Veterinary Chris Hong
Registered Psychologist
Veterinary Chris HongVeterinary Chris Hong
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Migration has been a fundamental part of human history. We can argue that modern societies have been shaped and continue to evolve through both large-scale and individual migration. In today's globalized world, with a connected, virtualized, and digital economy, as well as the ability to traverse vast distances in mere hours, migration is taking on new dimensions and significance. Our lives can transform drastically in the blink of an eye, and this transformation has profound effects on our identity, thoughts, emotions, and behaviour.

It's crucial to recognize that migration doesn't merely entail a change in physical location but also a profound shift in our psychosocial makeup linked to the transition. In other words, migration, beyond the obvious change in geography, represents a swift alteration in culture, surroundings, norms, customs, routines, language, social connections, family, employment, and interpersonal dynamics. Migration brings about a collision of two worlds: the familiar and the unknown, the known and the potentially uncomfortable. It requires us to release preconceived notions about who we are and embrace a life where navigating uncertainty and discomfort is the unavoidable initial step. Consequently, it's unsurprising that migration inherently involves a multitude of psychological challenges and complex experiences. In essence, migration equates to a type of grieving process.

This is where the concept of migratory grief becomes essential. Understanding this concept is non-negotiable when it comes to comprehending migration from a psychological standpoint. In Australia, a nation founded and continually enriched by migration, comprehending the concept of migratory grief is imperative to establish effective mental health treatments for prevention and support. Migratory grief, like any form of grief, when left unexamined, unexperienced, or unaccepted, can lead to a cascade of complex symptoms, including psychological suffering, depression, and anxiety. Research suggests that achieving full psychological adjustment after migration can take around a decade, and migratory grief, like ambivalent grief in general, is something that one never completely overcomes. From my perspective as a migrant, a man, and a psychologist, understanding migratory grief through my own experience has been both challenging and profoundly enlightening.

Particularly among males, migratory grief can prove exceptionally intricate due to gender expectations—both internal and external. We are often expected to embody strength and capability, attributes that we sometimes mistakenly conflate with the denial and avoidance of our more intricate emotions. Courageously seeking help and embracing vulnerability is often misinterpreted as weakness, even though it signifies quite the opposite. Acknowledging our humanity in all its complexities is one of the most courageous acts we can undertake as men. When migrating as part of a couple or family, societal expectations around gender roles can create added pressure to constantly exhibit strength, be driven by ambition, and pursue goals relentlessly. Although this drive aligns with the purpose of migration, it can inadvertently lead to questioning our masculinity when the signs of migratory grief and cultural shock emerge. At these moments, we may doubt ourselves, attacking our own worth as if something were inherently wrong, when, in truth, we are simply undergoing a profoundly human experience. It's during these times that we may retreat into isolation as a defense mechanism, grounded in shame, rather than seeking connection and continuing to adapt to our new place of residence.

To effectively manage migratory grief as men, it is advisable to cultivate a capacity for compassionate self-reflection. Revisiting and embracing the habits, hobbies, sports, and activities that are part of our core identity is crucial, as is integrating new interests from the culture we've embraced. Recognizing that perpetual strength and stoicism are not required and that healthy masculinity includes the ability to acknowledge, manage, and express our emotions is essential. Self-care for both our bodies and minds should be viewed as a guiding life philosophy. It's acceptable to go to the gym, make language mistakes in your attempts to master a new tongue, admit ignorance in certain matters, become a learner again, feel nostalgia for your home country while appreciating your new surroundings, and, above all, ask for support when needed. These actions are all manifestations of self-respect and personal responsibility. These actions come with an opportunity for growth and the development of a more profound and integral notion of healthy masculinity.

Felipe Arenas Ortiz

Colombian – Australian



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