Sunday, June 22, 2014

Layers of Loss, Layers of Gain


I have been in London now for four days, and in the morning, I'll head for the airport to come home, or to where home currently is, anyway. I have been here looking for our future home, and suddenly the magnitude of this move is real to me. I am seeing where we are coming. I am noting what we are gaining, but also what we are losing. I was feeling so strange today, not quite myself, and it hit me: what I am feeling is grief. As much as we have wanted this move - as much as we have worked for it and hoped for it and done everything we can to make it happen - it still brings with it a lot of change, and a lot of loss. So very much loss.

We are leaving behind friends. We are leaving behind a house we've loved. We are leaving behind being in the same country as family. We are leaving behind familiar currency, all our electrical appliances, even meanings of certain words. It is a big deal. A huge deal. It is not nothing, losing these things. It is everything, really. In many ways, we are starting over.

It is a big risk to take on. It's not like it's irreversible, but it's not so easily changed. We can't just go, "Meh, nevermind," if we don't end up liking it as well as we thought we would. We are laying a lot on the line for this move, and it's not just Jarod and me who are doing it. We are bringing our children along with us. The risk is theirs, too, and I feel this particularly keenly in Zinashi's case, knowing that this is one more move for her, one more unknown, one more gigantic uncertainty. I feel so sorry about this part of it, about the hard part that will come as we say goodbye and as we get settled in the beginning. I wish the loss weren't part of it. I wish we could just erase the loss, bring all those familiarities with us, have the best of both countries.

But we can't. We have to choose, to embrace this risk and open our arms wide to the possibility that maybe, hopefully, all this will be worth it.

There is so much here that we will gain. I see so many more faces in varying shades of brown everywhere here. In the neighborhood where we hope to live, I saw more brown faces than peach ones, and I dared to hope that maybe we could finally do this part right, move into a neighborhood that would better reflect our family makeup. Out and about, I notice the women especially, dressed in clothing reflecting their culture, and to me, this is what London is about for us. Closer not just to Ethiopia, but closer every day to people who are from everywhere. We will be immigrants here, too. We will build our lives anew, too.

Tomorrow I am hoping to get a call telling me if any of the offers we made on rental houses were accepted. If one was, then we will pay a large sum, and we will sign papers that say that we intend to be here for the long term. It will be too late to turn back, at least without significant financial loss. That feels exciting, but it feels scary, too.

Until I came here, I didn't have much room for the grief part of this process. But I see now that in order for this new thing to truly be good, I have to recognize the good of what we're leaving behind, and give the grief of losing that its own space. We will gain a lot, but we will lose a lot.

And that? Well, it's hard, but I think it's okay, too.


  1. It is important to recognize the loss but how wonderful to all the future gains your family will be experiencing! So exciting! And you and your husband are your childrens home, where you are, regardless of what the walls around you look like, is home :-)

  2. I agree with Brandee. You and Jarod are such good partners and amazing parents. Home is wherever you reside. There will certainly be bittersweet moments in the next 4 1/2 weeks, but I know you will handle those times well. It's all right to grieve what you're leaving behind. You're right. In some ways, it is like starting over. What a great opportunity this is for you and your family! I know you will help Zinashi get through the difficult times. She is an amazing girl. Elvie will help all of you adjust to your new home. She is the most joyful child I have ever know. She will take her joy and spread it all over London!

    Will we miss having you so close? Of course, we will. I never thought San Francisco would seem close, but it does now! However, I'm thankful for the instant communication that we are so fortunate to have. It so much different than when your great grandfather came to this country exactly 100 years ago.

    We love you so much and are keeping you close in our hearts and prayers.


  3. It is huge and it is scary. And honestly, it hits in stages. The first time you celebrate a holiday in the new place... and the first time it isn't being celebrated all around you. The new holidays and how confusing they are. The frustration of realizing how many tiny every day assumptions you have about everything, like where in the grocery store basic staples are. But for me, the rewards have outweighed that a million times over. And the entire experience has made me a better adoptive parent. Feeling the enormity of it now is a very good thing. It's the Americans who arrive thinking that because they're in an English speaking country it will be easy who have the hardest time. I'm just here on the next island when you need to debrief with another American ex pat. And skype is your best friend. My son LOVES chatting with granny and grandpa on skype. And your mom is so right - what kept me going when I struggled was thinking about how easy I had it compared to my father coming from Ireland and my great-grandfather coming from Italy when a letter in the post was the way to get word home. It will be awesome and amazing - and bloody hard. Take care of yourself.

  4. Beautifully said. We are moving just 10 minutes closer to our downtown, and much of the same feelings of grief are surfacing here for me and my children. Thank you for putting into words something that I am experiencing as well.

  5. Easier to mourn that loss when it's just us adults; so much harder when we have to feel it along with our kids. Thinking of you!

  6. You are so right. We just moved from Shanghai (where my three 1/2 Chinese kids were born and where we lived for 11 years) to Hawaii in May. We are now far away from both our China family and Mainland US family, in a place where we do not yet have any support system, but in a place where many families look just like ours. Our entire family agreed on the move and gave up a lot to make it happen. But sometimes I cannot breathe with the stress of it and worrying if it will all work out. It is a huge change and I have to remind myself daily that I chose this and worked for this and we are living the life we want now, rather than running on a corporate treadmill and dreaming about a tomorrow that we will likely never takes steps to make real. I applaud your move - it is a brave thing to do and the next months will be hard, but a year from now I am sure my stresses and your stresses will be forgotten or just funny stories to tell.

  7. Beautiful, wise words. I love hearing about the opportunities your move affords you and your family. How often will this move enable you to visit Ethiopia?


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