Family Ties When You’re Not There

 What If my Loved Ones are Elderly?

If your family members are ill or aging, it can be a very difficult decision between going abroad or staying home to be near them.

There is no “right” answer. The best answer as to what you should do lies within you.

I deeply regret that I was not with my family when my mother, and then my father, passed away. I feel like they would have been comforted knowing that I was there.

The possibility of a loved one passing away while we are out of the country is something that I think all of us are aware of, especially as our family members get older. As death is often unexpected, we are unable to take measures to be back in times of catastrophe. And, even if we knew that someone was quite ill, is it likely that they would want to you to come back and idly sit a “death watch?” I would say, in most cases, no.

Because I knew that I wanted to stay abroad for most of the rest of my life, after I left the United States I made a concentrated effort to keep my ties to my family strong and healthy despite the distance. I went home on visits as often as I could, wrote and called my mother and father more frequently than I had before. In other words, I made sure they knew I loved them.

I didn’t just show it either, I also told them, many times, and with purpose, that I loved them. I knew that later I wouldn’t want to regret that I had not said something or not done something. And now, I’m happy that I took those precautions.

Unfortunately, both my mother and father were sick for quite a while before they passed away. To make sure that I was with them at the end, I would have had to let go of my own dream of living abroad, come home and stay there for years. I decided that I needed to pursue my own life, and I think that they understood and supported that decision – and what it meant.

However, I will tell you that, even though I am happy with the choices I have made, it hurts that I wasn’t there with them, at the end.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Before you go abroad to work, smooth things out at home. Make sure your relationship with your parents or other important family members is solid and meaningful. This way, you will minimize later regrets should they pass away while you are overseas.

TED’s Tips™ #2: Don’t just tell them you love them, show them you love them. Make an extra effort and be sure work out any grudges or bad feelings from the past. This will bring you peace later. Take my word for it.

TED’s Tips™ #3: Sorry, no one said all this was going to be easy.  Life decisions can be difficult.

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