Sunday, December 18, 2011
TCKs and Grief
I'm not a full-time Twitter-er ... I read more than I tweet. Usually I'll "re-tweet" things I see that are interesting or funny. I follow a lot of different Twitterers (what the heck do you call people who use Twitter? Twits?) and a lot of TCK-related Twits, in particular one called "FIGT" or "Families in Global Transition". This group provides resources for missionaries serving all over the world. Remember how I said being the parent of a TCK didn't come with a manual? Today the internet is filled with "manuals". This particular tweet had a link to a talk given by David C. Pollock, a co-author of the book "Third Culture Kids". He talks about how TCKs experience their own particular brand of grief. In light of my previous post about "recovering", I thought it apropos to share his words here.
On a related note, here's a good article for parents about how to help your TCK deal with grief.
Of course, grief isn't fun. It's not something we love to experience. But it is a reality. Sometimes we're told to "suck it up" and shake it off, stop feeling sorry for yourself. We're not allowed to fully express our grief. I remember once right after my sister died, my dad and I were sitting together in the house. I was trying really hard to hold back my tears. I thought that my crying would upset my parents all the more, and I didn't want to do that. My dad noticed my efforts, and he put his arm around me and said it was okay. That it was okay for me to cry. So I did. I had permission.
Living the TCK life, my parents didn't understand my grief. How can you be sad? We're in Singapore! We're in London! Look how lucky you are! But they were looking at our life situation from the perspective of a fully formed adult, who has the foundation of their selves fully in place . From my perspective, I was still under construction. It was like someone was stacking coins on top of each other. One quarter on top of the other, evenly spaced. With every move or loss, someone came along and flicked one of the coins out of center, but the stack continued to grow. After that, of course, the stack was unsteady, apt to crumble at any minute. I hadn't lived long enough to have a stable base from which to appreciate the things and places I was seeing. Grieving for a dead sibling is okay. But the grief for my lost friends, my lost homes, was not okay or understandable.
Part of the recovery is giving yourself permission to grieve. When someone asks me, "Was it hard being a TCK?" I respond, yes and no. As an adult I now appreciate the rich experiences I had, the places I saw. But when I was in the thick of it, it was very very hard. There was a lot of sadness. But now I have permission to grieve, and that helps me recover.