Seven Steps to Live Through Death

About a week into living with my permanent host family, a close member of their family passed away. This understandably disturbed every member of the family, and completely altered what I expected out of my adjustment to their home. I decided to post a blog about this topic because this has been a large part of my experience abroad thus far, and I would like be candid about the highs and lows of becoming a part of a new family. In this blog I hope to offer support to anyone who may go through a similar situation. Below are seven steps to to live through the unanticipated:

  1. Breathe. No, this definitely wasn’t brought up at Program Launch. It’s okay to panic at the sheer unexpectedness of the situation, but don’t forget that you will get through it.

  2. Remember that life, and death, happens. The world doesn’t stop turning so you can have a fun, carefree year abroad.

  3. Know your place, but ignore the voice in your head telling you you’re a burden on the family. You came into their lives for a reason, and your role here is to offer support however you can. Do the dishes, play with the kids, bring your abuelita her arroz con carne.

  4. Be there for your host family, but don’t forget to take care of yourself. Don’t feel selfish for thinking about what you need throughout this, whether it be time alone, sleep, or to call a friend.

  5. Be the silly gringa when your host family needs it. You may not realize the value of the foreigner in painful times to uplift everyone’s spirits and make extended family members laugh.

  6. Forget about the language barrier. In moments like this, nothing can be said in any language to fix the situation. What you can do is be there to listen to whoever needs to talk, no matter if you understand them or not.

  7. Keep breathing. Take time to appreciate your host family and the support from your cohort, GCY staff, friends and family back home.