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Just looking for a bit of advice, guidance, or insight.

I just found out that my younger brother (high school) is going to be a father. As you can imagine, this is a big deal in my family, especially for my mother. I just finished skyping with her, and she's a mess. I feel so sad for her. I feel really helpless since I'm here in Korea, and all of this drama is happening in California. While my family is going through a crisis, I'm about to be partying it up Thailand, playing with elephants and whatnot. I can't help but feel guilty.

I suppose all I can do is listen, and be supportive, but is there anything else one can do when not physically present?

This is my first time living so far away from home. For those of you who have experienced family issues/tragedy/whatever while abroad, how do you cope? What all can one do?

Thanks in advance for any and all words of wisdom.

  • annataleen
  • Moderator LVL 1

    • 504

    • May 02, 2014, 01:27:07 pm
    • Incheon
Re: How to deal with family drama/issues back home when you're so far away?
« Reply #1 on: December 17, 2015, 06:50:03 am »
Oh Soggysocks, I think some of us are over here to get away from family drama  :P

Seriously, I am sorry your family is going through a hard time and that you feel bad you are not with them.

First, realize you are an adult now and many adults move away from home anyway. I suppose, being from California, maybe you would end up close to your family anyway. I am from a very rural area, so even if I was still in the U.S., I would probably be far away from home anyway. Even California is a big place. Anyway...a person can't come home for crisis that happens. You have your own life to lead and that is ok!

Next, you need to stop feeling guilty because you are not there! It is ok that you are here and then will go to Thailand and party it up and play with the elephants.  That is fine! You have worked hard over here and you deserve a break. I suppose traveling was one of the things you wanted to do when you came over here, so go do it! It's fine!

Then, stop feeling helpless! Honestly, if you really think about it, what could you do for your family if you were there compared to being in Korea? This is an issue your brother got into and it can't be helped. There isn't anything you can do to change it. What you said you can do, listen and be supportive, is about all you can do....even if you were there. Sure, face-to-face is better, but the fact that you can take the time to "listen" to them even if it's just on Skype or a chat will mean a lot to them, so don't worry about that!

Also, the time difference may be an advantage because if a family member needs someone to talk to, but it is late in CA and every one is sleeping they can still talk to you because of the time difference. I have listened to many people back at home late at night simply because I was up due to the time difference.

Choosing to live in another country has its sacrifices, and this is one of them. Most of us who have been overseas a while have experienced some family crisis, death in the family, etc. It is always hard and each situation is different.

I think just keep living your life and enjoy your time in Thailand. Don't let what is going on at home ruin your time here. There isn't much you can do about it, from there or here, anyway.

  • englishrose
  • Expert Waygook

    • 662

    • June 24, 2013, 07:27:22 am
    • South Korea
Re: How to deal with family drama/issues back home when you're so far away?
« Reply #2 on: December 17, 2015, 07:35:49 am »
Basically welcome to the world of expat living. I don't know enough about you but I am guessing that you are on the youngish side of things. I don't mean this in a condescending way but just as a possibility. I've been away from home since my teens so it's easy for me but the first few years can be rough when you feel you are should be with your family for these kind of things.

The best advice I can give is that you should only return home if you can do something really practical and important. If not don't bother. That also goes for cancelling your vacation. If you're not going back to the states what would be the point of you staring at the walls of a one room for 2 weeks? Go and enjoy yourself.

Finally, don't think that being away makes you useless form a supporting perspective. From long experience I know that I have often been the sage man in my family's dramas. Not because I am wise (frankly I'm the family dunce) but because I am detached. If you want to de-stress your Mom a bit then having regular one to ones over skype can be very salutary. Because you are not an active participant in this drama you can become a valve of sorts.

I don't know about your family relationships but you might want to also be a confessional of sorts to your brother. I f***ed up a lot as a teen and trust me when I say making him feel ganged up upon is the worst thing that can happen.

Your holiday and pics will probably be a welcome break from stuff for your family and especially your parents. This event is probably take up a lot of their time and attention so a daily new pics of their non-problematic child doing something exotic will be welcome.

Short version: Stick to your plans. Skype often.

  • nomadicmadda
  • Hero of Waygookistan

    • 1585

    • July 01, 2014, 06:49:40 am
    • Seoul, formerly Boseong
Re: How to deal with family drama/issues back home when you're so far away?
« Reply #3 on: December 17, 2015, 07:52:09 am »
Was going to comment with some helpful advice, but both annataleen and english rose pretty much covered anything I could have said.

I know it's easier to say, "Don't feel guilty," than to do it, but englishrose is correct in that, when living as an expat, this is just a part of the lifestyle.  In general, I've learned that I'm a lot happier in life when I don't beat myself up for things that are outside of my control.  I'm hypercritical of myself, and this is something I still struggle with, but I can say that making a conscious effort to let things go--even when I don't want to--has made my life much easier and happier.

