A showcase of FIGT Members' written work, focusing on the issues we study, the best practices we share, and the strategies we provide to support expatriates and cross cultural individuals and their families. Contributions are a privilege for Small Business and Corporate membership levels only and you can submit up to 3 posts per year. Please use our online form below to submit a blog for consideration or contact blogeditor@figt.org.

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  • 25 Nov 2022 12:38 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Robin Pascoe has been a long-time champion of FIGT and we are incredibly grateful for her contributions as a thought leader, supporter, and financial contributor. It’s because of generous individuals like Robin that we are able to continue to strengthen and diversify our community - members who contribute their gifts, time and talents in order to propel FIGT forward to “Build community and foster connection to help the globally mobile thrive”. 


    Offering Foundational Support for Families in Global Transition

    By Robin Pascoe

     

    FIGT has undergone a huge sea change since as the Expat Expert  (www.expatexpert.com) I attended my first conference back in 2000. At that time, my books focusing on the challenges of the expat spouse in the relocation experience were considered almost revolutionary—and as it happened, very controversial. Of course, anyone who is acquainted with me personally, knows I got a tremendous kick out of stirring the pot, to say stuff no one had said out loud before (and have women cheekily ask me: are you a fly on the wall of my marriage?). FIGT allowed me to meet up in person in Indianapolis with fellow travelers. It was truly like coming home, to a place where I finally felt like I belonged, where I didn’t have to explain myself. These are all sentiments which I know still hold true to this day.


    But flash forward to 2022. The world has changed dramatically. The relocation and expat experience has changed. FIGT as an organization also needed to change. Like many other global groups, it had to move its activities to virtual spaces and must continue to seek out new ways to pivot to the current realities, both logistical and in the experience members want and need to share. 


    As it happened, I stopped attending conferences in 2010 after being honoured, with Jo Parfitt, as a trailblazer. I made a personal pivot away from all things expat and went to work with my husband building a brand for our international education company, Maple Bear Global Schools (www.maplebear.ca). But I was drawn back into the FIGT world in 2018 when I was honoured once again to open the 20th anniversary conference in The Hague. And my pal and colleague Jo encouraged me to become engaged with the Parfitt-Pascoe Writing Residency Program which she had created (and done all of the heavy lifting I might add!).


    I began to be interested once again in FIGT but in a different way. For one thing, I was much older and suddenly, I filled the role of ‘wise elder’, a role I admit I have enjoyed! But the success of Maple Bear provided another opportunity for me. I have been able to offer substantial foundational support for FIGT. At first, I did it quietly and anonymously but have since become more transparent in the hopes of encouraging others. I have learned that in the world of fundraising, this is called leverage.

     

    Today, I write this with that exact goal in mind: to encourage all current members to find new ways of supporting FIGT as an organization. Foundational support is not just about writing a check (not that there is anything wrong with that!). Consider volunteering, getting the word out to expand our membership, sharing experiences in online meet-ups. Perhaps you’d like to donate a small sum as a way to ‘give back’ to the organization that allowed so many of us to build successful careers. FIGT—and founder Ruth Van Reken in particular—have given us so much. Now is the time to show that gratitude in order to support the sustainability of this wonderful organisation. 

     

    Personally, I am beyond grateful that the overwhelming success of Maple Bear has allowed my husband Rodney Briggs and I to support many causes important to us, most especially the environmental education NGO in Costa Rica Finca Cantaros Environmental Association (www.fincacantaros.org) created by our TCK daughter Lilly Briggs. We have pledged to continue to substantially support FIGT for at least the next three years to give the leadership of new president Hannele Secchia a chance to reconfigure the organization so it reflects the realities of the post-pandemic world. I hope you will join us in whatever way suits your time and resources!


    Robin Pascoe



  • 05 Aug 2022 6:19 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Lauren Wells, FIGT member and Founder & CEO of Silver Sponsor, TCK Training, shares important new research highlighting the unique relationship TCKs have with both adversities and positive experiences. 

    By Lauren Wells, Founder & CEO, TCK Training


    In 2021, TCK Training conducted a survey investigating ACE Scores and experiences of developmental trauma among Adult Third Culture Kids. Their  primary objective was to get data on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) in TCKs; the secondary objective was to gain insights into other forms of developmental trauma experienced and witnessed by TCKs. In this article Lauren Wells shares more about their experiences and findings. 


