The Not So Pretty Side of Leaving

I was sitting on my bright orange couches in my small apartment in Durres, Albania and broke down in tears at thought of leaving a place that I love and that has become home for the last 3 years. I recently became engaged and made the decision to move back to North America to be closer to my fiancé and get married in the Spring. This was a moment I should be celebrating and overjoyed about, but I felt the heaviness of guilt, disappointment and shame.

Leaving Albania meant that I would be ending my term early.

I am a natural born perfectionist. Someone who hates quitting in the middle of something. The thought of not completing my term and leaving for what I thought were selfish reasons weighed heavily on me. I kept thinking, “No, you don’t deserve to be happy. You need to stay for the mission.” I continuously searched for someone else’s opinion to make me feel better about the decision to resign and return early.

I couldn’t shake these feelings of disappointment – as if I was disappointing my team, my organization, and Albanians. This small city became a home. I came as a single girl – no family or friends were by my side when I landed in Durres. Over the years, my Albanian community took me in and treated me as if I was a part of their family. We broke bread together, wept together, shared deep belly laughs together, celebrated the high moments of life together, and prayed through the difficulties of life together. They were the people that saw me through my awkward season of language learning and cultural immersion – that really bonds you with people!

In January I packed up my apartment and at the time of writing, I have been Stateside for a month. I am still grieving the end of that season. Over the past month I have experienced anger, sadness, fear, loneliness. Leaving the field early was one of the hardest decisions I had to make. People keep saying that I should be so happy because I found the love of my life, but it’s been hard to soak that in when I continually feel like I let God down.

Sitting alone one morning in Chicago I asked God for truth. I was desperate to hear from Him, and that quiet morning I heard a few things:

  1. God is still working in Albania. He loves Albania and is still changing people’s lives. I am thankful for the role I got to play in His plan.
  2. God still loves me regardless of location/job, and He is walking me through this transition of life.
  3. Don’t be scared to talk about your feelings with your close circle of people. They care about you and want to help process this new journey.
  4. Give yourself grace. The process is hard and it’s ok to grieve.

I am reminded of a C.S. Lewis quote, “There are far, far better things ahead.” I was able verbalize out loud that I am still following God and He has new things waiting for me, but it wasn’t until I fully accepted that truth that I started to have peace about the decision to leave Albania early.

What were the hardest parts of leaving for you? What has been helpful to you in the midst of transition? What are some truths you have heard?

6 Comments

  1. Kirstin Durfey May 16, 2018

    I can completely relate to this. Leaving after 3 and a half years was so hard for me. And that thing about giving yourself grace? I find I’m still learning that ten months after returning, but I have learned to do so in so many ways. God’s tenderness and kindess and grace has become so real to me in such tangible ways through returning. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Kimberli Tundevold May 16, 2018

    “I couldn’t shake these feelings of disappointment – as if I was disappointing my team, my organization, and Albanians.” Yes! That is exactly how I feel sometimes. I think that it is a self-imposed feeling but it stings all the same. Especially the people! My friends. How do I say goodbye to them in a way that cherishes the time we’ve had together? Ahh. More questions. Thank you for this reminder that there are good things from a good Father ahead.

  3. Monica May 17, 2018

    Something that helped me during our departure from Asia, was the blessings we received from our local friends… without realizing how much I needed it- I was desperate to have their ‘permission’ to return home for my husband to finish his degree program and be near aging parents. Being released in love by our local friends and family meant more to me than anything, because I too felt self-imposed guilt- letting down God, my team, the ‘work’. We still keep in touch with those dear friends, and like your bullet points above: God is working, He loves me no matter where I am, and He determines or steps, seasons, and paths. I’m confident your Albanian family is releasing you in love and excited for your next season in life… it doesn’t necessarily make the pain or separation easier, but there is comfort in having that blessing. Prayers for you!

  4. Elizabeth May 17, 2018

    I could so relate to this. I also left my country of service early to get married about 3.5 years ago now. “The thought of not completing my term and leaving for what I thought were selfish reasons weighed heavily on me. … I am still grieving the end of that season. Over the past month I have experienced anger, sadness, fear, loneliness.” Even though it’s gotten better, there are still moments of emotions stemming from that period of leaving even though what I was leaving for has been wonderful and I would do it again.

  5. L. Larsen May 17, 2018

    Heather, Thank you for sharing from your experience. I too became engaged while working overseas and could relate to a lot of what you wrote, especially what you said about feelings of guilt and searching for outside opinions to confirm that you were making the right choice.

    I returned to the States in Dec. with just two short moths to celebrate the holidays with family and prepare for the wedding. It was (is) challenging incorporating a cross-cultural transition with the transition to marriage. I’ve experienced a lot of grief for the life I left behind (both my place overseas and my life as a single woman) and have felt guilt over that as well. Aren’t newlyweds supposed to be blissfully happy? But I’ve felt God’s gentle encouragement to embrace and wade through the grief instead of pushing it aside. And as I’ve allowed myself to experience the grief in His presence and with those closest to me, it has been freeing me to experience the joys of this new season of life more fully as well.

  6. Casual First of Summer Friday | Paracletos May 18, 2018

    […] gut-wrenching experience. Heather Jedrezejcxyk left for good reasons and still wrestled with guilt. Maybe her thoughts would resonate with someone you know who has recently transitioned out of field […]

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