FamilyGrowing Up

5 Ways To Cope With Moving Away From Family

I’ve never been one to live at home long.

Okay, not never. As a child, I of course lived at home. Pretty standard. Then, I went off to college, moved back in for a bit after out of necessity, and hit the pavement again as soon as possible. The break in cash from lack of rent thanks to kind parents is all well and good, but I do better working on my own.

Or I thought I did.

In reality, I’d never truly been out on my own, as each of these moves had been within a 5-hour driving radius to the parents’ home base, and in that one 5-hour place, I lived with my brother. So I always had someone nearby. Someone close. A safety net. And If things got desperate enough, I could take a day trip to see my family or at least commit a weekend to it and be fine.

Now, suddenly, I’m a 35-hour drive away, and it’s not so easy.

I don’t typically show a lot of emotion, so you can only imagine how mortified I was when the TSA checked my backpack for the Ziploc of laundry quarters I was bringing, asked if I wanted them to repack the bag, and my “no thanks” was lost in my own blubbering.

Yikes.

It was a very good thing I arrived so early for my flight because I definitely spent a good 10 minutes stifling sobs with a wad of cheap toilet paper in a bathroom stall.

It’s not that I was afraid to move or anything. I love moving and new starts and new friends and constant change. It was the missing the family thing. Basically, I’ve discovered that’s the hardest part of it all, at least for me, and I have a much better understanding as to why people never leave their hometowns. Everyone’s there. It’s familiar and safe and comfortably claustrophobic, if that’s even a thing.

But there are definitely ways to leave and cope and grow with the distance. No, none of these are the same as actually being there, but they could alleviate some of that heavy apprehension building with it or that elephant on your chest made up solely of homesickness.

1. Walk and talks.

So this is probably my biggest way of maintaining contact, and it’s honestly almost as good as being with the person. Almost. Plus you get some exercise out of it, so I would say that’s a definite win-win, particularly when you move somewhere where the cheapest gyms are around $150 per month. Hard pass. Most days, I’ll work out a time with my mom or brother, usually around an hour, and we’ll set up our wireless headphones and head out for a stroll. Or do some house work. Or run a load of laundry. Or grocery shop. Really, just whatever. Regular activities and things you might otherwise have done with their company.

But hey, look, suddenly you still are!

It’s easy, and the hands-free aspect makes it more fun. I mean, I talk with my hands a lot, and they might not be able to see it and passersby may think I look more than a little batty, but it’s nice. It’s fun, and it’s an excellent way to stay (wirelessly—ha) plugged in.

2. Letters.

I know, I know, a thing of the past, but everyone loves getting letters! And it’s definitely the kind of thing you talk about doing with your friend, but put your pen and stamps and stationary where you mouth is, guys. If you’re missing long-distance pals and really don’t think you’re going to pull off the phone calls, letters are there for you.

They’re cheap and fun and cute and extremely personal. My grandparents, for instance, may value these little inked-out treasures more than the oddly timed phone chats.

Plus you can save them all in a box and feel like a sentimental lady in a novel. Whatever. Draw pictures. Give them a detailed account of your day and ask for the same in return. Plus anything remotely exciting going on in their lives. Not to mention it’s easier to find and respond to every little bit of a letter than it is to a text (the up and down scrolling is more than a little frustrating, right?). And lastly, someone might find them and put them in a history book in 200-ish years. Cool, right? But really, keeping contact is one thing these dudes are great for.

3. Book a trip.

Knowing you have a trip back home in the near-future makes it much easier to leave. You have something to look forward to and plan for and it doesn’t feel so much like you’re never going to see the person or people again. It’s the difference between “goodbye” and “see you later,” which is pretty darn significant.

Plus it gives you something to chat about on those aforementioned walk and talks. Discuss some fun things you can do! Make arrangements. Get excited! I don’t know what it is about having that stuff solidified, but it really does make all the difference. Immensely more so than a vague future plan of, “Yeah, I’m thinking about coming back in December. How does that sound? Yeah, cool. It’ll probably work, right? I mean, we’ll see!”

Definitely not the same.

Even if your cashflow doesn’t allow you to make the booking at that exact moment, say it with certainty. Decide. Request the time off and make it happen.

4. Watch the same shows.

Lame or weird or whatever. I don’t know, but I feel like watching or binging shows together is such a standard part of our culture today and a very common familial pastime. I know that’s what we did each night when I spent a couple adult months between moves at home. We had different shows depending on who was around on which nights and it gave us a nice sense of bonding. We looked forward to it.

So you can definitely still do that, and you don’t even have to pause when someone has to use the restroom.

Pick a show or a couple that you all can watch. Make sure you keep up with them, and treat it like you’re home! Don’t watch if the other person can’t so you’re caught up with each other. And hey, look, another way to incorporate those walk and talks! It’s a great, easy, consistent topic. At least in my family, we all have very solid, stubborn opinions and love to debate (read: fight over) them.

5. Find an outlet.

This could be a class or new friends you can talk with or a blog.

Personally, I’ve just started taking a new acting class. Almost a week into the move, I’d started to feel pretty okay about the whole thing. Almost comfortable, but something still felt a little off. I hadn’t realized until I was in class (ie. therapy) and my coach asked how I was feeling in that specific moment how completely overwhelmed I was. I’ve turned into quite the tear-happy gal over on this side of the continent.

But it was satisfying. So satisfying. It was honesty and openness, and it’s okay! It’s okay to miss home. It doesn’t mean you’re weak or floundering or failing. It means you’re human. It’s all stressful, but it’s a matter of how you handle it. Friends and mentors and classes and things like that can really help you open up and let some of those pent-up feelings out. And yeah, it’s weird and awkward sometimes. You might feel a bit judged, but you just have to get past that. You’ll be okay.

And I get it. None of these are cures or absolute solutions for the yearning to go home, but I know from experience that they can absolutely help. Even if it’s just a little.

But sometimes a little help is all you really need. TC mark

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I like to write. Read more articles from Katherine on Thought Catalog.