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Forums / Multicultural experiences / Coping with the guilt of being far away from family in hard times

Topic: Coping with the guilt of being far away from family in hard times

8 posts, 0 answered
  1. Mil
    Mil avatar
    57 posts
    13 August 2019

    Hi all,

    I'd like to know if anyone here is having a hard time dealing with the guilt that comes with being far away from your family, especially when times get tough or if someone needs care. I really feel at home in Australia, I have my whole life here now, which I love. But sometimes I worry that my parents are getting old and I'm not there to help them, I feel far away from long time friends when a lot of big things are happening (hello late 20s/early 30s with weddings and babies), missing all family reunions etc.

    I messed up my partner visa application (long story) and I currently have a bridging visa that has a "no travel" condition, meaning if I leave the Australian territory I won't be allowed re-entry, which we don't want to risk. The waiting times are huge and only getting longer. It's been 1.5 year already, and I probably won't hear anything for another 6 months at least (but we don't even know for sure).

    Until now I reassured myself by knowing that once I get a visa, I would go spend a long time in Europe to visit everyone. But yesterday I learnt one of my uncles, who I kind of had a special connection with, passed away (he had been very very sick for 2 years now). It wasn't a big surprise considering his condition, but I guess I was hoping he would continue holding on as he had and that I'd finally be able to visit him. Now that's never going to happen and I can't even go to his funeral. I feel so sad, super guilty because the whole visa mess is partly my fault, and also selfish for feeling bad for myself at a time like this.

    Any people with similar experiences? How do you cope? I need to work today but I feel like I'm in a cotton fog, can't really focus. Hoping writing here might help.


  2. Nurse Jenn
    Health professional
    • Health professional
    Nurse Jenn avatar
    436 posts
    13 August 2019

    Hi Mil,

    Great to hear your post and that you are reaching out for some support. You are not alone in your feelings of guilt. I am an ex-pat myself and migrated many years ago to Australia with a true love for the country. I live in Australia permanently as a proud citizen, and am now with a child to an Australian partner. The possibility of me moving back to my native country is no longer possible. I have been away from home for 15 years now. I do not have the conditions you describe on your visa but I have been in a position where I have missed funerals, weddings and other important stages of my parents different health issues. I have also missed out on friends kids growing up and have even lost contact with some over the years due to distance alone.

    I want to give you better news but the truth is, that the feeling is always there in the back of my mind. I make it work as I am able to go home each year for a few weeks and have always indicated to my partner that if my parents ever became unwell, that I may need to return for a longer period. Despite this, I still feel that I am missing out on things from time to time. I have spoken to many other people in similar situations and the feeling is not unique.

    On the opposite side of the coin, I don't regret my decision to relocate and each time I go back home I return to Australia with a feeling of excitement. I know that living here is right for me and it is where I want to be. My family and close friends are now used to the 'Fly-in Fly-Out' relationship I have with them and I also am a very good communicator via phone and messenger to my people back home.

    My saving argument that I have with myself is that there are many families who live down the road or in the same town as each other and are not close and don't often see each other. I think that distance is what you make it. For example, I made a video of photos and music for my grandfathers funeral which they played on the big screen at his service. My family all told me they felt very connected to me despite my absence.

    I appreciate your situation and I wanted you to know you are not alone. I suspect that once your Visa issues resolve, you will feel less trapped and you can go home and revisit the question that I ask myself every I return "...have I made the right choice?" In my case, the answer has always been 'yes'.

