It’s that time of year when many people are packing up, saying their goodbyes and leaving for other pastures. Whether moving on to a new assignment or returning to your passport country, finishing well in your current location is vital for a smoother transition.
What happens if you don’t finish well? You may leave with regrets. Things left undone. People left unacknowledged for the part they played in your life. Losses experienced without grieving for them. A lack of closure.
Just as you plan and are intentional when you arrive somewhere new, the leaving needs to be planned too. This blog focuses on things you can do to help you finish well.
This acronym comes from Pollock & Van Reken’s book, Third Culture Kids: The Experience of Growing Up Among Worlds. We’ll take it letter by letter so you have practical tools for making sure you finish well.
Leaving apologies unsaid is one of the surest ways of creating underlying stress and regret. It’s really important when leaving to say things which need to be said. Chances are that there are some people that you have interacted with, local or expat, with whom you have unfinished business. People whom you are now avoiding, or whom you just tolerate.
Are there any people like this in your life? Bosses, fellow expats, a home help, work colleagues? Write them down. Think about what happened with them and what you could do to leave those relationships well. It’s well worth addressing while you have the chance and are in the same location. It may be you can do a face-to-face apology, or maybe just an email or letter. Even if the apology is not accepted or the relationship is not repaired, you know you have done what you could. It makes the world of difference!
Write down who you have unfinished business with, why it’s like that and what you can do from your side to right the wrong. Make sure it happens before you leave.
Who would you like to thank, encourage or acknowledge for being a part of your time in your host country? Who do you need to express something to while you still can do it face-to-face? People who helped you settle in when you first arrived. Those who found you lost on the street showed you where to go. Someone who hosted you or lifted you up when you were despairing of ever working out how to live in your culture.
Who do you think of as you read these words? What did they do for you, why would it be good to affirm them? Write these things down and be intentional in finding a way of thanking them for their part in your journey. What can you do to express your appreciation? Some flowers, a card, a briefly expressed sentiment.. doesn’t matter how small. And don’t leave it to the last minute, or it may not happen!
Goodbyes are so important. It is easy to get so focused on the packing and leaving that you forget the goodbyes. But they are part of your closure. Let’s break them down.
People – who are the people you want and need to say goodbye to? Write them down and plan them in. Depending on the sort of culture you are in, you don’t know which neighbours or others will demand your time in your precious last hours, so don’t bank on it being your favourite friends.
Places – which places have been special for you? Which would you like to visit again before you leave? Forests, hillsides, shrines, wildernesses, fun parks,.. Write them down; plan them in.
Pets – make sure you find the opportunity to say goodbye to pets / animals that have been part of your life, if you are leaving them behind. This can be especially important for children, but I don’t think adults are immune either!
Possessions – are there things you need to part with, which you will miss having as part of your day to day? Some people aren’t bothered by material possessions, but others value them much more. Which are you? Write down the things you will miss using / seeing.
So the raft is almost complete. The final step is to think destination. This is not about the practical stuff – there will be a lot of that. I’m talking about expectations, hopes and desires. Part of reverse culture shock is related to our expectations of going home. See more on this here.
What are your expectations of family, friends, work, re-entry? What friendships have you been able to maintain whilst you’ve been away? Which ones do you hope to be able to pick up again? How are relationships within your extended family? What are you hoping for from them on your return? What expectations might they have of you?
Write some things down. The more aware we are of our own hopes and expectations, the easier it is to hold them lightly.
Children and finishing well
It barely needs to be said, but you need to take any children you have through these steps too. We all grieve and deal with things differently, but it is really important to help your children through this process in order for them to move on successfully. Help them by making photo books of their favourite people / places / pets. With smaller children it can be a great project to do together.
If you would like further help on finishing well, get in touch.
19th June 2019