If you find yourself looking at cupboards, shelves, or wall hangings and wondering what to pack, what to sell, and what just needs to be thrown away, then you might need to build a RAF(G)T. If you are preparing to make a major move to a new location, maybe even overseas, then you need to build a RAF(G)T.
RAFT* stands for Reconciliation, Affirmation, Farewell, and Think Destination. It was crafted by the late David Pollock, one of the founding conspirators of what has now become a household term for those who have moved with their families to countries different than their passports. This term would be third culture kid, or TCK for short. It includes missionary kids (MKs), business kids (BKs), and military "brats".
How do you "build" one?
It is not a literal raft that you use to sail to your next destination, but rather a tool to help you leave and say your good-byes well. A lifetime of goodbyes can accumulate like rocks in a backpack that just get heavier and heavier unless one takes them out and processes them. RAFT is a tool that can help you process.
What is the (G) About?
The "G" stands for Grief, which I do believe is a bit more than Farewell. Lauren Wells describes in her book Unstacking the Grief Tower that TCKs tend to just stack those rocks of grief into a tower until one day when they are older the tower can no longer stand, and it tumbles. Her book helps the reader not only just look at the rocks, but to process each one. These rocks are not necessarily grief from always leaving, but I do believe that many can be.
So, are you ready to build your RAF(G)T?
R = Reconciliation
Reconciliation, reconciling is all about forgiveness and making right the relationship as much as you can. Sometimes it is not safe to have full reconciliation and other times it's not possible, but I do think it is about forgiving. It's about letting go of the past hurt and pain. Hanging on to past hurt and pain does not just disappear when you move. It goes with you like packing rocks in your backpack. Those rocks get heavy. Not being able to forgive leads to bitterness. And bitter people are not fun to be around.
But it is also about checking your heart to see if you need to ask someone for forgiveness. Unresolved conflict is not something you want to cram into that already full suitcase or box. So, as you are packing boxes and suitcases check your heart and see if there is anyone you need to forgive or that you need to ask for forgiveness.
A = Affirmation
Affirmation is easier to work through as you want to let those in your life know how grateful you are for them. But where do you begin? I suggest that you make a list of people who have helped you and your family. List specifically what you are thankful for. Then take time to tell them in person. This lets that person know how much this relationship has meant to you and you'll find out how much you meant to them.
F = Farewell
Goodbyes are hard. Many people would just like to skip this part of leaving. But just as a funeral or a graduation marks a moment of change, taking time to say goodbye helps both the one leaving and the one staying. Just as in Affirmation, I suggest making a list of people who you need to say goodbye to. Then I would take one more step and rank those people. Some people are part of your inner circle of friends and may need a more intimate time to say goodbye; others could be done at a "sendoff" party of sorts. A final thought on this topic of Farewell is that one needs to say goodbye to places and possessions that have been important to you as well. This is especially important for kids. So, again, make a list of things to do one more time. And then put it on the calendar to do it. Take photos - lots of photos of the people, places and possessions you will miss when you leave.
G = Grief
As mentioned earlier, grief is more than just goodbyes. It also recognizes the regrets and losses you may experience. Regrets to what you wished you could have done or seen or the fact that you had to leave. Gina Brenna Butz writes in her book Making Peace with Change that the loss of who we are and what we do, as well as the loss of being known and knowing how to live in the new place all goes into producing grief. These goodbyes, regrets, and losses collect like streams that all converge together forming a large wave. And if we do not take the time to acknowledge the grief by mourning and processing the losses and regrets then grief will find another way out. Elizabeth Vahey Smith writes that "intentional processing can help us gain perspective on difficult situations" (p.42). Grief will come out one way or another and processing it may be hard but is less damaging than not.
T = Think Destination
This can be a fun and exciting stage. Start looking at what is to come, but you also need to look at the internal and external resources. With internal resources, look at how you cope in stressful situations. Do you need new coping mechanisms as transition tends to bring on stress? Then external resources are looking at your support structure and finances. Do you need extra help in the new place? Is there anyone that you can reach out to help be a bridge to give you advice and tips on how to live in the new location? Then, of course, look at pictures of places to visit near your new location, housing options, neighborhoods, and local markets. Many travel blogs and websites could give you other insights about your new place of residence, the place you will call home.
Moving to a new location can be daunting for sure, but if you have some tools and resources like RAF(G)T it can help. Also, having someone work through grief and loss is helpful. If you are interested in talking more about RAF(G)T, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
* Pollock, D., Van Reken, R., Pollock M. (2017). Third culture kids: Growing up among worlds. Nicholas Brealey Publishing.
Butz, G. B. (2020). Making peace with change: Navigating life's messy transitions with honesty and grace. Our Daily Bread Publishing.
Smith, E. V. (2022). The practice of processing: Exploring our emotions to chart an intentional course. Independently published.
TerKeurst, L. (2020). Forgiving what you can't forget. Thomas Nelson.
Wells, L. (2021). Unstacking your grief tower: A guide to processing grief as an adult third culture kid. Independently published.
PC: Joshua Earle at Unsplash