10 November 2015

How to Cope with Homesickness

Some people can make huge moves across the globe without even looking back. I, on the other hand, have suffered acute bouts of homesickness following some of my round-the-world moves, and because of that, have quite a bit of sympathy for those who respond to a change of home with many tears and a greater or lesser amount of dramatic depression.

A photo posted by Anna Spoelman (@aspoelman) on

The hardest move for me was when I moved back to the USA to start college. This same move has proven to be very tough on my two younger sisters as well. Here's the advice I offer on how to cope:

1. Cry.
And don't be embarrassed about it. In those early days, I cried at the airport, at college, in my bed, in the car at church....everywhere. There's nothing wrong with tears. Society tries to tells us that tears are something to be ashamed of. There's no need to pretend that everything's all right when all you really want to do is sleep in your own bed and eat familiar foods and hug your mom again.

2. Do Fun Stuff.
That's different for everybody. I bought an embroidery kit and borrowed DVDs of the Dick Van Dyke Show from the school library and shut myself in my bedroom on weekends and watched episodes while sewing. {Good thing I never pretended to be the popular, cool, type, or I would have lost all cred with that confession}. Maybe your fun stuff is something totally different. Don't be lazy. Do it.

3. Keep Records.
Journal, blog, take photos--whatever your thing is, make sure that you record and remember this time, the good and the bad. When tough seasons come, sometimes my first instinct is to stop writing and stop taking pictures. I've realized, though, that that's something I regret. I know good stuff happened during my freshman year of college, but I have next to no photos or diary entries recording any of it--and few recording any of the hard stuff, either, because during that year, I barely wrote and took only a tiny handful of pictures. Trust me on this, the hard seasons of life shape us, and it's worth being able to remember them as they really were, not through either the jaded or rose-colored memories that the years leave us with.

4. Find people.
Homesickness is often much less actual homesickness than it is peoplesickness. You miss your people. Obviously, you can't replace your people, but as much as you feel it might be impossible, find some additional people to call your own. It's possible. I ended up finding a group at my college containing mostly TCKs (Third Culture Kids) like me--sometimes it helps to find people who know what your background is like even if they weren't a part of it.

5. Stay in touch with the old people.
Write the emails. Comment on the Facebook photos. Schedule in Skype calls. One of the worst feelings is returning to your hometown after years of missing it only to find that all your old friends are gone, or that you have lost the friendships during the intervening time. So, you miss everybody back home. Better make sure they know that! No one in your hometown knows you cry yourself to sleep at least once a week--they might even feel you've forgotten them unless you take the time to send messages and stay in touch. Sure, at first every Skype call will make you tear up...but, remember, crying isn't so bad. Communicate with the people back home.

What do you do to handle homesickness when it threatens to take over?
Angi said...

This is great advice! I know for me, #4 has been the most important, although it can be hard to accomplish since it's such a small town. I know I'm most comfortable around others who also aren't from Alaska, because they understand what a different culture it can be up here vs. down in the lower 48. It's just not the same talking to people who are born/raised here, because they have no idea why it's such a struggle sometimes.

savannah said...

Loved this! I'm one of those who does not get homesick. I've moved from NC to WA twice and driven both times. I'm lucky to be able to adapt easily!

Michelle said...

The Dick Van Dyke show is AWESOME. I watched it as a kid and then again when Gracie was a newborn and I was a sleep-deprived mess. Finding people really is such a huge comfort when you're homesick. I'm not naturally good at making friends, but it always helped me feel like I belonged when I was desperately homesick in college.

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Lisa @ Lisa the Vegetarian said...

On #2 - I did something similar when I was homesick in college, except it was with old episodes of the Simpsons and Seinfeld, which reminded me of home.

Unknown said...

I vox! I missed people like crazy this past year and I voxed a ton. I'm so grateful for that outlet I had.

I also think crying is just a good part of life. When Alisha visited and left - I cried and cried and cried. I couldn't stop the flow of tears either and I felt ridiculous but I had to get it out.

I like your list. I also think that it is interesting that you were homesick from Malaysia when going to the US. It's weird being a TCK, right?

Joy Lynn said...

I talk about moving a lot on my blog, and I totally agree everything you've laid out here. Especially the crying. Sometimes I would feel a little embarrassed, but you're so right - it's okay!

Wild Flower said...

Great post! I have found it rather hard to live a 6 hour plane ride from my family and close friends, but everything you mentioned does help! Love the Tolkien quote too!


Anonymous said...

Oh, goodness. I'm going to need this advice with the upcoming move! Luckily, I love needlecraft and cheesy shows, and I might even be able to pull off both *and* cry at the same time! :P

Anonymous said...

YES, it definitely helps cry every once in awhile and keep busy with interests and hobbies.

Farrah said...

Staying in touch, finding cool things to do, and keeping records (e.g. my journals/blog/taking pictures) definitely help me to deal with homesickness too. <3 I also tend to try to stay busy so I'll have less time to miss things/people!