Strangers in their own land: Culture loss, disenfranchised grief, and reentry adjustment

Joan Cost Lester (2000)

This project developed the Lester Global Reentry Adjustment Module (L-GRAM), designed to resolve reentry adjustment of cross-cultural travelers, returnees to their home cultures after living abroad for a time, who experience difficulties returning home. Once called reverse culture shock, the more specific term of reentry adjustment is now current. Many returnees find moving back to their home culture more difficult than any culture shock experienced upon moving abroad to a host culture. Sub-groups of returnees include Study Abroad students, business personnel, diplomats, missionaries, professionals, international consultants, and their spouses and families. International studies reveal that many returnees describe a sense of loss, longing, sadness, and alienation: feeling like "strangers in their own land". Returnees often find little social support for these feelings of loss, by definition a situation of disenfranchised grief. This project suggests that a triad of theoretical concepts is involved in reentry adjustment: (a) the importance of culture in identity; (b) the loss of multiple cultures upon return to the home culture experienced as a personal sense of loss and changed sense of self needing to be mourned; (c) a situation of disenfranchised grief. These concepts inform the three non-discrete phases of the L-GRAM which includes individual, group, and systems perspectives within a facilitator led program. It has a global perspective and is designed to be flexible and appropriate for use in myriad cultures worldwide.