How to deal with nostalgia and homesickness

If you read between the lines, then you already know that I’m an immigrant. I had once lived in the middle of Europe, in an old city full of 18th century churches and 19th century buildings. I used to speak only one language, eat seasonal and organic without knowing, and live the uni-cultural life.


Now I live surrounded by three languages, in a much younger city, where people are from all over the world.

To me, immigration is a bit like failed heart operation. There’s always a hole that will never disappear. But there’s also this new part of the heart growing next to the hole. It can’t and it won’t replace the missing piece, but it’s there, pulsing with life.

The hole in a heart of an immigrant is made from all these things that have been left behind. Smells of a home city in the spring, friendly faces of neighbours passing by, favourite spots in the heart of the city from the past. Food that can’t be replaced anywhere else, made by an elderly aunt, who used only produce of her garden. The sound of people chattering in a language of childhood, language in which lullabies were softly sung. The things that nor Skype, nor FaceTime can’t bring.

And of course people. Even though with the modern technology we can connect with people living far, then still it can’t replace hugging your grandmother when she’s sad. Or going on a walk with her. It can’t replace holding your friends baby. It can’t replace just sitting with your best friend and looking at the stars like you used to do.

And yet, there’s this whole new part of heart that has grown! All these people who became your family. Some of them so close that you can’t imagine a life without them. New tastes and new smells that became a part of who you are.

But still, as an immigrant you can’t help it, you get nostalgic. You miss experiences that you can’t live, people from the past and places far away.

How to deal with it? Fight it, or live it and fall in to sadness deeper and deeper? Is it possible to explain it to someone, who lived all their life in one place with the same people around?

But there is also this assurance of knowing, that you can change everything around you, because you already did it once. The confidence that immigration has installed in you. You’ve made it. And you know how strong it have made you.

Whether you moved to a different city or a different country, homesickness is a part of the deal. How to live with it without getting depressed.

And yet, the nostalgia and homesickness hits once in a while. I know that the more I let myself think about it, the worst it gets. To the point when I just feel like sitting and crying. So for me the best thing is to redirect it in to action. Take care of my home and my kids, work, see other people. I know it’ll come back, but that’s the price I pay for living two lives.

So whether you moved to a different city or a different country you know that nostalgia and homesickness are a part of the deal. Here’s what you can do about it :

1. Live it. Let yourself feel the sadness of loss.
Feel your emotions without submerging them or pushing them away. Listen to music that let’s you remember your loss, look at old photos, eat food that makes you remember the tastes, call friends and cry on the phone. There’s a chance that after a while you’re going to hit the bottom of your messy sadness and that then you’ll be able to leave it behind. But if you just feel like you’re getting really depressed then there’s another option:

2. Repulse it.
Get to work, see your new friends, or talk to old friends about new projects. Plan the future and start doing new things. Get busy with life. Help others who have bigger problems. Have kids ( they usually keep people busy for years! )

3. Just talk about it without getting overwhelmed by it.
Talking to someone who really listens is healing on its own. Sometimes just hearing our thoughts said aloud can be therapeutical. Also things that are said aloud are less heavy, and easier to get over.

4. Create a memory album.
Virtual or with good old paper and scissors. Redirect your nostalgia, sadness and homesickness in to creativity. Reunite in one place scraps of your old live, and make it in to a place you can turn to for comfort.

Above all, I try to remember that the sadness I may fell is a consequence of the best choice I have ever made in my entire live. It’s just a part of who I am. And that without it, I couldn’t be with my family now. So I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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  1. These are great tips. I’m currently living in Northern Norway originally from the states. As the days get shorter and the nights get longer seasonal depression creeps in and my homesickness becomes more apparent. I’m hoping between work, 2 kids and school I will be busy enough to keep myself from becoming too homesick and/or depressed. Fingers crossed

  2. Great tips and some of them work, for me hitting the gym longer is a great escape because it’s an activity that allows you to think in your own language and that does not need any kind of company other than the total strangers working out beside you.
    I moved to Canada on my own relatively recently and still have not found solid ground. I haven’t made many acquaintances yet and the few I have are so very enclosed in their lives that do not have time to include a new friend, or so they say. So lonely days after work are almost routine by now. Scrapbooking and Journaling helps, but I have to say that giving in to a good cry and call my family to tell them how much I miss them helps a lot too.

    Thank you!

  3. I am an immigrant, and as Nehru says, I feel “out of place everywhere, at home nowhere “. I left a piece of my heart in my home country and left everything behind to build a new life across the ocean. There is always a part of me that gets emotional by seeing footsteps of the past, your article made me cry, you said it on the spot, the hole in the heat… Thanks for your beautiful article.

  4. I’m not an immigrant so I can’t say I know how you feel, but growing up in foster care since the age of 9, and now finally at age 18 I move back in with my biological mom. I’ve been feeling more and more homesick to the days before foster care, Back when my family was together. I was younger and lived with both my sisters and both my mom and dad. Nowadays I live with just my mom and just my older sister (not that I’m not extremely glad and happy that I can Atleast have that back again) and I’m constantly battling homesickness to back in my early days. I spend most my time thinking about it, and how every day feels the same. My mom has cut off all of my family since the break up between her and my father, including my uncle and aunt who you’d think I’d still have contact with at the very least. It feels like my original life I grew up with is completely gone, like I’m not even the same human that once was my younger self. I don’t wanna say it’s giving my depression because I’ve definitely been worse, but it’s such a sad sad feeling that I feel like I can’t ever fix.

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