Getting Homesick: It Happens To All Of Us (And How We Can Feel Better About It)


this blog post is part of a series, #oneblogpostaday.

the first part of this series is focused on consciousness + giving back.

Moving away from home is an inevitable part of life.

And for most of us, it’s bittersweet. No matter if we spent our childhood growing up in the same exact house, or moved around more often than not - the idea of leaving “home” is something that’s freeing but also scary at the same time.

And, the feeling doesn’t change as we get older. Actually - it might hit us differently as we move across different stages of life.

In my case, when I went off to college I couldn’t be more excited. Since I was only moving 45-minutes away from home, I felt like I was just dipping my toe into the water of growing up. Far, but not too far. And even though it seemed like I was worlds away, my parents could still bring me food if I wasn’t up for cooking (yes seriously, that happened).

So, it wasn’t until I studied abroad two years later when homesickness truly hit me. Of course, I had felt homesick before at sleepovers or in my dorm room, but never the deep, gut feeling of just wanting to go home and having no option to do it.

I couldn’t put my finger on why it felt so weird and overwhelming at the same time - but I wanted it over. Pronto.

Since that moment six (six!!!) years ago, I’ve had many, many more moments of feeling homesick. Whether it was spending months alone in the South Pacific, or moving across the country indefinitely - I don’t think we can ever wish away the feeling of craving home, comfort (and maybe mom’s meatballs).

Because, homesickness is more than just missing a house or family. It’s missing the person that we once were. It signals a deep moment of change. A shift in our lives.

And that is more scary than it is liberating.

I thought that this stage in my life had passed (I had lived out of my childhood home for 8 years!) by the time I moved to San Francisco. But, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

It took me nearly nine months to get out of the fog of homesickness. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was latching onto every conversation I had, every decision I made, every feeling that surfaced. I missing the idea of home more than I ever expected I would.

But, over time it passed. My homesickness morphed into a space of deep comfort that I returned to when I needed it.

Feeling uncomfortable with new situations happens to all of us. So, as I write this from the comfort of my childhood bedroom over the Thanksgiving holiday, here are some mindsets to remember when you’re craving that feeling of home - no matter where you are in the world.

This feeling, too shall pass

When we’re feeling discomfort, it seems like the moment will never end. It’s easy to imagine that we’ll feel this way…forever.

But, it’s extremely helpful to remind yourself that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. That you won’t feel this way forever. That in the beginning, discomfort is hard and sharp - but it’s edges smooth with time.

So, whenever that pang of discomfort hits - remember that it will go away, too.

You are normal

This feeling happens to everyone. Literally.

It’s part of the human experience to mourn a time or space that once was. And, homesickness impacts us all in both physical and mental ways. According to Rick Warren, a professor of psychiatry at University of Michigan is painful.

“Homesick has been described as a grief reaction, similar to having lost a loved one, but what the person is grieving is the loss of the familiar place. There’s a yearning and longing for the familiar,” he said.

“Homesickness is associated with feelings of depression and anxiety and oftentimes difficulty coping with the new environment,” Warren added. “It’s associated with insomnia, problems with appetite, difficulty concentrating. It’s a very painful condition.”

It’s helpful to know that these feelings that may arise during this time aren’t weird or abnormal. You are just going through a shift in the human experience that will pass, too.

It’s okay to talk about it

Something that I found really odd when I moved to California was that everyone expected me to love it right away.

When I came back to New York a few weeks after moving, the main question I got was: “Don’t you love it?! How is it?”. And when my answer was no; I was actually kind of struggling to like it - people felt awkward. Confused. Unsure of how to process my supposed weirdness for going through a huge freakin’ change in my life.

But, that didn’t stop me. And - it shouldn’t stop you either. If you’re in a new situation and you don’t love it right away (which is normal, remember?) - it’s okay to share those feelings. It’s important actually.

Of course, talking through it doesn’t mean complaining your head off. While it’s okay to have gripes and share your confusion - also keep in mind that this feeling will pass. Find someone you trust to share your discomfort and be honest + open about what’s scary/weird/confusing about it. Likely, they’ll share compassion for you and remember a time when they felt homesick, too.

Your new environment isn’t bad, just different

This mindset is really hard to remember when you’re in a new place - especially if you’re feeling homesick.

I found it really difficult to stop comparing everything to New York when I moved to San Francisco. The restaurants were worse. The people were weirder. The only thing that was better was the weather, in my mind.

I didn’t approach this life shift with the mindset of different isn’t bad. I mostly got caught in the comparison trap.

But, thinking of your new environment as a completely different stage in your life - no matter how long it is - is helpful in creating new associations with this place. It’s also fun to create a game out of it, too. Maybe you try to rack up “all the best XYZ” in your new spot.

Approaching this shift with a creative, inquisitive, curious mindset is a huge step in signaling to your discomfort that: it’s okay. This place isn’t scary. I will be fine.

Have you ever experienced homesickness? If so, how did you deal with it?

Share your thoughts in the O.A. Facebook Group - your experience could inspire others who might be going through something similar!

Katina Mountanos