Grief, Home and Bermuda

Home is definitely something that’s definition has alluded me over the years. While most people would think of a home or a city as a home. I had neither lived in the same city for long, or ever came back to the same house, so I guess the standard idea of home was not for me. Like most Diplomatic kids, people floated in and out of my life. With every move, came a whole new group of people, new friends, new culture, and new language. The only thing that ever remained the same, were my parents. No matter where we were, I was home, because they were my home.

I didn’t realize just how much my roots were attached to the notion that my parents were home, until my Father passed. My whole life got ripped from under me.

I foolishly went back to University shortly after my Father’s funeral, pretending nothing had happened, not talking about it, at all.  Not realizing that grief has a funny way of popping into one’s life like an unwanted zit. I don’t remember much of that year, I was lost. All I remember was heading to the school clinic and being told I had bronchial pneumonia. I was given medication, kept going. Then I got it again, by the third time, I left school went back to Ottawa, to my Mother. I was a mess, physically and mentally. You just can’t outrun grief, no matter how hard you try.

I went to my family doctor who told me I couldn’t run away from grief, I was physically getting sicker as I tried to push away everything I wasn’t dealing with. He looked at me and said I needed to rebuild my life, to stop running. It was a sobering lecture from a doctor who had known me all my life.

I moved back in with my Mother, went on medication that would literally kill the infection, but was told that I had to build my immune system up. I started to work on University course by correspondence. It was tough at first, I would sleep so much, barely able to get out of bed for longer than an hour. I slowly started to read again, and began going to grief counselling. My only social outlet became the 2 hours I carved out of my day to go to the gym. My Mother and I clung to each other, trying to figure out how to rebuild our lives. My Mother had no idea how to be herself without my Father, and I had lost my rock, my guide in life. I had no idea how to do what I wanted without my Father.

Slowly, I started getting better. My body started to respond to lifting weights, I started to feel a fog lift. It wasn’t easy, and it was a long road.  One day, I just decided to call a friend in Bermuda, and ask if I could hop on a plane to visit.

It was like a deep need in me, had no idea what drove me, but something did. Like all Third Culture Kids, my friend Tom said yes, and to get on the next plane. I literally booked a flight, dumped stuff in a suitcase and headed off. My Mother was a little shocked, but excited that I finally felt well enough to leave the house.

I landed in Bermuda at 8am, I wasn’t even sure how I was going to get to my friends house, or what my next move was, but I figured I could hop on a bus and find my way around. As I disembarked and went through customs, I saw a massive sign with a smiley face. My friend had arranged one of his Mother’s employees to pick me up at the airport. She was Filipina, holding a sign with my name on it, jumping up and down, and trying to nudge her way to the front of a group of very tall people, she gave me a massive hug, and explained that Tom was working (he owned a tour company), but that I was supposed to go to his Mother’s house. As we drove through winding roads, the lushness of the island became apparent. I started to breathe, and take in my surroundings. We turned a corner and pulled into a long driveway, Tom’s Mother came running out, she gave me a big hug, and told me to go take a nap before lunch. I couldn’t say no, I still needed a lot of sleep.

I must have passed out, because the next thing I knew, I was being woken up by Tom’s Mother, and the most amazing smell of seafood. I went downstairs to find a table full of various dishes and an odd assortment of random people. I sat at the table chatting away about my classes, then heard shouting outside, my friend Tom was shouting my name, holding a hilarious thermos of some crazy cocktail concoction. He ran in to give me a bear hug, and told me to drink up, and change. I had no idea what was going on, but knowing Tom, I was in for a long night.  He grabbed my stuff, and put it into his truck and explained he lived in a condo with a friend in town. My trip was so last minute, I had completely forgotten to ask him specifics of his life. It had been 4 years since we had seen each other, yet it felt like no time had passed.

By day, I hopped on random buses, laid on the beach, ate rum raisin cake, chatted to random folk, walked into churches to light candles for my Father (I am not religious at all, but found myself doing this on a regular bases). In one church, I ended up chatting to a minister, he patted my hand and told me to follow my Father’s light, to not be afraid anymore. It was at that point, I realized I had to redefine what home was, I needed to create my own anchor.

Tom dragged me out, we went dancing, had crazy dinners, sat on the beach at midnight. My soul needed it, needed to feel free, to go back to what I had done all my life, travel.

By the time I got back on the plane again, to head back to Ottawa, I realized for the first time in 4 years, I was breathing, I was actually laughing again, I was back. Home can always be redefined, I knew that home would find me, and I was at peace with it. I would still cry over my Father, and have my moments, but I no longer felt lost, the fog had lifted. I found me in Bermuda, and it felt great to be back.

Diplomatic Kid


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