I wasn’t aware of the term TCK grief until I discovered the definition of TCK during my teen years. Perhaps, some of you didn’t know too until receiving this letter. I personally describe TCK grief as the same as the grief of losing someone you know died. The difference is that a person left Earth in the latter. Most of the time, they can’t say goodbye prior to leaving. Nonetheless, the grieving process is the same in both. In this letter, I’ll focus on grief in the TCK context. Keep in mind that if you’re not a TCK, this topic is relevant to you too.
My first grief occurred before my move from South Korea to Shanghai. It didn’t happen when I moved from my birth country Singapore to S. Korea because I was merely five, and lacked awareness of my surroundings. It was developed when I reach nine. By then, I formulated an image of “home” in my mind.
For four years, S. Korea was my home. I had friends, a church family, my own family, favorite teachers, food that I considered as my local food, and places I’m familiar with. One day, my parents told my sister and I that we were moving. The world crashed on my nine-year-old mind. I had to say goodbye to my friends. I sobbed and sobbed.
Little did I know I would lose more than my friends. In China, I compared how it was different from S. Korea. I missed my friends, the people I loved, the weather, familiar environments. Basically, I missed the sights, smells, sounds, tastes, and touch from S. Korea. I missed the country so much that it hurts.
I cracked, and broke from within.
Unfortunately, I was a young Christian and didn’t read the Bible often, so I didn’t turn to Him as I should’ve. I regretted not doing so because I strayed numerous times throughout my youth. Thus, the consequences of not giving it to Him hit me down the road.
In the following years, I visited my childhood country twice. I saw that my school had shifted into a new campus and changed their name, my friends and classmates lived their lives without me, and modern trends replaced the old. Everything changed. The present S. Korea was not the same S. Korea I lived my childhood in. Suddenly, my past memories of the former were nearly non-existent.
They became dreams.
Dreams that were unreachable because they were no longer there. I kept my memories, yet I lost them to an altered reality. And reality showed that grief can repeat itself for I was broken again during those visits.
Then my family moved to Singapore, my birth country. This time, I left China in bitterness because horrible memories filled my last year. I was glad to get out of that school. However, in doing so, the grief hits later and hard. When we moved to Singapore, I experienced reverse culture shock.
Instead of acknowledging my grief and letting it go to God, I clung onto the life I had overseas. I held the people, the places, my “homes”, etc. I continued holding the bad memories and hatred against people who had hurt me.
Consequently, I hurt myself from gripping the spiked ball.
One top of that, I couldn’t accept Singapore. I hated Singapore. It was supposed to be my “home”, yet I couldn’t fit in. I was a foreigner wearing local skin. Self-pity, despair, and helplessness joined my sorrow and bitterness. I lost my life’s purpose.
However, God is Faithful. He prodded my heart for two years. Eventually, He shook me. I finally turned to Him, but He didn’t change me overnight. The process of healing was slow and painful while loving and tender. I learned to give every part of me to Him.
I also found that grief doesn’t stop, yet it’s not constant. Instead, it repeats. Sorrow reappears whenever memories from the two countries flow into my mind. I call them triggers. Initially, they were painful and occur frequently, gradually softening to nostalgia. Thus, I came to view both countries as merely childhood places. Although I currently do have triggers, they occur less frequently.
When they happen, I turn to the Lord for comfort.
Looking back at His hand, God used grief as one of the tools to repeatedly break me. Why would He do that? So that I would run to Him. So that He would carry my sorrow (Isaiah 53:4). So that He would remind me He’s my Saviour. So that I could hope in Him. So that I could comfort others in pain (2 Corinthians 1:4). Christ did more than heal me, He renewed me. He drew me close to Him and taught me that He was all I needed.
Very Sincerely Yours,
Clarissa Choo-Choo Train
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.