    Wishing you the best,

    Nurse Jenn

    3 people found this helpful
  3. whitelilies
    whitelilies avatar
    5 posts
    5 September 2019 in reply to Mil

    Hi Mil,

    I have moved to Australia for about 12 years now, started from studying then now working. It was all good after I got over the homesickness and then 5 years ago my Mum was diagnosed with cancer. Since then I went back home to see her once a year, and increasing the frequency up to twice a year towards the end of her life earlier this year. I actually was not there when my Mum passed, apparently I landed one hour after she passed. Do I feel guilty? Definitely. Especially knowing that I could have flied earlier, but I chose not to, because I feel like I had other things going on in my life that I needed to take care of, and I was actually was just back home like 1.5 months ago, and well, I did not think my Mum would pass away that quick. So yes, I was conflicted between my life here, and being present for my family back home. I did feel guilty for a long time, and sometimes it still came back to me, of what would have happened if I was there when my Mum passed? Would it make her happier? The guilt does fade with time, and most people would cheer me up saying it was a difficult situation for everyone and we did the best we could. And few weeks after my Mum passed, when I was already back in Australia, her sister passed away. I did not fly back home again eventhough I wanted to.

    Anyway, so in your position, you can't do anything better other than showing support to your relatives via phone. It is true, it is a difficult situation for everyone and even if you have the visa, there are other factors like your job, or family, or any other things that may not allow you to fly whenever you want. I guess that is the hardship of being a migrant. It is true what Nurse Jenn said, while you might not always be there when you hope you can, but you can show support in other ways. And when you have your visa, by coming home regularly will also allow you to see and still support your family/relatives/friends. Be kinder to yourself, as we are just humans, things happen out of our control and we did not see it coming. We can only do our best when the time comes.

    2 people found this helpful
  4. Mil
    Mil avatar
    57 posts
    22 October 2019 in reply to whitelilies

    Hey Nurse Jenn and whitelilies,

    Sorry for the late answer I have been a bit absent from the Internet, but I wanted to say thank you for sharing your experiences and your kind words. It is good to be able to share these feelings with people who are in a similar situation.

    Even though I couldn't attend the funeral I wrote a personal letter to my uncle that my parents put into a sort of "memory book" during the ceremony and it helped. I still feel anxious that something else could happen before my visa gets sorted out and unfortunately there's nothing I can do about that, and I'm annoyed at myself because I know there's no point worrying about things that we can't control. But I'm regularly talking with a psychologist to help address the negative self-talk etc. and it helps a bit to bring it down to more acceptable levels.

    I am usually fairly good at keeping in touch and the digital era certainly helps a lot with this. I do find though that life is a bit like a bulldozer sometimes, events, responsibilities and other worries get "in front" and suddenly it's been months since I've talked to a friend. But I'm learning to deal with this too, and most of my friends are very understanding (and busy themselves)! I do have great friends and having previously lived abroad, I know when we actually see each other it's like no time has passed and we have that great connection again. It's just the first time that it's been this long and not knowing when I will be able to visit makes it harder.

    Anyway thank you for your support and hope all is well with you both :)


  5. Sunshineman.
    Sunshineman. avatar
    5 posts
    25 September 2020 in reply to Mil

    Hi Mil,

    Thank you so much for opening up and sharing. I too am an expat and have been struggling with similar guilt for the past 6 years. I have missed a grandfather's funeral but managed to pay respects when I returned home for a visit. I have also managed to attend a grandmother's funeral.

    My guilt is mainly related to having left my single mother back home. She is the strongest woman I know, raising 3 kids herself. I console myself with the thought that she has my older brother at home with her. However, He will one day move out and get married. I fear her loneliness.
    I always fear the day my mother, whom I am very very close with becomes dependant. I tell myself and my partner that when that day comes, I might return home to help take care of her. At the back of my mind I feel bad and selfish for waiting till it's "too late" and that perhaps I should move back home and cherish more time to be with her. I currently have a business, career, partner and my sister living here with me.

    Am I selfish for leaving my mother?

    Previously, I coped with lots of prayer and meditation. However, an incident with a close friend who became suicidal woke me up to the seriousness of mental health. That led me to BB.

    As I read this thread, I feel less lonely with these feelings. Thank you everyone for sharing. It means alot to me to know that people have walked the same journey and understand. The recurring question "have I made the right choice" resonates so much with me. As time keeps moving forward and my life in Aus grows, I occassionally find myself asking "what did I get myself into?". This question usually tells me that I am homesick and a visit back home is due. Every year, I choose to go home and after 2 weeks of spending time with family and friends, I always look forward to coming back to Aus, to loved ones, to my personal space, to my second home. The feeling of homesickness is gone. But it does come back... and so does the question "what did I get myself into?"