    Cultivating Thriving TCKs: Risks and Hope 

    I planted a vegetable garden this year. In the past, my gardens have been limited to a small, above-ground rectangle that I filled with a couple of bags of store-bought soil. This year, however, I decided to go bigger. I planned out a 2x2 meter plot and began to do my research on preparing to plant. I naively thought it would be as simple as removing the grass and weeds from the area, making little holes for my seeds, and vois là - vegetables would abound! But, I discovered this plan was not likely going to be successful. There may be some hearty seeds that sprout, but it was clear that without some serious preparation, this garden would not do well. So, I invested in a hand tiller, vegetable garden food, compost, and topsoil. 


    Raising TCKs is a similar endeavor. Entering the TCK life without intentional understanding of the risks and prevention strategies make it challenging for TCKs to grow up resilient, reap the benefits of the TCK life, and ultimately be healthy in adulthood. 



    Working in TCK care for over a decade and being an adult TCK myself, I knew anecdotally many of the challenges that seemed to be prevalent in the lives of TCKs. I had noticed a correlation between those challenges in the developmental years and health in adulthood. As we started our research in 2021, we decided to use the Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) framework to research those developmental challenges, not only because it is well researched around the world, but because there is also research on it's associated preventive factors called Positive Childhood Experiences (PCES). Our research sought to investigate the risk of high ACE scores among TCK populations so that prevention strategies can be implemented. 


    There are 10 factors that make up the ACE score and they fall in the categories of abuse, neglect, and household dysfunction. High ACE scores (considered to be a score of 4 or more) have been associated with higher risk of disease, depression, addiction, behavioral challenges, divorce, obesity, and even premature death. We hypothesized that TCKs would have higher ACE scores than monocultural individuals but were surprised by how significant that variance was. Our study (which can be read about in depth here: https://www.tcktraining.com/research/caution-and-hope-white-paper) showed that 20.9% of TCKs in our data set of 1,904 have an ACE score of 4 or more compared to the largest ACE study done on the American population that revealed that 12.5% had an ACE score of 4 or more. When we looked at TCKs who experienced high mobility (moving house 15+ times), the percentage jumped to 33.2%.


    While researching gardening, I learned about factors that would inhibit plants from thriving, and I realized that my garden plot had many of them. In the same way, this research identifies that TCKs are at greater risk for higher ACE scores. But there is hope and it lies in this: there is already excellent research on how to promote thriving despite high ACE scores. We have access to PCEs research that provides specific protective buffers that can be put in place to mitigate the negative outcomes of high ACE scores.  


    These PCEs are: 


    1. Feeling that their feelings are heard and validated by their parents

    2. Feeling physically safe in the home

    3. Feeling their parents stand by them during difficult times and would choose them over their job/ministry/population of service, etc 

    4. Feeling supported by a peer group 

    5. Feeling a sense of belonging within a larger, multigenerational group 

    6. Having routines and traditions to look forward to 

    7. Feeling a sense of belonging in high school/secondary school 

    8. Having two non-parent adult relationships who take a genuine interest in them



    Because of the unique nature of the TCK life, these PCEs often need to be creatively implemented and certainly need to be intentionally maintained. When they are, the outcomes for TCKs improve exponentially! It was found that when those who had an ACE score of 4 or more consistently had more than 6 PCEs, their rate of mental illness in adulthood dropped by 72%. Many other studies show drastic improvement of outcomes when PCEs are maintained. 


    Knowing the risk factors of planting TCKs in the soil of the globally mobile life doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it. If we didn’t, we would miss out on the amazing opportunities and benefits of a globally mobile upbringing! But, because we know the risks, we should take care to cultivate the soil so that the outcomes are more likely to be healthy and favorable for the TCKs we love. By nourishing them with PCEs, they are more likely to thrive and build resilience in the environment of the Third Culture Kid life. 


     



    TCK Training teaches parents, organizations, companies, and schools about caring for TCKs in simple and practical ways, as well as providing all the tools needed. If that's something you'd like to know more about,  they’d love to hear from you. Please follow them on social media (@tcktraining) or visit their website at www.tcktraining.com.  


    Thank you, TCK Training, for becoming an FIGT Silver Sponsor. 



  • 14 Jun 2022 11:46 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)


    Addressing this month's FIGT Focus, member Natasha Winnard shares the benefits children gain when the adults in their lives give back through volunteerism. 


