For those who have difficulty returning to their hometowns or familiar places

Goodbye without Leaving

Studies of migrants and refugees abroad have shown that “forced evacuation” and “forced relocation” are not only physically, psychologically, and economically burdensome, but they also tend to lead to a variety of mental and physical health problems.


Dr. Boss has had a similar experience. The lonely appearance of her father, who left his family in Switzerland and immigrated to the United States, was the initial event that prompted Dr. Boss to consider the concept of “ambiguous loss”. At the end of her father’s letters to his mother and siblings who were no longer able to see him, he always wrote, “Will we ever see each other again?” and she has said that her father always seemed so sad when thinking about his home country.

The feeling of loss when thinking of a hometown that is unavoidably far away can be much more profound than people think.


Dr. Boss recommends the idea of “A and B thinking” when encountering such ambiguous loss. This is called “Dialectical Thinking”, and it is a way of embracing and accepting both poles of A and B rather than deciding on either A or B.


For example, instead of thinking, “I’m sorry I left my hometown,” or “I have to forget my hometown…”, you can live in a new place and not forget your feelings for your hometown, which is full of memories. “Even though I’ve left my hometown, it’s still an important place to me.” Dr. Boss uses the concept of “A and B thinking” to encourage people to be flexible in tempering their thinking rather than confronting various changes.


There are probably many people among those who have had this kind of experience that just keep plugging along all this time. It’s the equivalent of running a car at full speed. You may have roused yourself to move forward in the fastest gear to climb the steep hill that always stands in front of you. However, if one continues to run at full speed like that, they will become burned out.


The important thing to do is to change gears. Just like when you slow down your car by changing gears, gradually change your life and thoughts to a slower and more effortless gear.


What does it mean for you and your family to change gears then?

Talk about it as a family to find the answer. Include your children in the circle, if possible, when you talk about it. Sometimes children are more creative and come up with new ideas. These discussions are a very important step for your family to sort out current issues and continue to live more happily in the future.