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Old 21.01.2010, 01:24
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Dealing with death of a family member whilst living abroad.

I am not one to make sentimental threads, but I feel that this is something that needs to be approached, as there is not a lot of material here, and I think a lot of us have, or will go through this.

My father died before New Year just over a year ago, and today would be his 70th birthday. I am not sad, as he has sent me some lovely snow .

I was here when he passed, and whilst it was expected, a huge part of me left with him. I had been waiting for a few days over Christmas with anticipation, and then it happened. I had some incredible support from new people in my life.

I am Australian, and at first I was sure that I would not go back for the funeral, and I did not. However, I did go back for the memorial service.

Work is never that important.

After speaking to some friends, I decided to start this thread, as I am not the only one who has gone through this.

At times I have wanted to hug my best friends, berate my dog, and I was simply too far away. It is all so fresh here sometimes, and you don't know who to trust.

However, the most important thing is that you make peace whilst being so far away.

The purpose of this thread is that people can talk about their experience, and perhaps help people who go through this, in regards to such things as airlines getting you home (regarding emergency flights with bereavement).

Sorry, I know this was not expected of me .
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Old 21.01.2010, 01:28
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Re: Dealing with death of a family member whilst living abroad.

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Sorry, I know this was not expected of me .
Ahh but it is expected of you...

Thanks for sharing. I am sure many people have been through similar and it will help to have a discussion area
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Old 21.01.2010, 01:32
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Re: Dealing with death of a family member whilst living abroad.

when my grandfather died, I flew home for the funeral but it was more for my dad that I did it...

In hindsight, I would have gone back after the stress and rush was over to have more time and privacy to speak and be with my dad...
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Old 21.01.2010, 01:41
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Re: Dealing with death of a family member whilst living abroad.

When I left Australia (this time around) to go and live (and work) in one of the wealthiest nations, my 75-year-old mother told me that she had saved $3,000 to pay for a flight home "just in case of an emergency". Bless. I hope she spends the dosh on bingo.

She also laid a guilt trip on me by asking "You will come home again, won't you, darling -- you know, for important things, like funerals?"

I had to laugh, but I think she meant it. Time, age and death take on a very different perspective when one grows old and I honestly believe that my parents are happy for me that I'm enjoying life in Switzerland, and content with how things are. I'm the one who would feel awful if ... well, you know what I mean.

Thanks for sharing, Tash.
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Old 21.01.2010, 01:48
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Re: Dealing with death of a family member whilst living abroad.

It's a tough situation as an expat. My grandad was very ill and we all knew he was dying. I felt i should have gone home to say goodbye instead of going home for the eventual funeral - but i was cowardly and couldn't face seeing him dying - we went back for the funeral instead - I still feel bad for not saying goodbye but i wanted to remember him before he got ill

My dad was very ill over last summer - he had a strange mystery illness and he just deteriorated and deteriorated without any diagnosis - finally at almost the 11th hour they found what was wrong - he was operated on and he has made a miraculous recovery - the whole time i kept thinking should I go back - but then if I did he'd think i was coming to say goodbye - and i just didn't want him to think that.

When he came home from hospital he called me and told me how emotional he felt the night before the op (my dad is northern and does not generally do emotion) as he had seen his whole family bar me and he was concealing the fact that he had been given a 1 in 20 survival rate from the op

My dad and I don't have a close relationship, so I was very shocked at how emotional he was on this phonecall - in hindsight I should have stopped listening to my sensible head and flown home to see him before he had the operation, it might have ended up that it could have been the last time I saw him - thankfully the outcome was good....

So.... it's been a learning curve and I know from now on I will think differently. Sod the money, sod the time off work, do what your heart thinks not what your head thinks
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Old 21.01.2010, 01:49
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Re: Dealing with death of a family member whilst living abroad.

My grandma, who was like a second mom to me, died in March last year. It wasn't unexpected, she was almost 98 years old, so we'd been preparing ourselves for it for a little while. Still, it broke my heart and I'm still grieving for her to an extent.

I didn't go back to the US, and I talked it over with my dad (it was his mom) and we agreed I shouldn't come back for the funeral. I really hate that I couldn't have been there for him.

It was tough, and the death or illness of a loved one is a very difficult thing - and not something most people think too much about when they leave their home country for a new place. There's also a lack of support, generally, when you're somewhere new, you don't always know where to turn for help if you need it.
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Old 21.01.2010, 02:03
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Re: Dealing with death of a family member whilst living abroad.

I forgot to add to the bottom of my post that I was humbled at the support I received last summer from the new friends I have made over here 'virtual and real life'

My new friends stepped up to the mark much more than my oldest friends back home - life really never stops handing out surprises
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Old 21.01.2010, 02:08
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Re: Dealing with death of a family member whilst living abroad.