    By Natasha Winnard

    As a child, I was surrounded by adults who volunteered their time to their communities. Family members volunteered in a number of ways, including playing the piano for community theatre productions, shopping for our elderly neighbour, helping to staff a holiday camp for children whose siblings were living with leukaemia and working the night shift at a shelter for women who were experiencing domestic abuse.  I wonder whether my commitment to volunteering as an adult is connected to the positive role modelling I had from adults when I was growing up. But what is it that our children learn when they see us, as the adults in their lives, commiting to volunteer service? 


    1. Community Building

    If we volunteer across socio-economic, cultural and intergenerational groups, our children learn that being part of a community involves all members of society. 


    2. Work Opportunities

    We actively show our children that we value work in its different forms whether paid, voluntary, full time, part time or temporary. And that at different stages in our lives and circumstances we are open to exploring a range of working opportunities. 


    3. Support Network

    We model to our children that we all need people to support and care for us. Sometimes that support may be receiving a winter clothes donation or taking a new parent in our community on a tour of our local shops, but more often than not it is the need for a meaningful human connection that provides each of us with care and support. 


    4. New Learning

    When we commit to new volunteer opportunities we demonstrate that, like our children, we are open to taking risks and new learning with members of our wider communities. This may involve a volunteer opportunity where we need to speak a new language or develop new skills e.g. learning more about how to sensitively communicate across cultures and income groups. 


    Our older children can sometimes equate the value of volunteering to building their CVs for university or college applications and for entering the job market. Whilst this is understandable, it is our job as adults to model behaviours to our children that are longer lasting, and that they will hopefully pass on to the next generation.


  • 26 Apr 2022 4:37 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Thank you to FIGT Member Cath Brew of Drawn to a Story for being our Artist in Residence at FIGT2022. Here are Cath's three visual reflections on this year's conference.







  • 14 Apr 2022 5:18 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    FIGT member Ema Naito-Bhakdi shares how FIGT2022 helped her address the "shoulds" in her life and build new resilience and hope.



    By Ema Naito-Bhakdi


    If you ask me what caused me the most anxiety, the most worry these last two years, it was that my children couldn't go to school and have a "normal" middle childhood.


    These were supposed to be some of the best years of childhood: Starting first grade and making friends, playing and learning together. Relaxing into fourth and fifth grades, knowing that middle school was still two years off. Graduating from elementary and entering the more grown-up world of middle school.


    It was also supposed to be a stable period. Stability in childhood was something I dearly wanted to give our children because I myself treasured the five stable years I spent in one school in a childhood marked by moves between Japan and the US.


    Those five years in my small Japanese school were magic. There, I could play and argue and study with the same kids and became one of the older-timers. The security of those five years gave me the strength to keep going through my bewildering teens. And so I wanted that stability for my children.


    But instead, my children had to move countries twice within a year, be out of school for a term, enroll in school only to have it go online (seven months at the longest stretch and then sporadically for a day here, a week there), lose friends who moved because of the pandemic, and live a full year in limbo until we decided where to settle.


    And I was suffocating in all the "shoulds"—we should be seeing my ageing parents, the kids should be in school with their friends and not online, I should be helping my children more in their schooling, maybe I should be spending less time on my own work (the new solopreneur work that I was loving)....


    Ambiguous loss

    Marilyn Gardner's Deep Dive at FIGT2022 gave me a name to all this: ambiguous loss.


    Ambiguous loss, as Marilyn explained, is loss that doesn't come to closure. It could be when someone is physically present but psychologically absent, like in dementia. Or it could be a physical absence with an emotional presence, like when we miss our family and friends when we move or live across borders.


    Listening to Marilyn, I extended the people in ambiguous loss to events. My "shoulds" were the emotional presence of the pieces of life as I envisioned it, in face of their absence.


    Marilyn suggested five steps to healing:

    1. Name the ambiguous loss

    2. Use "both/and" thinking that lets you hold two opposing thoughts at the same time

    3. Find meaning in the present

    4. Reconstruct identity

    5. Build resilience & discover new hope


    Where am I?

    So here's where I am:

    Step 1: I've named my ambiguous loss (see above!).

    Step 2: Both/and thinking: I hate that the kids aren't in school but I also enjoying spending more time with them. I hate that I can't give my full attention to their online schooling needs but I love that I have my own work. As a queen of positive thinking, it's usually harder for me to accept that things aren't all great. I'm telling myself that it's ok to have these opposite feelings.

    Step 4: I can begin to reconstruct my identity by reconstructing what I see as being "a good parent."

    I'm stuck, though, with step 3, "finding meaning in the present." That means working the present into my personal and family narrative. But what if I don't know what those narratives are?


