Losing a Loved One While Overseas

It's those words you never want to hear. It's a dreaded email sitting in your inbox that makes you wonder if you don't open it, is the message behind it really true? 

We knew when we left for this year-long trip, we'd be making a lot of sacrifices. We would miss weddings, births and graduations. We would miss celebrations with old friends and holidays with families. But we never thought we would have to experience the death of a love one.

When I heard the news, my heart sank.

My immediate thoughts were,  "Should I go home? Can I go home? Would I make it back in time?" When I realized I holding my breath for a minute, I slowly exhaled and thought to myself, "Would my grandpa want me to come home?"

Would he want me to give up on this once in a lifetime experience to go home? After many internal battles, I came to one conclusion. Being a world traveler himself, my grandpa was the first person to ever show me that the world has endless possibilities, I would think he'd say, Stay on your journey. So we kept traveling. But that doesn't mean that life went on as usual. We are still, more than two months later, trying to process this loss and dealing with grief.

I wasn't going to write anything about this. Not only did it feel too personal for me to share, but I didn't want to "benefit" with page clicks or Facebook responses. And honestly, at the beginning I didn't know what to write. No words came to me when I put my fingers to the keyboard. 

Recently, we met a traveler who had lost a grandparent earlier in the week. She described to us how she was feeling lost and alone. She scoured the Internet for an answer of what to do next: Whether to fly immediately home or to continue on her path. We talked for a while about both our stories, and slowly gained some perspective and lifted both our spirits a bit. 

I've realized that there really isn't an answer you can find on the Internet for a situation like this. Should I quit my travels, or stay on the road when my family is mourning? The decision to stay or go home is entirely personal and no amount of Google searching can tell you what to do. But the community you'll find online will show you you're not alone in this, and sometimes that's all you need. 

It was then, I felt compelled to tell my story not only to sort out my own thoughts, but to let this post be a comfort to others worldwide experiencing a loss. 

Everyone is different and only you can decide what's right for you. You can't think about what others will say or think, because in the end only you will know what you'll regret. 

If you do decide to stay abroad, I'd recommend doing something special for your loved one. Go for a quiet hike, see something they would have liked, listen to their favorite music. Dedicate an hour, a morning, or a day to them. If you're a writer (of even if you're not), putting your feelings into words can be incredibly healing. However you choose to spend your time, I'd like to think they would be pleased looking down on you enjoying some of their favorite things.

And if you choose to drop everything and go home, that doesn't mean you've given up or that you're weak. If you know grieving on your own is not something you'll handle well, this is the right path for you. Sometimes plans are meant to change, and learning to be flexible with that is part of being human.

Either decision you make, know that others have had to make this same choice. You're not alone in this, and whatever you decide will be right for you.  

My grandpa was one of the wisest men I have ever known. He was the one who taught me how to play chess and always knew what to say in every situation. 

To perfectly compliment his vast knowledge, he had a classic sense of humor. He never missed the Sunday morning cartoons in the newspaper and frequently posted on Facebook (yes my grandfather had Facebook). He would scan in black and white pictures from his past and pair them with witty descriptions. 

I have inherited my grandfather's passion for seeing the world, and I strive to show the same respect and love for all people he'd encounter. With his actions, he showed me how to be an excellent husband and family man. He showed me how to smile through hard times and to keep learning something new each day. 

If you're looking for some comforting words, our friend Alex at Novice Wanderer wrote a piece that has brought us comfort in this time. 

Have you ever dealt with the death of a loved one while overseas? We'd love to hear your story. Feel free to send us a personal message on our contact form if you want to talk more in detail.