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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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School of Human and Community Development, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.


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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