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Fam Process. 2012 Sep;51(3):376-90. doi: 10.1111/j.1545-5300.2012.01407.x.

Those easily forgotten: the impact of emigration on those left behind.

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1
School of Human and Community Development, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. maria.marchetti-mercer@wits.ac.za

Abstract

Much has been written about the experiences and stresses of those who emigrate. By contrast, little attention has been paid to the experiences of those who stay behind-family members and friends who for various reasons do not to join their loved ones in the destination country. In this article, I describe the experiences of some South Africans whose families and friends have emigrated. This study forms part of a larger research project focusing on the impact of emigration on South African family life. Twenty-one participants were interviewed by means of a semistructured interview at least 6 months after one or more family member(s) and/or friend(s) left South Africa, to explore participants' experiences around their loved ones' emigration. A thematic analysis of the data reveals that those left behind experience various emotions, ranging from emotional ambivalence to anger and distress. Emigration is mostly experienced as a vast loss, almost akin to a "death," bringing about significant changes in social networks and relationships. The therapeutic significance of the findings for those working with emigrant families is also explored.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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