    Where do I go from here?


    FIGT2022 asked us, where do we go from here? 


    My logical brain accepts that even these ambiguous losses of the pandemic years could become part of a personal and family narrative. Maybe it's a narrative of overcoming adversity. And that kind of story, like our favorite fairy tales, gives us the security of being in a familiar and comfortable bigger story.


    So while my emotional brain doesn't quite follow all this and I don't know how to start, I know I want to begin identifying the narratives of my life and of my family. 


    And I want to tell these stories to my children. Because maybe giving them that security, comfort and familiarity will give them the stability, the continuity that I so want for them.


    Resources

    Session: Marilyn Gardner, "A Global Pandemic and Ambiguous Loss" (Deep Dive)

    For ideas to self-regulate and reflect, the ones I watched so far (more to watch!):

    • Shellee Burroughs, "Posting Daily Post Its" (Say It in 5)

    • Eleni Vardaki, "Self-Soothing Tapping Skills" (Deep Dive)





    Ema Naito is an English editor who is passionate about clear, plain language. A bilingual adult third culture kid, Ema grew up between Tokyo and the US East Coast. She's been living in Bangkok for 17+ years and is an FIGT volunteer. You can find her tips on clear and accessible writing at www.TheClarityEditor.com and very occasional musings on cross-cultural life at www.CrossCulturalFamily.com.


  • 13 Apr 2022 4:27 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    FIGT member Sarah Kobrus shares how FIGT’s online conferences have helped her CRAFT* a thriving life through the pandemic


    By Sarah Kobrus


    “Resilience is not innate, it is built.”

    -Laura Wells FIGT 22.



    I was blessed to have attend FIGT conference live, in Amsterdam (2016). But, physically and financially, this is no longer an option for me. In the two weeks preceding FIGT 22, I thought I might not be able to attend even virtually because of an intense flare up of the Fibromyalgia that I suffer with. This cruel, invisible disability includes chronic fatigue and pain, as well as adversely affecting my ability to speak and think. I survived cancer but don’t have a thyroid, which regulates the body’s energy production and immune system at a cell level; potentially lethal combinations of hidden health hazards in these Covid times. 


    Fibromyalgia flares are often triggered by stress. So, what was I thinking when I signing up to facilitate a Kitchen Table Conversation about Emotional Logic and resilience? I’m a public speaking phobic. How could I talk about resilience, when I was struggling to even get out of bed? 


    But, I’m also passionate about helping others, which is why I’m a social worker and coach. I was determined to do what I could, joined the second day of the conference from my bed, resting between sessions and still in my PJs. First stop was a Deep Dive with Marilyn Gardiner, which transformed my “ambiguous loss,” my disability struggles, into the CRAFT that I needed to thrive at FIGT 22.


    *CRAFT =


    Crisis management, safety first.

    Response/resilience.

    After shocks.

    Forging ahead with baby steps.

    Time.


    Marilyn’s wisdom became my FIGT 22 rallying cry. “It’s not about closure, it’s about resilience.” Resilience is my superpower, after all.


    Let me take you on a journey through some Mother’s Day resilience building–all from the safety and comfort of my kitchen table to yours. Spoiler alert! I thoroughly enjoyed sharing Emotional Logic with FIGT folks from literally my kitchen table–that has lived in France, Holland and Qatar and is now my work desk in Cumbria, England. 


    A computer on a desk Description automatically generated


    Mother’s day March 22nd 2020

    The day before the first UK lockdown. I was on a video call with my oldest ATCK, Beth (then 25). “Don’t worry poppet! I miss you, but understand? Did I tell you how my job interview went?” 


    She’s a primary school teacher in London, 300 miles away–our first mother’s day apart. “Mum! You’re just not getting it! You’re at serious risk from Covid.” 


    I was in denial about my looming isolation, thinking about my plans to get back to work now that my nest was empty. “Surely the government can’t expect us to stay in until they’ve got a vaccine? God knows how long that’ll be.” 


    “MUM, YES!” She shouted. “If you want to stay alive!”


    Mother’s day March 14th 2021

    My first mother’s day with none of my three ATCKs at home, because they’re now pandemic front-line workers in London. I’m counting my open nest blessings:

    1. Still alive and had my first vaccination! 
    2. Entered and won a writing competition; the prize being publication of my expat memoir with Summertime Publishing.
    3. Refreshed my training and skills with many online courses and taken my coaching business online.
    4. Reconnected with my international self and family.

