The 5 stages of repat grief

This weekend I quietly celebrated my 5th repativersary. Hard to believe we’ve been back home in Canada the same amount of time we were away. And incredibly, we’re not just surviving — we’re thriving. (If you had told me back in June 2007 that I’d be saying that in 2012, I would have laughed cried in your face.)

It’s been a rocky road, but I managed to come out the other side relatively unscathed. What helped? Friends, old and new. Blogging and all the rewards that come with it. Watching  my daughters grow into intelligent and happy young women. Finding meaningful work after a long time without. And my recent trip to Singapore, which did a wonderful job of pushing my reset button and finally giving me some peace.

Mostly, though, what’s brought me from emotional wreckage to contentment has been the passage of time. I’m a great believer in its power — I’m not sure it completely heals all wounds, but it does ease the ache after a while.

Speaking of time, today I spent a ridiculous amount of it playing with some presentation software. And since my journey of the past half-decade has been on my mind lately, I put together this quick little piece on the 5 stages of repat grief.


About Maria

I'm a Canadian repatriate, former expat spouse, mother to two TCKs (and one yellow Lab), mentor to new immigrants, writer, reader, world traveller (grounded for now). I write about expat/repat issues and am still trying to figure out my place in the world.
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25 Responses to The 5 stages of repat grief

  1. Joburg Expat says:

    Maria – I am sitting here in tears. it felt like your were looking right into my mind. Thank you.

  2. Since I’m grappling with the reality of having to think about repatriating myself back to Oz, I’m so glad to hear about the thriving part, Maria. Sadly your movie was too much for my internet connection, but I take heart that at the end of five stages there’ll be ‘thriving’. Congratulations!

  3. Elisabeth says:

    Thanks for this Maria…

  4. Judy says:

    That is excellent! Do share the software you used (pretty please).

    So true about time being key. It was 3 years for me this month, 2 years for my husband. I am definitely through the other side, he is just about getting there. Many people seem to say it takes 2 years at least. For me, keeping a foot in the expat world by joining organizations like my local Newcomers Club and Families in Global Transition, as well as online groups, has really helped as well.

    • Maria says:

      Thanks Judy. You too can slave away for 10 hours to make a 2-minute presentation — just go to And I agree with the minimum 2-year figure. A lot of people have told me that’s their magic number, although for me it took closer to three years.

  5. naomihattaway says:

    Well done presentation!

  6. Joseph Nebus says:

    It’s a good reminder. I felt defeated when my expatriate life came to an end. That’s largely recovered now, and I admit I like that I now have a position where I can be mostly living and working away from my birthplace — same country, but different region — with reason to fly back and forth monthly or so, which I’m hoping will give some of that same enjoyment.

  7. Wow, such talent. I never knew. Now I need someone to write a presentation for me at work…

  8. Craig says:

    Great job. I especially like the quotations that illustrate each stage.

  9. Simply set this video to upbeat music and it makes all the difference. After nearly 30 years of being ‘mobile’ I’m returning next week and really looking forward to being in a community in which I can make decisions, voting and living in a house which I own. Will let you know how things go! Donna

  10. I love the presentation! By the way, Prezi is an Hungarian start up…

  11. expatlogue says:

    Wow! Thanks for this Maria, it really struck a chord with me. We’ve been in Canada 2 years now and I can’t shake the despondency when I think about leaving to return to the UK. I’d be happy to stay here or even take a new posting (I guess), but the idea of going home makes me feel as though all the excitement in my life will be over. I dread having to face that – I don’t think I’l be much fun to be around for quite a while.
    But, having said that, Donna’s comment about looking at it from a different perspective gave me a chink of hope.
    Kudos for the presentation – evidence of your current thriving. Nothing like learning new skills for boosting your self-worth.

  12. That was wonderful Maria, great post!
    Our second repativersary is coming up this month and overall I must say its good to be home. I will however, A L W A Y S treasure the fond memories of being an expat and feel lucky to have experienced it..
    (Isn’t it funny, how I don’t consider myself an expat here in Norway)

  13. Leslie says:

    Maria, You really hit the nail on the head with this summary of reentry shock. I’ve been an expat several times, and each time it has taken about the same amount of time that lived abroad to readjust to back to the US when I returned home. Even when I was a kid, it was hard coming home. Three years abroad meant three years of readjusting when I got back home. As I look back on those years. I see that the first year was the hardest, and each year got better and better.

    I wonder, did you know about reentry shock before you came home?

    • Maria says:

      The first year is definitely the hardest! And I’m embarrassed to tell you that I knew about all reentry shock, I just didn’t think it would affect me because I’d spent a month back in Canada every summer and I figured that would save me. It didn’t.

  14. Francesca says:

    I could not find the words…you put them in writing for me. Thank you

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