Loneliness as an expat
Living abroad can be an enriching experience that can introduce us to new ways of living; take us out of our comfort zone; and allow us to grow professionally and personally. However, this might come with a high cost. We all go through rough moments. Sometimes we feel lost, we doubt ourselves, we can’t handle the pressure or we feel depressed. These situations are aggravated by the fact that we are away from home. Life as an expat or immigrant can be like a rollercoaster.
It is a bittersweet sensation of being amused, challenged and at the same time defeated and mostly lonely. It is common to have mixed feelings when we are living abroad. We are, after all, experiencing grief, loss, and questioning our own identity. Sometimes we even feel trapped in between missing someone or something and wanting to enjoy where we are.
The situation can extend to a greater complexity if we have carried with us our own nuclear family. In one hand, it can assure us company and can strengthen our bonds. But in the other hand, it can also bring thoughts and feelings of guilt when a spouse or a son/daughter is struggling to adjust to a new culture.
Even after we have survived the initial cultural shock and adapted to our new situation, there are particular milestones that can bring us discomfort and grief. Losing a family member or close friend; being unable to attend a major family celebration; or feeling we wished we could be by someone’s side when they are going through a period of crisis are just a few of the difficult situations that an expat has to overcome even after years of living abroad.
Things that we can do:
- Acknowledge our feelings
- Take a class or join a club. Even if it feels like a great effort it is important to try to enlarge our social circle.
- Take the first move. Don’t expect others to come knocking on our door to invite us over.
- Connect with other people who are in the same situation
- Alternatively, ask for help. During these moments we might need an experienced person to hear us out; someone who understands what it is to be an expat; a professional that can walk with us back to balance.
In Clínica EOS, if you or your family member are ever in need we can offer Psychotherapy and Counseling in English.
Author: María José Ribadeneira (Psychotherapist)