    I celebrated British Mother’s day 2021 by joining in FIGT’s conference, which was now financially and physically accessible for me because it was online.


    Mother’s day March 27th 2022

    No more self-isolating because I’m double vaccinated, had my booster and research has proved that they work. I’ve almost finished a second book; helping globally mobile folks cope with loss, grief and trauma the Emotional Logic way. I honoured my commitment to run a Kitchen Table, thanks to wonderfully helpful sessions during the conference. 


    A few of  my connecting, innovating and thriving highlights of FIGT 22 were:


    • Eleni Vardaki’s self-soothing tapping, which calmed my emotional and physical nerves. 


    • Dr. Krish Kandiah’s compassionate keynote reminded me of my other superpower–empathy. The joy in the realisation that we can get Emotional Logic translated into Ukrainian to help refugees–as we did with Arabic for Syrian refugees. Connecting with my Polish family, currently helping Ukrainians in Warsaw, to get this done ASAP.


    • Being moved to tears by Sa-Eun’s cheerleading, to give voice to our hidden, broken, hushed, oppressed parts. To celebrate and love my disabled but unique ‘body suit!’ It’s the only one I’ve got, this side of heaven, so I might as well let it SHINE!


    I’m casting my vote early for keeping FIGT conference virtual, so that it continues to be financially and physically accessible–not just for disabled folks but also those forced to be globally mobile; for refugees. Our beloved Ruth van Reken summed up all the connecting, innovating and thriving blessings that FIGT conferences have given, in just one word. “Unbelievable!” 



    Sarah is a UK registered social worker, certified counsellor and Emotional Logic coach, specialising in loss, grief, trauma and resilience. She loves working with accompanying partners, teen TCK’s and ATCKs. Her book Good Grief: The Emotional Logic way to Hope, Healing and Wholeness after loss. For the Globally Mobile and her memoir Count Only Sunny Hours; my Journey to Hope will be published this year. https://sarahkobrus.com/ sarah@sarahkobrus.com



  • 13 Apr 2022 3:40 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    FIGT member Doreen Cumberford reports on her experience attending FIGT2022,  a conference that is a "banquet for the global soul!"


    By Doreen Cumberford

    The FIGT conference 2022 felt to me, much like a banquet for the global soul!  From the title of the conference, “Where do we go from here” all the way through to the closing session there seemed to be a constant conversation between where are we now and where would we love to go. I very got the sense that we were like bobble toys balanced and grounded on the bottom but slightly unsteady on top as we considered a wide variety of topics, we were in motion and constantly pivoting.


    The question for the weekend was of course designed to invite us into the next great possibility. It could be answered in many ways from the personal, as applied to groups, in collaborations and as an organization as a whole. 


    There was a mixture of surprise and great delight in observing us all discover the Kumospace interface.  It was like watching a group of international kids discover a play gym.  We shared spaces, made dates, met each other in the bar, the cafe, the lobby, the lounges, and the pool. The bookstore was a fun place to meet up it was thrilling to see all the offerings in the global mobility lanes. I laughed when I heard plans for an airport lounge and sleeping pods next year – what fun to look forward to.


    We clicked on drinks, grabbed a doughnut, moved over to make the piano play, made the fire crackle, and generally enjoyed a level of fun that is rarely found at online conferences.  I believe this delight and playfulness compensated for many of us still grieving the loss of in-person gatherings – it also created a sense of joy and relief at being together. 


    This sense of fun also served to balance our more challenging subjects which we as a community bring to the table.  The pandemic, complicated grief, trauma, mental health, transitions, loneliness, and fear were all tackled with sensitivity and compassion. On the other hand, well-being, renewal, resiliency, thriving, self-soothing and bridge building were offered with optimism and grace.


    As a community it seems like we continue to explore the differing stages and very diverse experiences of geographical diversity as economies and cultures respond, reopen, and rebuild. Our personal stories of dislocation, separation and upheaval were heart-breaking on many levels, yet I always felt that kind ears were present, willing hearts were open and gut level empathy leaked out of us and flowed like a river from room to room.


    In answer to the big question of Where do we go from here? I heard commitment and determination take many forms. From “we go forward to a new normal”, to “name the losses”, “Keep telling our stories”, “deploy empathy”, “disrupt then unpack”, “get curious instead of furious”, “shift our language” and “continue to reframe and reflect”.  Ladies and gentlemen strap on your seatbelts because we have much to do!


