Updated: Jul 18, 2021
You may never have heard the term disenfranchised grief before. However, chances are that if you have gone through repatriation or if you are going through it right now, you may experience it. Especially if you miss your old home more than you ever expected you would.
But, we have to start at the beginning. If you are an expat, there comes a time when you have to leave your expat country. As I mentioned in a previous blogpost coming home is not as easy as it seems.
If you didn't enjoy your time abroad you are probably over the moon to finally be home again. Surrounded by people you love, surrounded by a culture that you thrive in, surrounded by a lifestyle that just suits you. And even if you realize that you have changed in some regards, you are happy to be back. No hard feelings.
But what if you miss your old life as an expat more than words can say? What if you miss your friends, the culture and the community? What if you absolutely loved being an expat in that specific country even with all the ups and downs. What if you have felt a sense of belonging like you have never felt before? What if you had to go back home although you wanted to stay?
And now that you are back you feel sad, disoriented, lost, but you put on a brave face and smile, because you don't even allow yourself to feel like that. You yourself might be confused about those feelings that you have and you tell yourself that this is home, this is happy, this is good. You don't allow yourself to grieve.
But when you think about it: you have literally lost a lot: you have lost friends, maybe a job, a home, a community, a language, weather, food, places and so much more. You have lost an identity. You can no longer be that person that you used to be in the other country.
Usually when we lose something or someone we grieve. You may have heard of the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. Of course there is no right or wrong, no guideline, no formula to follow and grief takes time.
But two things can happen to us when we are going through repatriation:
We don't allow ourselves to grieve, because we feel the urge to be happy, to deny those feelings, because we believe coming HOME shouldn't hit us this hard.
The people around us don't acknowledge the fact that we are grieving.
Your old friends and family may not understand what you are going through and how could they. They don't know what it is like to come back. Some of them might think that the hard days for you are over and that you are finally in a good place again, the place they themselves love so much. In their eyes there are no losses.
And we fear that if we would open up and tell them how much we miss our old home they might see it as an affront against their own way of life. They might be offended by us missing a place so foreign to them.
So we choose to say nothing.
And this is where disenfranchised grief comes in. It was Ken Doka who coined the term. According to him disenfranchise grief refers to losses that people have that aren´t always acknowledged or recognized by others. You can´t publically mourn those, receive social support or openly acknowledge those losses.
This makes it so much harder to work it through. If nobody validates your feelings, if you are not allowed to be sad, how can you work it through?
This is why a professional coach can be so valuable when you go through repatriation. You can be open and honest and work through those feelings.
Coaching because a coach will support you to reach the last stage of grief: acceptance!
YOU GET A STRANGE FEELING WHEN YOU´RE ABOUT TO LEAVE A PLACE...
LIKE YOU´LL NOT ONLY MISS THE PEOPLE YOU LOVE
BUT YOU´LL MISS THE PERSON YOU ARE NOW AT THIS TIME AND THIS PLACE,
BECAUSE YOU´LL NEVER BE THIS WAY EVER AGAIN.
- Azar Nafisi -