    Writing this I can see how blessed we are to have 2 homes.

    Thank you so much for the input everyone on how to show support in other ways. That is so helpful.

    Mil, I wish you all the best. After a day of talking to a friend who goes for therapy about mental health, and reading threads in this forum, it has brightened me up so much. Keep talking to trustworthy loved ones and others who understand.

    I pray for everyone who is experiencing guilt to find peace.

  6. PanicButton
    PanicButton avatar
    8 posts
    29 September 2020 in reply to Sunshineman.

    Hi Mil and others,

    Yes. Guilt. This is one of the strongest emotions at the moment. I left home four years ago, knowing my mum was not 100% healthy. She has been suffering from several health issues for the past 10 years but I never expected things to escalate so rapidly. I wanted to pursue my own dreams and career, also fleeing the problems at home. Somehow thinking, I guess, they would not dare to follow me to the Australian sunshine. But they did. And there came more.

    A year ago we had a scare as my mother was rushed to the hospital and at this time she was given a grim diagnosis. I flew there immediately and was there beside her bed when they told her. Yet, there is hope and treatment options. But of course I worry.

    At the same time, I have my work and life here now. And my partners life. I struggled for months and made up my mind to return to Australia. To finish a project that I started and be with my partner. I came just before the lockdown.

    Did I make the right decision? What if something happens back at home? What was the point of returning when we are all working remotely anyway?

    Yet, now I cannot leave. Not sure when. Everyday that the phone rings and I am scared. But what more could I do at home? It might be five years, it might be one, it might be tomorrow. Will I wait for the worse or live on with my life? Should I move back to be closer and drop everything I have built here so far? Am I selfish for wanting to stay in a country that gives me so little support at the moment?

  7. Emmen
    Champion Alumni
    • Community champion volunteers who are not currently active on the forums.
    • A member of beyondblue's blueVoices community
    Emmen avatar
    388 posts
    1 October 2020 in reply to PanicButton

    Hi everybody,

    I share your concerns. I moved to Australia a year ago to join my Australian partner and while I have absolutely no regrets being here with him, I do wonder and worry about the people I have left behind. Perhaps because I've always come from a transnational family (my grandparents were migrants to their country, parents were migrants to my country and now I'm a migrant to Australia), I've grown up used to the idea that we can't always be there in person for family as much as we want to be. We have to live our lives, even if it means being in a different country from them. It doesn't mean I don't worry about my family in these various countries, but I've just accepted that there is a limit to what I can do.

    With COVID and travel restrictions though, things are very different now and I do wonder when I'll ever be able to see them and whether I'll be able to attend the family events (like weddings) that I've been invited to. When my grandmother passed away years ago, it was so easy to get on a plane and fly over but now, should anything happen, I won't be able to visit anyone.

    - M

  8. Sunshineman.
    Sunshineman. avatar
    5 posts
    6 October 2020 in reply to PanicButton

    Hey PanicButton

    Today, I was reminded of BB and this thread and decided to check if my post have been posted. I am comforted to see your post and others who understand this similar feeling of guilt. I don't have the answer to knowing how to fully rid ourselves of it, but find solace in knowing I am not alone.

    Sometimes it's a matter of perspective. At times when I wonder if I made the right choice moving away, I remind myself that I made the best decision I could at that moment in time and this is where Life has taken me. I should be appreciative of what I have and not what I'm lacking. One of those lessons Life teaches you as you journey through it. I am not going to make the same mistake this time and take for granted what I have in the present situation.

    I also call home whenever I feel lonely and empty. This usually happens on an Off day and I have time to contemplate Life. haha.

    Let us keep supporting each other here in this thread.

    PanicButton, you are much more useful to your loved ones if your mind is well and functional. Let's try and keep guilt from disabling us.

    I pray for peace for everyone struggling with this depressing feeling of guilt. It sucks. You are not alone.

    The Covid situation will get better. Let's keep hopeful.

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