    Meeting new people and reconnecting with so many from past FIGTs was delightful, soul food at its best!  If nothing else FIGT demonstrated that we are all walking, breathing humans seeking a world that works for all while constantly healing as we go along. I look forward to us opening the tent to consider subjects like rewirement, retirement and repatriation.


    This global hearted banquet was served in various courses through deep dives, kitchen table conversations, keynotes and say-it-in-fives.  The familiar structure mixed with a dash of innovation and fresh perspectives certainly fed my soul, stimulated my brain and stories constantly reminded me of the preciousness of being human. I look forward to reviewing many of the sessions and the list of books to order is a smorgasbord to enjoy.


    If I were an alien from another planet and had arrived at this conference with little preparation I believe I would have left with the idea that planet earth was in very good hands! 



    Doreen Cumberford works with expats, global nomads and returnees to create happier, easier and more successful transitions while globally mobile. 

    A Certified Coach, and 30 year licensed Practitioner, Doreen speaks, writes and teaches about the principles and practices necessary to navigate global mobility while maintaining vitality through health and well-being.

    The author of Life in the Camel Lane, Arriving Well and Home Again, Home Again – Jiggedy jig she is currently compiling her second book on Repatriation.

    A native of Scotland, her experience in 8 overseas postings over 3 plus decades, on 4 continents have enabled her to constantly create new lifestyles and trained her to constantly move with ease and grace. 

    Doreen helps globally mobile people master transitions, relocate well and find joy in-between.


  • 11 Mar 2022 1:31 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    The FIGT community welcomes incoming Sponsorship Director, Jane Ordaz, to the Board. Here, Jane answers a few questions about herself and what excites her about her new role.

    Can you please briefly describe your FIGT role?

    In a nutshell I’m here to build relationships between FIGT and businesses. AKA Sponsorship Director.  Generating income is vital to the success of FIGT, and one of the ways we do this is to bring on sponsors who are vital to the work of FIGT. My role involves the stewardship of current sponsors, researching out to other companies who may be aligned with us, and making approaches to explore if we might be a good fit for each other and working across FIGT to develop a strategy that will work to grow our sponsorship offer.

    What inspired you to stand for office?

    Before I moved abroad, I actually knew nothing of the globally mobile community. NOTHING. And I ask myself why? (I have theories but no evidenced based concrete research, so bear with me.) I think there is a sense you have to be in it to know it. But how do you know what you don’t know, especially when you moved independently, outside of corporate structure. My journey was rocky and by a series of coincidences I met people involved in supporting our community and ultimately members of FIGT.  It was like a light went on. I want to be part of helping put that light on for others.

    What’s your favourite thing about being a part of FIGT?

    The people. The range of experiences, knowledge and cultural backgrounds is immense. It makes me stop and think.

    Any wisdom you can share with other FIGT members, or globally mobile people in general? 

    Each journey is individual. There are too many moving parts, variables, individual circumstances, personalities, backstories and differing country experiences. Remember this because while it’s great to share commonalities you are unique, which means your experiences will be too. Go easy on yourself.


  • 16 Feb 2022 4:51 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    After FIGT member Brandi Goode experienced the sudden death of a loved one while living abroad, she sought help through the grieving process. She shares her journey in this FIGT Focus for February, Grief.


    By Brandi Goode


    This article discusses topics such as suicide, grief and loss. We acknowledge that this content may be difficult to read. If you believe that you will find the discussion to be traumatizing, you may choose to not read the article. We care for the safety and well-being of the members of our community.


    It was 5 am in Tokyo, and my phone wouldn’t stop ringing. Groggy from a late night out celebrating my husband’s birthday, and just into my 7th week of first-time pregnancy, I reluctantly picked up. 


    Ready to (mildly) berate my family for forgetting the time difference yet again, I was jolted awake by my stepmother’s greeting: “Brandi, you need to wake up. Your mom died.”


    Writing these words, I’m transported back to that moment, a heavy stone settling in my core. I collapsed on the floor and crawled to my husband’s side, reeling from the news. I didn’t understand how could this happen; I had just spoken to my mother the day before. Surely there had been a mistake.  


    Processing Grief, Internally and Externally

    Though I had lived abroad for the better part of my adult life by then, I had never experienced the sudden death of a loved one. Especially not the person who knew me best in this world. As the story of my mother’s death unfolded in chapters during my journey to the airport, flight around the world, and car ride to my hometown, each revelation ripped a new hole in my heart. My mother had died by suicide.

