Dealing with Death Across the Miles

Dealing with Death Across the Miles

Dealing with Death as an Expatriate.

When you live abroad long enough you will know the hardships that come when there is a death in the family.  That dreaded phone call to tell you someone close has died or the Facebook post you see online before someone has had a chance to tell you.

Every expat will agree that a late night, unexpected phone call sends shivers down your spine and your heart skips a little beat at the thought that it might be bad news from home.

News of demise is never easy, regardless of the miles in between.

First comes the emotion.  The grief that the person you knew will soon become just a memory without you really having the chance to say goodbye.  Guilt sets in for all the times you didn’t call or write or send birthday cards. You realise what’s done is done and you try to cope as best you can.

With the prevalence of social media these days you can’t escape the Facebook posts, the old pictures and the stories of how they were loved and will be missed.  I can recall my emotional defeat after reading the posts for my granny who passed away just two days ago and who was the inspiration for writing this post.   “

“I lay in bed crying silently into my pillow.  I was sure she could tell, but she gave me the distance needed to grieve, close enough for me to feel her warmth and touch but silently allowing my tears to flow”.

There’s been a death in the Family.

Family and friends at home come together to mourn the death, chat about old times and reminisce.  You hear silence!  If you’re lucky enough to have someone by your side who knew the person you can at least share in some way your memories and what you will miss most about them.

Then comes the dreaded question: Were they close enough to make the trip home for the funeral?  Sometimes it goes without saying; immediate family for instance. The need for closure for such a close family member would be understandable.

But 16 hour flight’s don’t come cheap and therefore making the difficult decision is part and parcel of the expat life. In most cases the painful decision is no.  Not because they weren’t close enough but simply because of the expense, holidays and the time difference.

You miss the finality of the funeral, the wake, the lowering of the coffin, the service for the final good byes.

The loved one lives on in your mind

Since living in Korea for the past six years there have been a number of deaths in the family.  Unfortunatley I have never travelled home to attend the funerals and thus remain in a world in which there seemed to be no evidence of the deaths I was mourning.

My emotions were real but my losses were invisible.  In a way, we expatriates are shielded from death and strangely this makes it even more difficult for some to accept it when it occurs unexpectedly.

One might say it’s easier to deal with when you are not surrounded by the tears and emotions of other family members. But you suffer just as much only you suffer in silence.

You’re only reality is the one you live in and that doesn’t include the death of the loved.  You can’t witness it, therefore it doesn’t feel real, right?

Dealing with Death Across the Miles

The funeral passes and the days roll by, while your family and friends sift through the last belongings of the deaseaed your days go on and you remain none the wiser.

When you finally get the opportunity to return home for a visit the reality starts to hit home.  Only everyone else has moved on and the time for mourning has passed.  The house where they once lived no longer bears that familiar presence, and there seems to be a void in the life you once knew.

Dealing with Death Across the Miles

Over the years, living abroad as an expat this situation will reoccur many times over.  It never gets easier, but the distance between allows you to create a make believe story where the ones you once loved still exist.  Sure they are still at home doing the same things they always do.  You are not there to see otherwise so in your mind this becomes your reality.

With so many opportunities abroad and young ones leaving their homeland for a life elsewhere, this will soon become the norm for so many.  Learning to deal with it, having a good support system and openly talking about the life of your loved ones may help to ease the affair.

Life as an expat sure has it’s benefits, but a death in the family will always be the downfall!

Dealing with Death Across the Miles

In Loving Memory of My “Granny Nally”



Janine & Janice | Irish Travel Bloggers | Portugal Based Work Smart | Travel Often | Explore More Two Ladies on a mission to life an Unconventional Life, full of Love & Adventure.


  1. Gerard mc nally : October 25, 2016 at 11:19 pm

    What a wonderful piece you have wrote your granny and we are very proud of you. I know your grief is as real as much as ours, no matter how far you are away. We will be thinking about you tomorrow as much as granny.
    Love you and so proud of you, get your wife to give you a big hug from me and mum.

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