Be as supportive as you can for your family during this time, and know that even if you were home, there's nothing you could really do.  Would you adopt and raise the baby yourself?  Because short of doing that, this is something that is your brother's mistake and is outside the realm of your control and help.  The only physical thing I could see you helping with (if you were back home) would be to help take care of the baby should you live with your family, but even then.  That's your brother's responsibility and the responsibility of the baby's mother.  Secondary to them, their parents would take on responsibility.  Even as a sibling I think it would be quite a stretch to suggest you had a responsibility to uphold here.

Anyway, my point is, don't feel like you're doing your family a disservice of some sort by being here, and don't think that enjoying yourself versus not enjoying yourself actually makes a difference--it doesn't.  In fact, it would likely add more stress and pressure to your family if they knew they were the cause of your unhappiness and were the reason why you canceled your trip.  Be available, be supportive (especially for your brother; he probably needs it the most) and be the one member of the family who is happy and positive and can bring that energy to everyone else!

  • tamjen
  • Hero of Waygookistan

    • 1180

    • June 19, 2013, 08:08:14 am
Re: How to deal with family drama/issues back home when you're so far away?
« Reply #4 on: December 17, 2015, 08:00:35 am »
I have a lot of personal experience of being away when bad things happen. My mother died on my wedding day. My wife (to be at that moment in time) told me we could cancel the wedding and I could go home for my mother's funeral and such. People were on their way over to our house and things were well underway at the time. It was at that moment I knew with absolute certainty she was the right one. I didn't go home. What could I do? Sit around and be sad, after spending the better part of 24 hours or so on airplanes.

My sister fought cancer and survived. My brother died. Three dear friends have died.

I don't mean to sound cruel or trite, but that's life and life is what happens whether you're there or not.

You have a life too and you can't live it at the whims of fate because fate very often does not  coincide with your carefully laid plans.

Now for the hard love. Your brother did something extremely stupid. His hassle is not your hassle unless you choose to make it so. Listen to him and your mom, talk and be a sounding board. Cancelling your very well deserved and sure to be awesome vacation will solve precisely nothing.
Hail Caesar

Re: How to deal with family drama/issues back home when you're so far away?
« Reply #5 on: December 17, 2015, 08:06:43 am »
nomadicmadda pretty much covered what I was going to say- but my advice is to just be there for your brother and your mother as much as possible. I have a really close cousin who  got pregnant at an early age, and so many people in her social circle completely shut her out and treated her like a pariah, it's best to try to give advice and be accepting and supportive when you can be. Young mothers and fathers are dealing with so much already, make sure your brother knows he can reach out to you. It might even be useful that you aren't an individual that is home right now, because he can contact you with you being a bit removed from the situation so he feels more comfortable opening up.

That being said, don't let this consume your day to day. Of course family and friends are important but you are going to need to make sure you are not letting it negatively impact or consume you. If I were you I would probably make sure my sibling knew I cared by writing an email or a letting just reaching out to him. Then you can determine how much or how little support or contact he would want from you.

Good luck OP, but as everyone has said it is a part of living abroad. I have missed so much drama and good stuff with friends and family back home, good and bad, but one thing living in Korea has taught me was to appreciate my loved ones back home.

  • jamonamagnet
  • Expert Waygook

    • 610

    • April 01, 2015, 10:09:26 am
Re: How to deal with family drama/issues back home when you're so far away?
« Reply #6 on: December 17, 2015, 08:21:30 am »
Such is the lot of the expat.

In a lot of these situations you just can't be there.  If it's very important that you should be there, then make it happen.  But, only you can decide.

So, decide and do, or decide and do not.  Don't beat yourself up because something happened while you were away.

Re: How to deal with family drama/issues back home when you're so far away?
« Reply #7 on: December 17, 2015, 08:29:16 am »
Thank you everyone. I suppose everything you've all said, I already knew, but I just needed to hear (read) it.

I appreciate the kindness. Enjoy your Thursday :))

  • koreaiskorea
  • Super Waygook

    • 277

    • August 06, 2013, 09:21:54 am
    • Double Standard Hotel
Re: How to deal with family drama/issues back home when you're so far away?
« Reply #8 on: December 17, 2015, 09:41:57 am »
That's life son.

Re: How to deal with family drama/issues back home when you're so far away?
« Reply #9 on: December 17, 2015, 01:43:30 pm »
For a family funeral I went and my school was really accommodating.

For problems that don't absolutely require your presence just try talking to your family more. Since my brother-in-law died I've been ringing my sister a lot and it seems to be really helping her.