Being away from home, or the family, can be difficult at times. Those used to it might just say, “It’s OK, we learn to cope with it.” But spending time away, especially during big holidays such as Raya (or even Christmas, CNY, Deepavali, Wesak, Gawai and Kaamatan, for that matter), can amplify that feeling of isolation and disconnect even further.
Although we understand that nothing can ever fill that void, or get rid of that cranky/grumpy feeling wherever you are (at work or abroad), here’s what you can do apart from count days, fill calendars and pray for time to pass by quicker so you’ll meet them again soon:
1. Keep Some Traditions
Doing things normally would be comforting for you. It may not be practical especially if you’re travelling, working or celebrating in a country that’s currently experiencing winter instead of summer like in Malaysia, but doing something special would definitely help to ease the pain. Try your hand at some traditional home-cooked meals such as ketupat, rendang, lemang and kuih raya. Or, if your family has a tradition such as watching a Raya movie on the day itself, go ahead and do it.
2. Invite Friends Or Colleagues To Celebrate With You
Chances are, other Malaysian friends or colleagues are feeling the same sadness, longing and homesickness. The best way to get rid of that loneliness is to share and reminisce together. After all, it’s better to share the feeling, and try to make something good out of it, instead of being by your lonesome. After all, family isn’t just blood. Your friends and colleagues are family too, to a certain extent. For whatever reason that you are separated from your family this holiday season, surround yourself with other people who make you smile!
3. Call Your Family And Loved Ones
The Internet is amazing! Calling and even seeing your loved ones is now possible due to technological advances, so be sure to schedule or call on Facetime or Skype, and allocate some time to spend chatting with your family members back home. Remember, they’re missing you as much as you are missing them – and physical distance does not determine emotional closeness.
4. Journal It Out
Ease your stress and upset by writing it all down. It has been proven that doing so will relieve you of the longing. Take time to write about your feelings, your greatest memories of past holidays, or what you’re looking forward to the next time you’re back home.
5. Listen To Holiday Music
Yes, this could be the last thing on your mind when you’re feeling homesick, but writing isn’t the only thing that can help alleviate the pain. Music can be cathartic too (or any form of art, for that matter). What’s your favourite Raya song? Start from there and let it unfold.
6. Look At Old Photographs Of You And Your Family
Things aren’t like in the movies where you have a lot of family photos in frames in your house or room (although you could do that, if you wanted to and if you had the time). Take some time to look at old photographs of past festivities, maybe observing them closely and noticing other things that you might not have noticed before, remembering when they were taken and the feelings they brought about.
7. Surround Yourself With Festive Decor
Time to take out the festive fairy lights or any other decor associated with the Raya celebrations, just to recreate that sense of being home, even if you’re away. This is the perfect time to ‘fake it ‘till you make it’! This also proves that no matter how far away you are, you can always have a piece of home or the holidays with you. Surrounding yourself with familiarity can definitely help beat the holiday blues.
If all else fails, then it’s time to get those Zzzzs in. Sleep itself is a luxury, and can make you feel rejuvenated after feeling all that sadness. It’ll make you feel better, and also make the holidays pass by faster.
9. Don’t Rub It In!
If you don’t go home but do wind up going for a weekend away with friends or throwing a dinner party, don’t make your family feel bad by posting all about it on Facebook or Instagram. The only thing you could probably post is: “To my family, I’m missing you.”
10. On The Bright-ish Side, Think About How There’s No Holiday Stress
Ten out of ten times, people would start complaining within the first hour of being surrounded by so many family members, relatives and other people in general. The holiday/family stress is real! We get reminded about how dysfunctional our families are at times, and with all the kids screaming here and there, it’s almost hard to not think about escaping at least once or twice. But, like all things in life, you don’t realise what you have until it’s gone.
Remember, home is not a place – but a feeling! Selamat Hari Raya!