My last grandparent died when I was already living here, it was sad I couldn't see him alive and say goodbye. I received the phonecall right when I was baking an angel cake, I coudn't make myself bake another angel cake for a long time after that. I knew he was ready, 94yrs old and refused a treatment as he as a naturalist believed what is meant to go is meant to go, which was really hard on my dad. I am glad I was able to attend his funeral, although to see him so vulnerable albeit peaceful was heartbreaking. The noise of cremation was ugly. I was pregnant and knowing and feeling life moves on made the pious moment more meaningful and easier to deal with. I regret not being able to tell him how much he meant to me.
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Old 21.01.2010, 02:09
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Re: Dealing with death of a family member whilst living abroad.

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I regret not being able to tell him how much he meant to me.
He knew how much.
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Old 21.01.2010, 02:15
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Re: Dealing with death of a family member whilst living abroad.

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He knew how much.
Thanks. People are so lonely in the hospital on their final bed, though. I worked as an ER in traumatology dept nurse for a while, stayed with people through their last moments and remember the significance. There is ultimate peace in their eyes.

I think people do know, you are right. I really hope so. I chose the same career he had, he was an inspiration.
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Old 21.01.2010, 07:05
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Re: Dealing with death of a family member whilst living abroad.

My grandma just turned 90. Before we left Australia she came to our farewell and she told me she was sorry that she wouldn't have the chance to visit us in Switzerland...and our goodbyes.

We're planning to visit her in July when we go back for our summer holidays...in the back of my mind I always wonder if she is going to be there...

It's something we understood when we left...but of course we still deal with it - last week my best friend's mum died. There were 350 people at her memorial service yesterday. Same week a colleague here in Switzerland's teenage daughter died, and a man who mentored me through high school also died just before Christmas...and I got all this news at the same time...
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Old 21.01.2010, 07:48
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Re: Dealing with death of a family member whilst living abroad.

My mum died totally unexpectedly after 2 days in hospital in February last year. I was on the plane from here to get to her when she passed away.
To say it was a shock was an understatement. However it did bring my brothers and I together for the first time in 3 years as we all live in different parts of the world. I stayed a few days with my dad but had to come back here for my 3 young children to whom I had to break the news that their beloved Nanna was no longer with us! I did manage to get to the funeral a week later.
I miss her terribly as I spoke to her at least 3 times a day , but I would feel that way if we had lived next door to each other.
I think the hardest part about living abroad is not spending time with those who knew and loved her too. My friends here have been very supportive but they didn't know her! Also the responsibility I feel now for my dad as I am the only girl is tremendous, he himself had a minor health scare a few months ago but I was powerless to get to him! I wish I was closer for his sake!
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Old 21.01.2010, 07:56
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Re: Dealing with death of a family member whilst living abroad.

I'd like to raise a pair of skis to your Dad, 'Tash. I know he'd like that. I remember you mentioning the impact 1997 had on your family too, and I know what they mean to you (and all of us).

The most important thing you said is "work is never that important". I agree.

Here's to all diplaced people, voluntarily or otherwise, who've lost someone. It happens to us all eventually
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Old 21.01.2010, 07:59
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Re: Dealing with death of a family member whilst living abroad.

Hi 'Tash,

My mother & father both lived in Preston (UK), and after a sudden attack my mother died quickly in hospital, although not to unexpectantly as she had been ill for many years, and I could not get from S/W France in time as there were no available flights. We weren't that close, but it didn't stop all the second guessing 'why didn't someone tell me sooner' questions. The fact was I could have been in Manchester (about 40 mins away) and would not have made it didn't help.

When my father went rapidly down, and I got the call to say it was going to be quick I managed to get a flight and he died about 2 hours after I arrived. The medic's didn't know how he held on so long, it was almost like he knew I was on my way, and told the grim reaper to bugger off... but that was my dad.

Your right wheb you say work is no excuse, and whatever your relationship, if at all possible, you should be there at the end
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Old 21.01.2010, 08:02
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Re: Dealing with death of a family member whilst living abroad.

thanks for this thread natasha,
my uncle died whilst i was here. he was in the UK. The last time i saw him was at my wedding (4 months prior) he left behind two young kids (4 & 7)
it was especially sad for me as i never spoke to him at the wedding much as i was way too busy. I always assumed there would be so many other times in the future to catch up with him.he was the most intelligent person i ever knew. he was healthy (didn't drink, didn't smoke, exercised) but still succumbed to cancer in a short time. the last photos i have of him were taken on my happiest day, so that is pretty poignant to me...
fortunately the UK is closer than Australia, so i could go over a few days later for the funeral. My aunt was on her way over from Melbourne to see him before he passed on, but she couldn't get the flights in time. She regretted this terribly (another case of being too far away at the time)
Most of my family is scattered all over 4 continents. I get to see them once a year mostly.
I think many members of EF are in similar positions.
I just think it's the times that you are together that are important - cherish those. Life really is too short.
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Old 21.01.2010, 08:07
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Re: Dealing with death of a family member whilst living abroad.

