A fellow TCK asked me for advice on repatriation. Many tips ran through my mind, so I focused on the ones that were most important to me. After I answered her, another TCK suggested that I write a TCK Letter based on the tips.
I thought, since I’ve been planning to write a couple of letters on repatriation, why not include this letter as one of them? After copying, pasting, and thoroughly editing the five tips, I thus present you to you–
The Five Tips on Repa–
What I’ve Learned from My Repatriation
(I will explain why I changed the title.)
First, what is repatriation? Repatriation is the process of a person’s return to their birth country, and this includes the person’s adjustment.
The challenges that occur from repatriation depends on each person. What I experience may be different from another TCK, or even a family member. Just as our walk with Christ is personal, this process is also very personal. For that reason, I changed the title from The Five Tips on Repatriation to What I’ve Learned from My Repatriation. Let’s get to it now, shall we?
I’ve been repatriated twice: the first was ten years ago, and the second was more than a month ago. Thus, I’m currently in the process of adjusting. My first return was difficult because I held bitterness in my heart. This led me to not properly acknowledge and process my grief; as a result, I had depression for a few years.
As for my second repatriation, it is hard in its own way because I left a country where a friend and two relatives died while I was there, yet it is different from the first because I gave my grief to God to handle it for me.
Overall, from both returns, God taught me the following lessons:
1. Trust in His Presence
Continue to stay close to God by spending time with Him or being in His presence. That is, by reading the Bible and praying to Him. These are vital and should never be forgotten.
“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”
Psalm 119:105, KJV
“Pray without ceasing.”
1 Thessalonians 5:17, KJV
Cling onto Him desperately through both bad and good times. You may feel lonely in your birth country, and you may feel like a foreigner. When you do have these feelings, remember, the Holy Spirit is in you, and your true identity is in Christ.
“Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.”
1 John 4:13, KJV
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”
Galatians 2:20, KJV
2. Trust in His Time
Don’t rush yourself to adjust to your birth country. Instead, trust in God’s timeline. His time is best for you, and it’s different for each individual. So it’s personal just like your walk with Him is personal.
“He hath made every thing beautiful in his time”
Ecclesiastes 3:11a, KJV
3. Trust in His Healing & Joy
The TCK grief may be similar to the grief of losing someone because the TCK lost a “country”. A move to a TCK means losing their world, lifestyle, personal items, and relationships. It means losing the past they would’ve been part of, and the past that they could not return to (Pollock, Van Reken, and Pollock, 2009). Overall, the grieving process depends on each individual. Some people are emotionless while others are hit hard with sorrow. And some recover within a week while others take months or even years.
Don’t suppress your sadness. There’s nothing wrong with feeling sad. I did this before when a friend went to Heaven. Suppressing may lead to more unresolved grief, and it may return to you more painfully in the future. If you don’t know what unresolved grief is, it is “grief that comes from recognized and unrecognized losses a person has experienced that he or she has never mourned in a healing way (Pollock, Van Reken, and Pollock, 2009).”
A close friend advised me this: don’t rush through the grieving process, or else it may overwhelm you. Again, God knows the best time for you. Ecclesiastes 3:4 even says that there’s “A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (KJV).
Don’t compare your process with your family’s because again, everyone has their own personal journey with Him. He says in 2 Corinthians 10:12 that we shouldn’t compare ourselves with others.
For me, I tend to struggle through my process. During my second repatriation, I had head tensions and restless sleep. Inside, I was broken under the weight of my grief. But I continued to trust God, and He brought me through the hardest part of my process which lasted for about a month.
Afterwards, I currently experience spontaneous bouts of sorrow, and pain in my chest. But that’s okay. I’ve already acknowledged my grief, and I’ve given it to Him for Him to handle it because He’s my Healer, and His grace is sufficient.
“He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.”
Psalm 147:3, KJV
“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
2 Corinthians 12:9, KJV
I myself, along with some TCKs, am not aware of certain unresolved grief because there are many hidden and unknown losses I’ve accumulated throughout my life. But He knows. And He’s drawing out what’s hidden through my spontaneous triggers. Whenever that happens, He holds me in comfort (Isaiah 41:13), and in Him, I can rejoice in the midst of my sorrows. It is only possible through Christ.
“But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.”
1 Peter 4:13, KJV
What also helped me to rejoice is to praise and give thanks to Him. And by giving thanks, I mean giving thanks in everything including the happy and sad moments. I give thanks and praise because His promises do not fail (1 Kings 8:56), and because of Who He is.
“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
1 Thessalonians 5:18, KJV
Of course, you won’t forget the blessings God gave you and the amazing things He did in the former country. After all, you feel sad because you had precious memories in the country you’d “bonded” with. So, it’s okay that you’re sad. At the same time, claiming His present blessings and looking forward to His future plans will encourage and motivate you.
Furthermore, it’s possible that you may not have emotions, and it’s possible that your emotions may hit you later in life. Regardless of which, the important truth to remember is that you have the Comforter in you (John 14:26).
4. Trust in His Immutability
Be prepared for reverse cultural shock. You were away for a number of years, so your birth country including your friends will change during that time. It’s possible to also feel sad or grieve when you see these changes.
I myself had to adapt to my birth country during my first repatriation because the country changed significantly over the span of eight years. I had struggled to grieve for the changes, the “life” I missed out on, and the “life” I could not return to. And it’s okay to mourn for this. Remember, you have an unchanging God by your side.
“For I am the LORD, I change not”
Malachi 3:6a, KJV
5. Trust in His Plans
Be careful not to rely on your own plans. Yes, your path ahead may be unknown, but His ways are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9). And you know what I will type next: Trust His plans. Be wary to not fall into the trap of worries and doubts. Keep trusting Him. The transitioning period is one of many ways where our faith gets tested.
I could continue with more lessons, but these five are the main truths I’ve learned. And I admit, I need to remind myself of them often. If you haven’t noticed–which I’m certain you have–the commonality I found from all of them was these words:
Trust in God.
How about you? If you’d experience repatriation, what lessons had God taught you from it? Or are you going through repatriation currently? My inbox is open if you need to share your grief, or you simply need someone to pray for you.
Very Sincerely Yours,
Clarissa Choo-Choo Train
P.S. I wrote an article on what I’d experienced from my first repatriation. If you’re interested, you can read it here.
P.S.S. I’m praying for all of you on this email list.
Pollock, D. C., Van Reken, R. E., & Pollock, M. V. Third Culture Kids: The Experience of Growing Up Among Worlds: The original, classic book on TCKs. 3rd ed. Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2017.
Clarissa Choo is a vessel used for Christ’s glory. Although she has lived in four countries, Heaven is her only Home. She desires to sow His seeds and to serve third culture kids, teens, and writers. Besides writing, she loves to wash dishes, chop ingredients into smithereens, and record hymns on her piano. Peek into her Christian TCK Email Ministry or read more posts.