I want to share my personal experience with grief and loss. These are my own thoughts and feelings, not intended to be a guide on all matters grief-related. I don’t think I am alone when it comes to the challenges we face living overseas when it comes to grief. During a time of loss and remembrance, and in a season of letting go and being extremely grateful, sometimes a story like mine helps put everything into perspective.
I had a special bond with my dad, being birthday twins contributes to that so we shared similar temperaments. My father visited me in the UK for Christmas in 2018. It was my Christmas miracle. Going back 5 years, we didn’t have much of a father-daughter relationship. It is a relationship I wanted to rebuild and I did so diligently. I called him weekly; it was tough with the time difference and making small talk. But I persevered and as a result, we grew closer. Each year, I would hint a visit to the UK and he would give the same reply, or an excuse, to the effect – no. I still persevered, and prayed about it.
So in 2018, God made a way when my dad's plans fell through and I seized the opportunity to invite him to the UK, and he replied with a simple – yes. Within a few months, my family including my dad arrived into the UK. And we had the most amazing Christmas break together. Without a doubt, I knew it was all God’s doing and faithfulness at work.
When my dad returned to Fiji following our Christmas holiday, early in January 2019, I felt a change coming and that there was going to be an incredible shift, I just didn't know what it was. It became clearer in March what was coming, my dad fell ill quite suddenly and after a couple of days in hospital, he passed away peacefully. I was actually on my way to the airport when the dreaded news arrived. I was devastated and it took so much emotional strength to get to Fiji to attend the funeral. I delivered his eulogy and returned home a week later. I wanted to be with my family in Fiji but I also wanted to be with my husband and son in the UK. The usual dilemma we all face, as a consequence of living overseas.
Back in the UK, the grief is overwhelming and sometimes crippling. There were times when I felt weak in my spirit. I know that God allows us to grieve. I am incredibly blessed to see His hand move in my life, to not only restore my relationship with my dad, but also to share God's love with him. Part of letting go, is also accepting that it’s okay to not completely understand God’s plans. I take comfort knowing that he is with my mum now, both of them are resting in God’s heavenly peace.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted - Matt 5:4
My story is a familiar one for most of us living in the UK. It’s hard to grieve from the other side of the world. Being with loved ones, comforted by your family and friends, and going through the motions helps a lot. Yet living abroad, you return to work and pick up where you left off, burdened with heartache and grief. Grief is personal, it impacts everyone differently so we deal with it in our own way. I chose to talk about my dad even when it hurt or when a song or special moment brings back his memory, I would be so wrought with emotion but I embraced it. Over time, I cried less or felt less sad when I remembered him. Sometimes, I even smiled.
In Fiji, funerals are not just a family affair. The whole community comes together. So my story captures this dilemma we silently live with. I know that going to Fiji for a funeral is a heartbreaking experience, and often a lonely one if your family can’t accompany you. I know not everyone can return home to bury loved ones. I know some families have literally returned to Fiji to take care of their elderly parents. That love and faith is so inspiring. I encourage everyone to speak up about how grief impacted you living here in the UK, how you coped with the loss of a loved one. I salute our community for remaining steadfast in their faith but also grieve silently; bearing the burden best they know how.
My husband lost his mum a couple of years ago; she was 83. So we are without our parents. There is a void, like a light went out in our lives. But we are their living legacy and have to honor their memory and also the living. We forget that there are loved ones with us today who need us to push through.
Personally, my biggest regret is that I thought I had more time, that I would have more time to spend with him in the future. And its a hard lesson for everyone, so as cliche as it sounds, don't waste time while you have it. As the old saying goes, no one on their deathbed ever said they wished they'd spent more time at the office. Begin living for connections now. This is why I am where I am today, connecting with others because it brings fulfilment, joy and clarity.
Be the things, you loved most about the people who are gone.
This post was written last year, but I only found the strength to finally share it in the hope it gives brings peace and comfort to someone.
Life goes on and I thank God for healing a broken heart. I miss my parents and I will remember them. But I will live my life fully with renewed purpose and strength. And count each day a blessing.