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Families are often the very foundation of who we are. They can drive us nuts at times, but at the end of the day, you may feel grateful to have them in your life.

If you are separated from family due to distance, you may question the legitimacy of the following phrase: “distance makes the heart grow fonder”. This is because, for many people who move to a new country, this could not be further from the truth.

When someone immigrates to a new country, they are likely doing it for several reasons. They may be fleeing from unsafe conditions or a poor economy, their life might be in danger, they might pursue a job opportunity, etc. A common theme among most reasons for immigration is the pursuit of a “better future”, for them and/or their family. 

Even though the focus is on a better future, that doesn’t make it any easier. Many immigrants to the United States do so out of fear of what may happen to them or their families otherwise. Any huge life changes like this could negatively impact one’s mental health, especially when it comes to being separated from family.

How Does Separation From Family Affect Mental Health?

It Could Cause Anxiety

Being thousands upon thousands of miles away from home is not easy. Even though we are living in a modern age where we have access to video chatting and texting, that doesn’t exactly substitute for physical proximity and feeling touch and physical affection from loved ones.

parents sitting in the grass smiling at their children who are sitting on their lapsBeing in a different time zone can pose many challenges to connecting with one another. What may be the start of their day could be the late-night ending of yours. Not being able to easily and instantly connect with loved ones can cause anxiety levels to spike. It could leave everyone wondering what is going on with each other, and each person involved could experience potential feelings of stress or worry when they go a day or two without hearing from the other because everyone got wrapped up in their day-to-day lives.

Depression Is More Likely To Manifest Itself

Experiencing feelings of depression is already quite common for immigrants as they adjust to their new life. Being separated from their closest support system can exponentially increase these feelings. For many immigrants, leaving their families behind is the hardest choice they might have ever had to make. Factoring in the uncertainty of their legal status and not knowing when they will see family again does not make things easier.

With depression may also come feelings of shame and guilt. One might wonder, “was this the right choice?”; “maybe I shouldn’t have made this decision”; “I feel guilty for missing huge milestones in my family’s life?” The list, and the distressing feelings involved, can go on endlessly.

Experiencing Trauma While Being Apart From Family

If you left your family due to an unsafe environment, you may fear for their safety back home. 

Trauma and PTSD symptoms could occur because of highly stressful situations. Even if someone is physically removed from dangerous situations following immigration, they may still experience anxiety and even vicarious trauma because of the fear for their loved ones’ safety, and even if they hear about the trauma their family and loved ones may be experiencing back home. 

Families Are The Glue That Could Hold Us Together

If you’re fortunate to have a strong support system and experience an emotional connection to your family, being separated from them, no matter where you or they may be living, could potentially impact your mental health.

Following this, having an immigration evaluation, such as a Hardship Evaluation, completed by a therapist could help you with obtaining residency or citizenship in the United States. A Hardship Evaluation can provide evidence about how either remaining geographically separated from or relocating to a different country with, your family member could be negatively impacting your mental health based on several factors related to extreme hardship. While you could potentially write a letter explaining this yourself, your case may be much stronger when a therapist conducts this evaluation for you, especially since they would assess you and your future in more objective ways.

As a psychologist, I can not only provide you with a Hardship Evaluation but can also help you find solutions for long-term relief. Feel free to reach out to me or use me as a referral if you have a client who could benefit from my services.