Travelling has always been a part of my life, and with it came extraordinary memories filled with incredible people and breathtaking scenery. It always felt like an adventure; but it was only until I got older that I started to realize that with these incredible experiences also came the hard goodbyes. Saying goodbye to family, friends, culture, smells, noises, music and community. I became accustomed to it because in my little naïve mind, I always thought that one day I could return – and that became the norm. Leaving parents for university, then for job opportunities etc.; but always with a plan to see them again… What happens when you are faced with this intangible thing that doesn’t care about your plans – HELLO COVID-19!
In the 6 years of being a psychotherapist I worked with refugees, immigrants and vulnerable populations whose common narratives included hard goodbyes. Leaving family and friends behind without knowing if and when they could reunite again. If walls could talk, they would share beautiful and painful stories of incredible individuals who faced hurt, grief, love and hope. If walls could talk, they would tell you to listen, because behind each tear and laughter is a story of hope.
I have learned to prepare myself for the hard goodbyes, but nothing really prepares you for this -Your mother is on one side of the world and your father is on the other. To be reunited behind a technological device that doesn’t allow you to touch, kiss, and hug, and at times disconnects altogether… In these moments I try to remember the narratives of clients I have been fortunate enough to be a part of. To know that there is strength and resiliency during challenging time. To remember that you are stronger than you think; and to always consider hope.
There is a sense of helplessness when you are oceans and mountains away from those you love, and there’s nothing that you can do for them during these isolating times. But I remember what a supervisor once told me: “always hope that there is someone who is taking care of your loved one, just as you are here…taking care of your clients”. And with that I find solace and faith that my loved ones are being taken care of by compassion and kindness.
To all the refugees, immigrants, international students and others separated from their family and friends, I see you. I hear you. I feel you. Have patience. Don’t lose hope, for it is what drives us, what pushes us and what keeps us going.