    In the months that followed, I attempted to process the loss, the most intimate encounter with death I’d had in my charmed life till then. Preserving my mental and physical health were vital, considering the tiny miracle growing inside me. 

    I recognized that I needed to find some personal, spiritual way to quiet my raging grief. This I found through prayer on our leafy patio. My mom was deeply religious, so this daily practice soothed my soul and made me feel more connected to her.



    Finding Help Where You Least Expect It

    Still, there was a bigger need to fulfill as part of the grieving process. It’s so important to talk with people about your loss and the feelings that come with that. Phone conversations across continents didn’t satisfy that need, and I was too ashamed to share the true story of my mom’s death with my closest friends in Tokyo at the time.

    I did end up unexpectantly sharing my story with the wife of my husband’s colleague one evening. I barely knew her, but she had recently had a baby and seemed genuinely interested in helping me get through this as a fellow first-time mom abroad. Turns out, her mother suffers from manic behavior and depression, much as mine did, and she could completely relate. 

    In the expat world, you often don’t know the full story of the travelers you meet along the way. If you’re brave and honest enough to speak up about your issues, you really never know who could become a trusted friend in time of need. 



    Choosing a Counselor with Whom You Connect

    Japan, like so many countries, has long held suicide as a taboo subject. Most of the time I wasn’t even sure how to broach the subject when people asked about my mom. Part of me was terrified that by talking too much about it, I would unleash a torrent of emotions that would send me spiraling into a depression that could threaten the viability of my pregnancy.

    So, I opted for a more anonymous approach. The language barrier was a challenge, but fortunately there was a local nonprofit that offered counselling sessions in English. I attended these sessions dutifully each week, crying my heart out to a sweet Japanese woman who listened well but said little. 

    In the end, while I’m certain talking about my mother’s death was necessary, I’m not sure how much that counselor truly helped. I believe it would have been more beneficial to talk to someone with whom I felt a cultural affinity, and/or a counsellor specializing in grieving the loss of a loved one by suicide. Counselling is a healthy way to process grief, but finding a therapist is not a one-size-fits-all affair. It’s critical to find a counselor or therapist with whom you connect to get the most out of grief counselling.



    Harnessing Technology to Share across Borders

    Today, eight years on, there are so many individuals doing online counselling and organizations offering grief support groups. Personally, I’ve found comfort in the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Healing Conversations program. Speaking to someone who has been there helps immensely, particularly in the immediate aftermath of loss, when the doubts and questions can be overwhelming. 

    I’m so thankful for the proliferation of video chat that has made it easier to find just the right person to talk to in any part of the world. Time zones aside, this is such a gift for expats, particularly those with fragile or non-existent support systems abroad, or those living in a country whose language and culture differ substantially from their own.



    Erasing Expat Guilt

    Expat guilt is another emotional battlefield I had to navigate when my mother died. I felt extremely guilty that I wasn’t physically there for her in the weeks and months leading up to her death. She died alone, and that will forever sadden me. 

    It’s inevitable to question your path as an expat when facing illness or death across the ocean back home. I often wondered in the months following my mother’s death if I should have recognized her state of distress and gone home before she took her life. 

    However, I came to recognize that my intelligent, ambitious, vivacious mother would have wanted me to pursue my dreams and happiness wherever they may lie. That reality dawned on me when I gave birth to my son seven months after her passing. I believe my mother—like any loving mom anywhere in the world—wanted me to live my best life, a life that would make her proud. In continuing to chart my own path and follow my heart, I’m honoring her each day.


    Brandi Goode is a storyteller with an incurable case of wanderlust. Born in Louisiana, she lived in South America and Asia for 15 years before moving to her current home in Switzerland. Brandi works for a digital marketing agency and is finishing her first book titled Powering through a Pandemic: How COVID-19 Shaped the Lives of Women in 32 Countries. You can connect with her at www.brandigoode.com.

  • 15 Feb 2022 6:01 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    FIGT member Sarah Korbus tackles this month's Focus, Grief, by sharing with our community how to talk about loss and the feelings around it, and how we may become stronger for it.

    By Sarah Kobrus


    For it’s our grief that gives us our gratitude,

    Shows us how to find hope, if we ever lose it.

    So ensure that this ache wasn’t endured in vain.

    Give it purpose, use it. -Amanda Gorman



    “Mummyyy?” Jonny(4) piped up from the back of our Land Cruiser on the way to school in Doha

    “Yes, Jonny.” I wasn’t really listening, focusing on surviving the mad rush hour traffic.

