My son got into the car, tears streaming down his cheeks. We drove away from the home we had been housesitting for a week, and away from two enormous, beautiful dogs that my son had grown to deeply love in that short time.
Arrive, settle in, grow attached to the pets, the people, the view, say goodbye and repeat…repeat…repeat… That is what our time on home assignment was like as we spent over three months in different cities and in many different places. It's not that we're not grateful – we are! We've been blessed with beautiful homes and cars to drive and delicious food to eat, but the constant moving means many goodbyes for our kids. And the final goodbye comes at the end of the time when we go back to Central Asia. The pain and the heartache and the emotional exhaustion is too much for me and I grieve when I think of how it is for our kids.
They say that Third Culture Kids (TCKs) are always saying goodbye and so when they meet someone they can go deep very quickly. This also means that they get attached very quickly and the ripping of relationships stings when they have to say goodbye.
How do we allow our kids to process, to grieve well, when we're so busy trying to deal with our own grief and pain and stress of transition? How do I model healthy grieving for my kids when it takes all my effort not to collapse in a puddle on the airport floor when I'm saying goodbye?
I've read some helpful books and articles on TCKs transitioning and their advice is to have open and honest conversations with your kids and to allow them to process their feelings. And yet we've found that when our kids are young, grieving often looks like a temper tantrum over something seemingly insignificant or sometimes grieving is expressed as anger and bullying of siblings.
I long for the day when there are no more goodbyes, but that's probably not going to happen during our lifetime. There will be goodbyes and grieving and heartache.
So why do we still go through all the goodbyes? Because in the midst of the pain and grieving God does not leave us without hope. He promises that one day we will be with Him and “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” – Revelation 21:4 (NIV).
I do long for that day, especially as my children once again say goodbye to places and people that they have grown to love. There will be many more painful goodbyes, but ultimately there will be a time when even pain will be removed and maybe forgotten.
Is it worth it? Wouldn’t it just be easier to stay in our home country and avoid so much of the heartache that we put ourselves and our children through? It is worth it and we continue to grieve the goodbyes for this reason: that others may know the hope and love which God freely gives us. It is worth it so that those who have never heard the name of Jesus before will know that there is an end and a hope in their grieving and their sorrow and their pain as well. There is a hope and a truth that we have to share that makes all the goodbyes – although no less painful – worthwhile.
Beth is from the global South, and she loves the ocean and cold Christmas dinner on a hot day around the pool. She is married to an adventurer, and they have three wonderfully unique children.