
I was wrong. It was a lot harder than I’d anticipated. I’ve struggled with sadness and anxiety. I miss the familiarity of home, of knowing my niche. And it’s going to be a while before we feel part of the ministry here.
At some point, we have to face the fact that no matter how many times we move, transition doesn’t get easier. And because moving has become such a “normal” part of our TCK lives, we think we don’t need to grieve.
“Just get over it and move on!” we tell ourselves.
This approach only hurts us. Grief is normal, and it’s an important part of the healing process. God wants us to work through our grief to come to a healthier place. I want to share six ways you can work through your grief – all of which have personally helped me in my journey.
1. Acknowledge your grief.
The first step in any grieving process is to admit that you are grieving. Be honest with yourself. You can’t heal if you don’t recognize that you are hurting.
I know how hard this is, especially if you don’t think you have the right to grieve. Everyone handles change differently, so don’t compare your reaction to someone else’s. If someone tells you (or you tell yourself) that you shouldn’t be grieving, realize that it is a lie and embrace the truth that it’s okay to have these feelings.
2. Journal your feelings or talk to someone you trust.
The next step is to get all your feelings out. Open your journal and write. This isn’t something you need to let anyone else see. It’s just for you. So don’t be afraid to voice your deepest fears and darkest feelings. Try listing everything you’ve lost – friends, places, and even certain smells and sounds. You will feel so much better once you do.
If you’re not into journaling, talk to someone you trust – a parent, mentor, or friend. Be honest with them. Tell them exactly how you’re feeling and that you are struggling. Chances are, they will try to understand and will assure you that it’s okay to grieve.
Whichever way you choose to process your grief, it’s important to talk to your parents about how you’re feeling. They are there to help you, but they can’t unless you communicate with them. And if you’re afraid they won’t understand, you may just be surprised by how much they do understand. After all, they’re going through the same transition as you.
3. Pray about it.
This may seem obvious, but too often we leave God out of the process. Lay out your heart before Him. Don’t be afraid to express your anger or sadness. God can handle it!
Read some of the Psalms, and you’ll see how boldly David brings all his feelings, including his sorrow, to God. But God doesn’t strike him dead for it. He patiently listens to David and then comforts him (Psalm 77 is a great example).
God will not always give you the answers and solutions you want, but you will have a renewed sense of peace in your heart.
4. Look for the benefits of your new environment.
When we’re grieving what we’ve lost, it can be hard to recognize what we’ve gained. Yet, every move comes with its own set of benefits.
Make a list of all the good things about your new home. Are there opportunities to fellowship with other believers? Do you have access to certain conveniences? Do you get to use your second language?
You could also make a list of both the pros and cons and compare them. For me, it would look like this:
“Our house is smaller and we don’t have much privacy, but I get a beautiful view of the mountains and a safe neighborhood.”
This exercise can really help you have an attitude of thankfulness. And remember, God will help you to be thankful for all things if you’ll only ask HIm.
5. Be patient with yourself.
The grieving process is just that – a process. It takes time.
Everyone’s process is different. Some people grieve for a short time and then they’re fine. For others, it can take weeks or months. However the process looks for you, give yourself grace as you rely on God’s grace. Don’t rush it. Take it one day at a time, and encourage yourself in the Lord when you have a particularly bad day or week.
6. Remember that your feelings won’t last forever.
When we’re in the middle of grief, it can seem like it will never end. However, there is always light at the end of the tunnel, even if we can’t see it. Our feelings are fleeting but as God promises,
"The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever." Isaiah 40:8 ESV
Hold onto that promise, dear TCK, even when the sadness overwhelms you. Cling to Christ and His Word, and in time your feelings will follow.
Following these six steps doesn’t mean you won’t continue to struggle. But if you start with them, you’ll be on your way to healing and finding lasting joy in Christ in your new environment.
The process won’t be easy. But with God at your side, nothing is impossible.