To some extent, we have all felt homesick before. Whether it be the sudden pang of loneliness while away on a trip or the longing to taste the meals grandma used to make, homesickness expresses itself in many ways. It is the mixture of vulnerability and nostalgia that make the sensation feel so raw and emotional. So, while many people experience homesickness differently, many can agree that it overall sucks.
Despite this being a widely-known universal feeling, homesickness is a big part of the immigrant experience that often gets overlooked. Part of the baggage of settling in a new country is going through a journey of healing and moving on from what has been left behind. When I was getting ready to immigrate to the States, it didn’t hit me that I would be leaving my home and family as hard until I was already living in Atlanta for a few months. In the beginning, it all felt so new and exciting, but then as time went on, it felt depressing. I kept thinking about my life prior to moving, and the weight of my thoughts was hard to carry as I struggled adjusting to the American public school system and overcoming my shyness to make new friends.
There were moments where I truly felt alone, as if I was the only one missing life back in Puerto Rico. The fact that there is little to no discourse or resources regarding homesickness within the immigrant community makes it a silent struggle. While being an immigrant already comes with its own set of challenges, mental health should not be regarded as the least important one. Making the big life decision to leave your country of origin is bound to have some mental repercussions and that is nothing to be ashamed about.
Many believe that immigrants should be happy to be where they are now and, while it is a blessing, this narrative makes their homesickness seem like ungratefulness. This does not come from a place of malice, but more so ignorance. One can miss the way something was in the past due to personal ties and connections while simultaneously being appreciative of what you have now. There is a sense of comfort and belonging associated with one’s country of origin, whether the rest of the world considers said country idealistic or not.
All things considered, there should be more open conversations about mental health and homesickness, as well as more resources and counseling options for these types of struggles. Bottling things up prolongs the healing process and can make one feel more alone than they actually are. In order to fully embrace the future in a new home, it is important to acknowledge feelings for one’s homeland and why. That way, support systems can be found to help alleviate those troubling emotions and turn them into joyful anticipation for the future.