What comes to mind when you think of “home”? I think, among other things: warmth (also meant quite literally because my parents like to keep the house toasty). My mama’s best chicken soup. Papa’s music playing in the background. Chatter and laughter in Tagalog/Filipino and English.
Since getting married and moving, thoughts of home have evolved to include Alex’s home-cooked meals and his music playing in the background. Being snuggled into ALL of the blankets on our super cozy bed. Silly inside jokes and impersonations. At it’s very essence, it’s all about comfort, protection, and love. Without these it’s hard to think about how to truly live, much less survive.¹
While a craving for home can be a universal feeling, “home” can mean something different for everyone. It can be very personal, even emotional. I’ve been contemplating these thoughts more deeply in recent weeks. The winter blues might be in full effect, but so are current events around (my) the world only a month into this new year. A lot of it is challenging and uncomfortable. And when things are the most uncertain, I yearn for family and all that is familiar that much more.
All around it seems our deepest passions, core values, and strongest beliefs are being put to the test. As if by design, the same challenges keep coming up at church as well: how the disciples left their homes and all that was familiar for a cause greater than themselves despite persecution; how to seek justice for the dignity of the human person, and remaining steadfast in what we are being called to do.
I think at the very root of it, we are all homesick. Sick for the home we love, or sick for fear of losing our grip with it. There’s nostalgia for the good old days, a desire to preserve even protect it, and the helplessness that comes in the feeling that home and we are changing.²
The good news is, as with many matters of the mind, we learn to adapt and take action. We may have different ways of coping through it: coming together, seeking help, keeping busy, or getting creative. It might also seem easy to simply live in the melancholy. But rather than getting stuck in the past, reflect upon it, and let it guide you in shaping your future.³ One that might have in it an even better home for you.
I’ve been there numerous times and I can say that it does get better. Homesickness in all its forms can be hard to put into words. I found the resources below extremely helpful, and hope that they offer you some support as well. Some of my favorite tips give you an excuse to go on an adventure and potentially unleash a whole other side you never knew was there.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO COPE:
- Find and recreate what home means to you. Break down what it is about home that you miss, then tackle those items to find the fit in your new life. Is it the community? The conveniences? The security? Is it family? Put a name to it and map out your action plan to fill that hole with a suitable alternative. ° Or channel that fear into something productive.
- Get inspired by what’s worked for other people who have been there before and see what works for you. This might take some trial and error until you arrive at the solution that works best. To me, it has always helped to be a “local tourist” of sorts. Alex and I have created a bucket list of food, destinations, and activities we must do in order to officially declare ourselves “true locals.” We try to keep a routine for stability, play to our strengths, and help each other out where we struggle (e.g. he likes to cook, I like to clean). Best of all, we are carving out spaces where we feel we truly belong by connecting with people with similar experiences or passions as we do. °°
- Make sure to expose yourselves (or your kids) to opportunities to overcome homesickness and build that resilience. This applies to empty nesting as well. Tried a separate trip or day out? Allow yourself to go through those emotions and practice leaving a healthy amount of space between you and your loved ones. Comfort items or pictures can be simple go-to fallbacks as well. °°° °°°°
I know Alex and I are looking forward to creating our own traditions to establish a stronger sense of home, especially when we start a family with little ones of our own. As ironic as it sounds, I’m feeling more and more at home as I’m redefining what it means based on the memories and values we hold dear. I’m learning that this longing, while it can be sad at first, can be a sweet reminder of all the things that I care about; and finding a home for all that I love is up to me.
° How to Cope with Homesickness (UOregon); °° Ways to Reduce Homesickness Abroad (Go Overseas); °°° Homesickness and Empty Nest Syndrome – Coping with Separation (UAB); °°°° Homesickness (TeensHealth)
And if you’re still curious, some research articles and literature:
- Preventing and Treating Homesickness (AAP)
- Back to the Future: Nostalgia Increases Optimism (SAGE Journals)
- The Book of Human Emotions