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it was almost like he knew I was on my way, and told the grim reaper to bugger off... but that was my dad.
He knew you were on your way to him

A few days ago my mum's brother died suddenly. (an old man) but my mum knew a few days before that he was going to left us.

The death is not the End, it's a new beginning.
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Old 21.01.2010, 08:08
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Re: Dealing with death of a family member whilst living abroad.

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when my grandfather died, I flew home for the funeral but it was more for my dad that I did it...

In hindsight, I would have gone back after the stress and rush was over to have more time and privacy to speak and be with my dad...
I wanted to add that 1 year before my grandfather died, my siblings and I decided instinctively that we would make a trip home to see him for the last time, in case his situation took a turn for the worse...

I am glad we did that because it was good to spend some time with him before he became worse...

I am making a trip home soon for my parents and re-living the good old days of mum/dad with their kids! It's sometimes quite scary when I return home to see my parents and realise how much they have aged or changed...
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Old 21.01.2010, 08:51
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Re: Dealing with death of a family member whilst living abroad.

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I am not one to make sentimental threads, but I feel that this is something that needs to be approached, as there is not a lot of material here, and I think a lot of us have, or will go through this.

My father died before New Year just over a year ago, and today would be his 70th birthday. I am not sad, as he has sent me some lovely snow .

I was here when he passed, and whilst it was expected, a huge part of me left with him. I had been waiting for a few days over Christmas with anticipation, and then it happened. I had some incredible support from new people in my life.

I am Australian, and at first I was sure that I would not go back for the funeral, and I did not. However, I did go back for the memorial service.

Work is never that important.

After speaking to some friends, I decided to start this thread, as I am not the only one who has gone through this.

At times I have wanted to hug my best friends, berate my dog, and I was simply too far away. It is all so fresh here sometimes, and you don't know who to trust.

However, the most important thing is that you make peace whilst being so far away.

The purpose of this thread is that people can talk about their experience, and perhaps help people who go through this, in regards to such things as airlines getting you home (regarding emergency flights with bereavement).

Sorry, I know this was not expected of me .
I think many of us never forget the date a loved one passed, and if the news was received via a phone call, many of us remember exactly what we were doing at the time the phone rang. Expats face many challenges when dealing with the loss, particular sudden, of a close family member.

1. Time off work. In most cases you may need an extraordinary amount of time to take into consideration travel time. Some companies are more generous than others.

2. Money for airline tickets. Not all airlines offer bereavement fares nor will they make a seat available. Many ask for paperwork, such as a death certificate. This may not be available right away and can be very frustrating.

3. Babysitters. Those with children may choose not to take them with for a variety of reasons. If the children are school age and you choose to take them with you, you need to request permission for their absence from school, an administrative detail but one that has to be dealt with. If there is a partner/spouse, they may or may not travel too, but in any case, some child care help is needed and on short notice for children staying here and this can be a real challenge.

4. Kennels for pets. This is actually not impossible to find, unless it is during school vacation when most kennels are booked.

Lastly, I want to mention that some employment contracts will provide for leave tickets in case of the loss of a close family member as well as unpaid leave(the relationship will often be specified as will the class of travel.) Many expats don't even think of looking for this clause in their contract. If you don't see it, ask HR to clarify the company policy.

Lastly, this is a time when you need friends. Natasha found out just when it matters who was there for her. New friends can be better than old ones.
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Old 21.01.2010, 08:53
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Re: Dealing with death of a family member whilst living abroad.

Back when we lived in the USA, my wife's father became very ill. She is from the UK and it was going to cost 3Kusd which was a lot of money to us then. She was all worried about the cost and taking off from work. And to make matters worse her mother was telling her that she should just wait until the funeral.

I told her what was the point of having a real job and making money if you couldn't go and say goodbye to your father, before he was dead, when you had the chance. I also told her that if she couldn't get the company to deal with her absence then they could just go F' off. They weren't worth working for anyway.

She went and while she was there he "miraculously recovered" enough that he could be returned home. The old guy got to have his daughters visit one last time in his own house. He died two days after leaving the hospital. I wasn't surprised. He was that kind of man. Stiff upper lip and all that. I knew that he was coming home so that he could end his days with some sort of grace with his family around him.

My wife had to go back for the funeral the next week but she has never, ever, for one second has regretted a penny or a second that she spent traveling the week before.
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Old 21.01.2010, 08:55
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Re: Dealing with death of a family member whilst living abroad.

My wifes Grandmother died late last year and we all knew she was going to die as she was old and her health was starting to fade.

We went for a very long summer holiday to be at the family home with our three children which she was really looking forward to. She was in heaven seeing our children and her health seemed to improve whilst we were there.

My wife was upset because she knew this was probably the last time she would see her alive. I bought an iMac and setup Skype so that we could keep in touch each day which she loved to see and hear the children. The last month she ebbed away and died in peace.

My wife did not want to go and attend the funeral even though it was possible but wanted to remember her as she was and the wonderful last summer together.
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