You Do Have to Leave the Airport
Do you have a hard time sending someone off on a trip?
Do You Miss Your Traveler?
Why can't we get all the people together in the world that we really like and then just stay together? I guess that wouldn't work. Someone would leave. Someone always leaves. Then we would have to say good-bye. I hate good-byes. I know what I need. I need more hellos.
-Charles M. Schulz-
Saturday morning, I accompanied my mom to the airport to see my world traveling brother off. As he has accepted a teaching position at a private school in Peru, he will not be coming back to Massachusetts until Christmas. For my mother, this feels like death. Yesterday, a friend of mine kissed her boyfriend goodbye at the same airport. Being the generous parents, we all wish we had, his parents gave him a three-month tour of Europe as one of his college Graduation presents. Like my mom, she’s devastated. How will they get through these months without their guys? Having come to terms with not seeing my brother for months at a time years ago, on the off chance that you too have recently bid someone farewell, I offer you the following ten tips on how to deal with that empty feeling.
It Isn’t Death
After my brother left, I spent a chunk of time on Saturday hugging my mom and letting her sob on my shoulder. The whole time she kept repeating, “What am I going to do?” Personally, I only say this phrase when I feel like I’ve either gotten into a mess that doesn’t have an obvious solution and when someone dies. For my mom to say this, it scared me. For my friend to say it too, I began to wonder if everyone had lost their senses. Though it may feel like it, when someone leaves, it isn’t death. It is just the start of a new way of life. If you can embrace it, you can see the positive side of things. However, if you can’t, I guess it is death. When Joel (my brother) went on his first big trip, I felt the way my mom does now. Up until then, I had seen Joel at least twice a week and I didn’t know how I would handle not having the ability to drive down to him any time I wanted to. I had to learn to adjust. By the time he took his next big trip, I was prepared and, with each trip that has followed, I’ve learned to miss him less. You just need to remember that your loved one will be home one day. You can’t waste all of your energy mourning over someone who has yet to take their last breath.
Crying Is Cleansing
I’ve always believed that there is nothing more cleansing to the body and soul than a good cry. It allows you to rid yourself of all of the pain, disappointment and sadness from the day. It also cleans out your tear ducts and, for me, helps put my allergies in check. Yes, crying is healthy, but excessive crying is not. The line between the two is obvious, the biggest clue being that you’ve cried so much that no matter how hard you try to push out some tears only air comes out. Before you get to this point though, I would suggest you seek the guidance of a trained professional. For some people, having to say goodbye to someone they love (even for a day) is the last straw on a pile of unexpressed emotions and events that have never been dealt with. Only you can say when you’ve reached your breaking point. It is a never a sign of weakness to get help. Remember that.
Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder, yes?
I’ve found that the best way to learn to appreciate someone’s annoying habits (incessant knuckle cracking, needless clapping, bursts of energy that inspires one to jump around, etc.) is to not see them for some time. Yes, at first, the quiet is amazing. However, after a week has passed, you start missing the noise. On their end, though they always hated you telling them to stop making that noise, they may find that they miss this interaction. It’s funny the things you miss about someone when you don’t get to see them for a while. Annoying habits suddenly become defining character traits that you look for in others to help you miss your loved one less.
Now You Have Time for You
Often, we don’t realize how much time and energy we put into someone until they aren’t around. In romantic relationships, you try to make every moment count and to entertain your partner as much as possible. Books gather dust on the night table. Sleep gets lost. You have a million things on an invisible to do list that you should be doing, but who wants to do boring things when the one they love is beside them? For parents, you do the same running around even if it’s just mental. When your loved one is away, you need to take this time to catch up on your reading (or whatever your favorite thing to do is) and to check off some of those chores/errands. She/he will return soon enough to distract you. Make this time apart count.
When Joel went away on his first big trip, my mom ended up having to pay a massive phone bill. Even though she got a better phone plan in time for the next trip, that bill was huge too. Nowadays, they communicate through Skype. Though I’ve never used it, I’m told that it’s a program that allows for you to place calls through the internet for free. In my opinion, this is creative. Sending e-cards and picture e-mails are creative too. Yet, these ideas assume that you have internet access while you’re away. It occurs to me that having internet access while abroad may only be important to my brother. Still, even if you don’t have the internet, there are creative ways to communicate. You and your partner can keep separate journals for the time you are apart and exchange them when you see each other again. This way you feel like they are still a part of your daily life even though they are miles away. You also can write and exchange letters/notes/cards in advance for the other to read each day that you’re apart. And even though it does cost money to call each other, with a time limit and the right plan, the price could be reasonable. People forget that a lot can be said in a very short amount of time.
Learn About Where They Are
I’ve found that one of the best ways to deal with missing someone is to research the area that they are staying in. Try to find pictures and historical facts about specific places in the area that you know they will be visiting. Not only will it make you feel like you’re included, but it will also show your loved one that you’re interested in their life. It will also help you better understand their trip when they decide to show pictures and discuss what they did when they get back.
Time To Grow
Even in the best relationships, we sometimes hold ourselves back because we feel like we need to remain the same for our partner/family member. While they’re away getting their tan and rare artifacts, it is time for you to get that haircut you’ve been wanting to get but were too afraid your loved one would put up a stink about. Also, with them not around to do late night burger runs with, you can use this time to get healthier. You can clean the apartment/house without them objecting to the noise or what you’re throwing out. You can do anything you want to do because they aren’t around to stop you. Instead of sitting on the couch wishing they were around, you need to make good use of this time. And perhaps they actually wanted you to get that haircut and throw out that hideous pottery, but they didn’t want to push you to change. You never know, do you?
It Was Their Choice to Go
While you’re crying your guts out missing them like crazy, it needs to hit you that they left because they wanted to. Unless they’re in the military or were under another obligation to go, they could’ve stayed, but this trip mattered a lot to them. I’m not saying you should be bitter because they picked going on the trip over how it would make you feel. People deserve to go on trips and to do what makes them happy. You aren’t selfish to have wanted them to stay. They aren’t selfish to have gone. Still, when you’re mourning this loss, you need to remember that it was their choice to go. It needs to be your choice to continue to live your life and have some fun of your own while they’re away.
There Are Such Things as Planes
If you can’t stand being apart, you can always fly to them. If they can’t stand being away from you, they can always fly home early. Unlike in the old days when people had to use boats and trains which took days and weeks to get to each other, providing you have money and a passport/valid form of identification, you can just hop on a plane, and you’ll be to them in a matter of hours. The deal is you need to make sure that they want to have you with them. Though you might see this act as beautiful, they may see it as smothering and a sign that you will never let them go/give them space. Unless you want to have a fight or be met with something less than a smile when you show up at their hotel, check with them first. Don’t be offended if they shoot down your idea. People need space and you need to respect that.
10. Plan for Their Homecoming
Whenever my brother is going to be coming home, my mother takes the day before off so that she can clean the house. She wants him to come home to a clean house even if he’s just going to create a mess ten minutes after he’s home. In order for you to get through this separation, you need to plan for the day they are coming home. Do you want to book a reservation in advance at a nice restaurant for the day they are coming home? Do you want to make sure that the new refrigerator is in by then? You don’t want to make this planning your life. However, planning their homecoming may be the thing that will make you realize that they will be coming home eventually and that they aren’t dead.
Though my tips aren’t perfect, they seem to work for me. As we all are unique individuals and cope with things differently, these tips may not work for you. Still, I suggest you try them out. They might help the days go by faster. If nothing else, I hope they make you realize that you’re not alone. Remember they’ll be home to get on your nerves soon enough.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2009 L A Walsh