How to Leave Well: Build a RAFT

When I wrote this post a few years ago we were in a middle of a move. No move this summer, but I have a son graduating. He has a big move ahead of him. With him building his RAFT and with the pandemic going on this year, I thought I’d add a few more thoughts.

This time of year is bittersweet for expats and their children. The excitement of summer coming means slower mornings – the breakfast rush of passing out pieces of bread to eat on the way to school is almost over. We know that we’ll get a few months break to recharge before starting back up in the fall. The crazy thing is that after a few days we miss rushing the kids off so they have something to do besides telling us they are bored. For me, though, this summer will be about the beach, a nice large cup of cold tea (I’m so addicted to these Taiwan teas), and it’s looking like packing boxes.

Yep, we are moving – just not sure when. Yeah, that is hard, but will save that for another post as I’m still processing the unknowns. Being married to a TCK, I’ve learned a few tricks from my husband in assisting my kids in this process called moving. My husband and I both really believe in building RAFTs, and this time we are being more intentional in helping our now older kids build their own.

I really don’t like saying, “Good-byes”. I’d just rather avoid or ignore all the emotions and feelings I have during this move, but I know I can’t  – I’ve just got to go through it because if I don’t I could regret it. I’ve found that building my RAFT has been the key for me to do it in a healthy and may I say, somewhat, graceful way.

So what is this “Building your RAFT” all about?

Are we building a boat? No, not literally. RAFT is an acronym that the late David C Pollock developed to help people transition. This process of moving can take up to six months or more. Below is the simple form of this model. If you have the opportunity to go to a seminar or workshop – GO! Seriously, it will change the way you do the move – and I’m not talking about a dance step.

R = Reconciliation 

Reconciliation is just that: reconciling with people, making the relationship right. Just because you leave a place doesn’t mean the problem goes away. It doesn’t – instead it goes with you. Research has been done on health related issues due to unforgiveness. Just google it and see for yourself.

A = Affirmation

Is there anyone you are super thankful for? Anyone who has helped you greatly while living in that city? Tell them. Let them know how much you appreciate them and what they did for you, for your kids, for your family. Awkward? Write a letter to tell them – but just tell them. You have the opportunity to make someone feel appreciated – and you’ll feel great that you did it.

F = Farewell

This is the not so fun part; saying good-bye. You immediately think of all the people you want to tell good-bye. An article I just read on this topic stated to rank your friends, which sounds harsh, but I do think is a good idea. Don’t forget to say “Good-bye” to places and things as well. This may sound strange, but it really helps to bring closure. This one is important for kids as well. Plan these “events” on a calendar so you get them in. I’ll write more on this later this week…so much you can do to help your kids here.

T = Think Destination

It’s just that – think about the next place. How will it be different from where you are now? How will it be the same? Go through this dialogue with your kids as well. It will help them in the process as well. Look up on the internet and read about the new place. Check it out on Google Maps. Reminder: It’s okay to feel excited about the new destination as you say good-bye to all the old things. It’s normal.

With the pandemic that rocked the world and seemed to turn it upside down this year, many people had to leave quickly without having a chance to build a proper RAFT. What can be done about that? How do you go day to day feeling incomplete or missing something? I’ve talked with a few friends who are in that situation. And you can Zoom, Face Time, or Skype in with people to tell them what you need to tell them. You can enter Google Earth to “visit” some of the places you couldn’t go and see. But, it’s not the same. I’m not sure there is an answer that wraps up the ugly, messy feelings in a nice red bow. In time things become normal. In time, you may get to return to say good-bye, but you can’t be sure everyone or everything will be there. You may find that you need to talk to a professional because the loss is traumatic and great. And as you are trying to figure it all out, you need to be mindful of your kids and help them process it as well. You are grieving as a family, which requires a good amount of grace and wisdom.

Image by Judith Scharnowski from Pixabay

Your Turn: Have you used this method when you moved? Or did you use another method. Please share a moving story. Please comment below.