I have hesitated a little writing this blog post, because it is a difficult topic, and maybe not so easy to understand. I’m not sure I understand it myself.
I have written a little bit about loss in many of my other A-Z posts. See for instance my post about Books, Distance or Grandma. Because even though most third culture or cross cultural child will experience fun and exciting things and it might seem like it is just a benefit for them to have been living abroad or having family in several countries, it’s not always just this. Most will also get used to not so fun things, like frequent farewells and breaking ups, living far from their parents in dorm schools, and feeling second to their parents’ work, like many missionary children experience. I’ll write a post about this later.
In this post I will try to write about the silent loss.
Many people who are born and/or have lived abroad in their development years, might feel that they lack roots, that they always are outsiders. The same can also be said of children with parents from two or more countries, who often feel they don’t belong fully in neither of the countries. They don’t feel they are part of the close family ties. There have been things happening in their absence: birthday parties, establishing of Christmas celebration traditions, or habits and culture within a family that outsiders don’t understand, inside jokes. The list is long.
Of course, the third culture or cross culturel child will have experienced exciting things abroad, and met many people, but many will still feel that they don’t really belong when they return to their home country. Actually, they will not feel at home anywhere. Except for at airports. See my post about this.
This creates a feeling of loss. It’s not always something the child is aware of. The child mourns for something, but doesn’t always know what. It’s something invisible. The worst part is perhaps that the child often feels it is something he/she can’t talk about or express it loud. One thing is they might not know or understand what is wrong, why they feel so lost, why they feel different. They might also be told it’s ungrateful to complain when they have so much good in their life. So it becomes a hidden grieving, something they feel is not permitted. They put up a false face.
Growing up feeling lost and not belonging, but not being aware of why or being allowed to feel like this, creates a feeling of emptiness, I think, in the adult. One becomes quite good at acting like nothing is wrong. Adding the unique ability that many tck and ccks have in absorbing the cultures they enter, it would be difficult for others to discover anything. It’s quite serious. Many even consider suicide because they feel they don’t fit in.
Happily much more information about the aspects, both negative and positive, are available today, see my post Internet, so growing up as a tck or cck today, and having grown-ups around you who are aware of the issues, is quite different than when I was child, I think. I hope.