While loss is an unavoidable part of life this side of eternity, many have noted that cross-cultural living comes with more loss than usual. Moving to a new culture, whether by choice or necessity, involves leaving things behind – parts of your identity, people and places you love, perhaps the ability to speak in full sentences. And unfortunately these losses typically continue for the duration, even extending to the losses you feel if you move back to your passport country.
Dr. Connie Befus, a psychologist who has been encouraging international workers for 35 years, says that in her work, “The two major issues that recur over and over again are: 1) an inability to rest sufficiently, and 2) a pile-up of ungrieved losses.” She warns, “If international workers do not have the ability to mourn all these losses appropriately, and a Biblical, theological perspective that helps them do so, they will not survive the accumulation of losses in a healthy way.”
But there is joy to be found! Perhaps surprisingly, the journey to joy winds through healthy grief. Dealing with negative emotions is what frees us up to fully enjoy our positive ones. The answer isn’t simply found in techniques, but in the person of Jesus, the man of sorrows.
I encourage you to watch this 90 minute webinar, hosted by the Olive Tree Counseling Center in March 2021: “Good Mourning: Dealing with Loss in Cross-Cultural Service.” Below you’ll find links to the PowerPoint handouts for the webinar, as well as a content outline.
Intercultural threshold-crossers are frequently overwhelmed by floods of difference. Language, ways of thinking, ethics, religion… it’s all paralyzingly, stupefyingly strange. Understanding our default reactions to…
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