    “You know yesterday… ah’mmnn talking bout you being poorly… and having hoperation?” He now had my full attention. 

    My eyes locked with his in the rear-view mirror as he asked a bombshell of a question. “Mummyyy. Are you going to die?”


    When I moved to the Middle East over twenty years ago, talking to my three kids about cancer was definitely not in my travel plans. Like most parents, I wanted to protect them from loss and grief-and definitely from pain. Yet, before they reached double digits, they’d been with both grandfathers when they suddenly died, seen their mum become very ill and were living in their 3rd country: a cocoon of compounding loss. 


    Talking about tough stuff

    Talking about loss and grief isn’t easy, often uncomfortable and even painful. Our urge to dodge pain is a natural human reaction. But, comes at significant cost. As the renown mental health expert, Dr Gabor Mate, says. “When we flee our vulnerability, we lose our capacity for feeling emotion.”*


    As well as being an accompanying partner and TCK mum, I’ve been a social worker and counsellor for over thirty years-talking about the toughest stuff with the most vulnerable. One thing I know about grief is that if loss is hidden, unnamed, unconsciously experienced, this is when it’s harmful for our mental, emotional and physical health. Numbing or hiding the tough stuff also dulls and blunts the good stuff. We experience loss in our bodies, minds and souls because it’s so closely related to all that we believe and value; that central paradox in life - we grieve because we love


    The transforming power in loss and grief

    Because loss is part of any change, globally mobile folks have so many everyday opportunities to practise talking about tough stuff. When loss and grief are explored openly, honestly and gently, they can become an energetic force for good, building deeper connection and compassion within ourselves and with others. This also show us how to build robust resilience; because practising on smaller losses means we will know how to handle the bigger stuff that everyone will face in life. 


    A therapeutic coaching tool that has helped my family do this is Emotional Logic (link below). This is a system of practical coaching tools that gave us a shared emotional language and a guidebook to navigate through loss. 


    How to talk about tough stuff 101

    • Be prepared for grief, educate yourself about loss then pass this on to your loved ones.
    • Keep it simple. 
    • It’s ok to say. “I don’t know-yet.”
    • Don’t make any promises that you may not be able to keep.

    Back to that car journey. My first reaction was an inner cry, **** why didn’t he ask me last night? But thankfully, my professional voice kicked in. “That’s such a good question, Jonny! Let’s pull over somewhere safe, then we can talk.” As I looked for a layby, Beth (9) jumped in. 

    “You know what, Jonny…” She tickled him until he squealed. “We’re all going to die!” The last bit was delivered with such over the top drama that they both burst out laughing. Which was too much for Alice (5). Her eyes filled up over her constantly sucked thumb. 

    Pulling her into my lap, I bravely cheered. “But not yet!” 


    Who knew that the chats we’d had, the books we’d read and pictures we’d drawn after the loss of their Grandfather’s would return to bless me in quite this way? We were prepared. We had the words and the safe place in our relationship to talk about anything. 


    The useful purpose of loss and grief

    This journey through loss-that I wouldn’t have chosen for my kids-expanded their hearts and their souls. Their resilience grew because of how we embraced our pain, with the bonus that their compassion for others also flourished. My TCKs are now in their twenties; loss and grief gave them the purpose that they use every day. They’ve all chosen careers that help others; a teacher, trainee art therapist and life sciences undergraduate; alongside plotting to resume their globally mobile life as soon as the world opens up again. 


    Reference

    *Gabor Mate: In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts


     Resources

    https://www.emotionallogiccentre.org.uk 

    https://www.macmillan.org.uk 


    A picture containing tree, person, outdoor Description automatically generated

    Sarah is a UK registered social worker, certified counsellor and Emotional Logic coach, specialising in loss, grief, trauma and resilience. She has a private coaching practice, details below and loves working with accompanying partners, older TCK’s and ATCKs.She is also a writer and will publish Good Grief: 7 Stepping Stones to Peace, Hope and Wholeness for the Globally Mobile later this year. She was awarded a publishing prize with Jo Parfitt, Summertime Publishing during the pandemic and is working on her memoir Count Only Sunny Hours. Sarah has lived in America, Bahrain, Qatar, France, Holland and is currently in Cumbria, England. She is presenting a tabletop talk, ‘Recover, Reset, Renew your Resilience,’ introducing the Emotional Logic method during the FIGT conference in March 2022.

    sarah@sarahkobrus.com

    https://sarahkobrus.com 



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