Any seasoned expat will tell you that some days are more difficult than others. Some days we feel free, light, adventurous. But other days we feel alone, scared and vulnerable. We question our choices and wonder why we can't just be like everyone else. Of course these days can come out of nowhere but there are also days that are predictably hard. Days when traditionally families come together, celebrate together, eat together, argue and make up together. Days like father's day.
Maybe we join the festivities virtually. Maybe we regret that we can't be there. Maybe we're relieved. Maybe we already lost the person that we should be celebrating with. Perhaps we feel frustrated that we can't be there for those that we love. Perhaps we feel overwhelmed by their loneliness. Perhaps we have a new family with new strange rituals that we don't understand. Perhaps we're parents ourselves, trying to define how we want these moments to be for our children. These moments can make us feel alone, make us question our choices in life and provoke a whole range of uncomfortable emotions.
So what can we do?
Firstly, in my experience as an expat and psychotherapist, I've found that anticipation is fundamental. If you know a day is likely to be difficult emotionally it's worth reflecting on in advance. Think about what is likely to make you feel better. Talk about it with someone that you trust. Plan something that works for you.
Secondly, try not to put too much pressure on yourself. A large part of my work with my clients is helping them to accept their uncomfortable emotions. This is because research and clinical experience show that the harder we try to suppress or avoid them the more we suffer.
So if you know that father's day is going to be challenging, try going with that feeling. Expect to cry. Expect to feel sadness, anger, frustration and guilt. Then, when the day arrives, open the door and invite those feelings in. Because there's no better way to honour someone's absence than accepting how you feel and really feeling it.