Losing a Loved One While Overseas

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Kotor Montenegro Losing a Loved One While Traveling

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.

Kotor Montenegro Losing a Loved One While Traveling

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. 

Kotor Montenegro Losing a Loved One While Traveling

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. 

Kotor Montenegro Losing a Loved One While Traveling

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. 

Kotor Montenegro Losing a loved one while overseas

Comments (14) on “Losing a Loved One While Overseas

  1. gdesilva01@gmail.com says:

    Thank you for opening up and telling your story. I particularly loved your suggestions of how to celebrate the person’s life abroad if you choose not to go home. I lost my favourite uncle whilst teaching in Daegu, South Korea. I knew before I had arrived in the country that some employers wouldn’t allow personal leave, so when I got the news I was worried about my job. But I didn’t have to think twice about what I wanted to do. When my aunt died – the wife of this uncle – I wasn’t able to fly back for her funeral. The processing of that grief took many years. I always regretted not being there. I was going to be home this time. I fully expected my employer to fire me, but I didn’t care. It was more important for to be with my family at this time. Gratefully, my employers were incredibly understanding. They didn’t pay me for my week’s leave, but they kept my job open for me. The flights and lost pay cost me $3,000US. I don’t regret a penny of it.

    • ktdieder@gmail.com says:

      Thanks so much for sharing your personal story. We met many people while working in Korea who unfortunately encountered some kind of loss while they were away. Sadly, it is something that people may want to consider when moving overseas.

      And you’re right – making the decision to go home is a huge one. You were lucky that your employer was somewhat reasonable when it came to giving you time off. Happy you have no regrets! Sending hugs <3

  2. Val Zweber says:

    Ben & Katie,

    I’m sorry for the loss of your grandpa. Your post is very heartfelt. Offering time up for reflecting on those who have passed is a good thing. My thoughts and prayers continue to be with you, especially now. May you continue on your journey safely.

    God Bless you!

    Val

  3. Nicolearnott@hotmail.co.uk says:

    I lost my gran about 2 months ago as well. I’m teaching in Korea and was given a few days grievance. I decided to take a short trip home to attend the funeral. It was a difficult decision to make but I knew I wasn’t so going to see my grandad for almost a year and felt so much guilt. I’m sorry to hear about your loss guys. You’re so strong for keeping going!!
    Nicole x

    • ktdieder@gmail.com says:

      Hi Nicole, I’m so sorry to hear about your gran. Losing someone is often not the first thing we think about when signing contracts to work overseas, and the guilt that comes with being away can be overwhelming. That is really nice to hear that your school was flexible enough to let you go home (even if for a short time). I’m sure that decision was a difficult one but a choice you’ll be happy with in years to come. Good luck with the rest of your time in Korea. Sending our thoughts your way. xx

  4. Gina says:

    I lost my doggy while I was abroad in Scotland, which I realize is different from losing a grandparent. But it was incredibly hard. I stayed on the phone while my mom comforted Carly as she was put to sleep. Gives me a lump in my throat just thinking about it!

    • ktdieder@gmail.com says:

      Thanks for sharing your story, Gina. Pets are family too, so I can imagine that was incredibly hard. It’s hard not being able to say goodbye in person, but good memories are the best healer 🙂

  5. David Anderson says:

    Love you guys. So sorry to hear the news, Zwebes. Thinking of you and wishing you both an enlightened and safe journey.

  6. hansendawn@gmail.com says:

    Your reflection and soulful response is beautiful. A tribute to your grandfather and evidence of his legacy. I lost my older sister when I was abroad and I can relate to the soul searching you describe. Ultimately, with the support of my other sister and many friends, I was able to come to a mindful and peaceful decision for myself. I will tell you, too, that, to this day, it is a decision that I often recall and revisit. It has guided my process whenever I am faced with a big decision on life’s journey. You, too, will likely have a similar experience. Sending you much love.

    • ktdieder@gmail.com says:

      Thanks so much for sharing your story. It’s always comforting to hear we aren’t alone. The support and love of others can sometimes make all the difference when making hard decisions like these, because there really is no right answer. Thanks again for the comforting words 🙂

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