One of the many challenges of living abroad and away from homeland is the difficult journey back home for bereavement. I have seen that this topic is not discussed, and often leads to confusion and anger. That is why I want to talk about bereavement travel for Immigrants especially. Though, this may apply to all who live far from home.
What Is Bereavement Travel?
When you are away from home, and need to travel back for a loved one who may be on death-bed or unfortunately having passed away, that is what Bereavement Travel is. While all of us do not want to think of this eventuality of humanity, yet when the time comes of bad news, we need to made hard choices and travel to comfort our loved ones and to find closure.
Should You Travel?
Depending on your circumstances and health, this may be a question you need to ask yourself. For many of us who live in the West and the flight back home is nothing less than 24 hours (accounting for connections and transits), it is a harsh truth that we may not make it in time for burial. As per our Islamic teachings, we are advised to complete the burial as soon as possible. That said, should you travel is a question based on your personal situation.
Let me help you by talking about some key aspects of Bereavement Travel For Immigrants:
1. Know Your Employment Bereavement Policy
I suggest finding out from your employer on your Bereavement Leave options. Many companies offer some paid days, as well as, unpaid days for this travel. Do not wait for this unfortunate time to determine what your options are.
2. Determine WHO Will Travel
We as a couple had this harsh discussion early-on in our newly immigrant life, to decide who will travel, if the need be. The most logical answer was that the person who’s loved one is impacted should leave. We agreed that the spouse staying behind will take care of the house and children.
I believe the time of loss is the most vulnerable one. This is when as a spouse one should step up and take the initiative to book the ticket for the traveling person and get things in order.
3. Set Aside Funds For The Travel
Have a fund set aside for Bereavement Travel as an immigrant, or someone who lives abroad. A general idea for someone who lives in Canada/USA is to have 3K-5K set aside. (If living elsewhere in the world, determine the cost and set funds aside accordingly.)
This ensures that at the last minute you are not trying to google for cheaper flights or calling travel agents. Instead focus on getting on the shortest route back home.
4. Book Directly With The Airline
Book directly with the airline, as many airlines offer Bereavement Fares or after-travel Bereavement Adjustment. I suggest having an idea of what airlines go to your destination before hand, and explore what are their Bereavement policies. This may allow you to change your ticket without fee or ask for a discount. Do your research so that you are better prepared.
5. Have Your Passport Accessible
I’ve talked to many people living abroad and have been surprised to learn that they keep their passport at the bank in a security deposit box. Please consider this; if unfortunately you have to travel on the weekend or a bank holiday, you are stuck until the next working day to access your passport. Instead keep it handy and accessible. Also, ensure that it is valid. Most airlines require you to have a passport with at least 6 months of validity to board a flight.
6. Withdraw Cash For Unexpected Needs
While nowadays credit cards are the norm in the West, they might be flagged for fraudulent activity overseas and blocked. A good idea is to withdraw cash and travel with it. You can easily exchange it on the arrival airport through their currency exchange counter.
7. Do Not Hesitate To Ask For Help
For Immigrants, living abroad means making our friends as our family. This is especially important when as a woman you may be hesitant to travel, as you will be concerned for your children. In such situation, reach out and talk with your friends and ask for help. Anything from after school care, school pick and drop to maybe a food chain to help your family can fall in this category. I do understand that many hesitate to ask for help. This should not be the case. Take the leap of faith and you may find more help than expected waiting for you.
8. Get Your Spouse On-Board
Last, but NOT the least, get your spouse on-board this planning and talk it out. Be clear on the aspects of ‘who will travel’ and ‘what will be done’. One person cannot make all the decisions. Also, talk with each other and offer suggestions on how the other person will step up.
For example, when unfortunately we faced the loss of my Father-in-Law, I knew that my husband cannot make decisions due to the loss. I booked the ticket (Make sure you use the traveling spouse’s credit card). I withdrew money from the bank, and packed hims suitcase. Also, I called my neighbor and told her I need help with food, and she sent us dinner.
I am sharing my example to give you an insight on how to proceed.
The harsh reality for us now is, to have these hard discussions. I hope that this post helps you in some way.
Let me know if you would like to add any other point to this post of Bereavement Travel For Immigrants. This would help the future readers.
This post is based on my own opinions and thoughts.
Image purchased through Scopio website from Nuzhat Jahan