SEPANX: A common expat problem

The popular hashtag #sepanx literally means Seperation Anxiety. It is an “anxiety regarding separation from places or from people to whom the individual has a strong emotional attachment”.

As an expat, our life overseas are all but temporary. Our friends will come and go, we may change from one company to another, or even shift from different places from time to time. And these things do not necessarily mean bad. That’s just the way it is.

For the last 2 years, my son was staying with me here in Qatar. Coming from a relatively “different” family setup, i have to ask him to join us here in Doha with her new sister. I knew it was also a big adjustment for him but it was also a welcome development – unlimited / high speed internet, travel opportunities, the usual Doha conveniences, an overseas lifestyle, etc.

Though we’ve been living apart for a long time, being with him for few days during my annual vacation wasn’t really enough to create that much needed bond. So the first few months in Doha was really an adjustment. I felt good being a hands-on Dad but also was very concerned seeing some “common teenager habits” for real – especially being so engrossed with online games. Aside from constant reminders to fix his bed, to send me sms whenever he reach home from school, and even from getting “too close” to female friends… everything else were just fine.

But sometimes, no matter how badly you wanted things to go your way, there are those that are really not meant to be… at least for now. Considering several pressing concerns, we had to send him back to Manila temporarily, or at least until we see a more permanent option to avoid further inconvenient movements or transfers.

But even prior to our departure last April 2017, loneliness has already started to creep in even while packing up his things and cleaning his room. It’s even more painful than sending off tenants who have lived with us for several years. I didn’t actually realized I was sweating so much that it’s already covering my eyes.

The feeling is even worst when i had to go back to Qatar alone. It’s a mix of emotions with “half of your heart” being sad to leave your son, while the “other half”  is beaming with excitement to go back to your wife and daughter. I’m definitely torn between two worlds… and it breaks my heart so bad.

But it’s different when i realized the pain I’m causing to my son at his age… those eyes that speaks of helplessness with the situation… yet shows understanding even he would have wanted to stay. Those are things I just can’t ignore… and I thought he’s good at managing his emotions.

I know that there are many other families who are in the same situation. And here are some of the advises that i can also share in battling separation anxiety:

  1. CONSTANT COMMUNICATION. In this day and age, being connected to your love ones is no longer a problem. The availability of phones are simply God’s modern gift to mankind. Internet and social media is also another convenient way to get connected with what the kids are doing back home. Though there’s a difference between “stalking” and “simply monitoring“… we also have to make sure to allow some privacy and respect even between parents and children. Know that a “father-figure” is very important during the development of our child’s mind and well-being, so we have to ensure that we have this thing properly positioned.
  2. STAY CONNECTED. Having someone to talk to also helps in releasing the stress – be it your family, close friends, church mates or fellow enthusiasts. Getting involved in several activities will help in diverting your focus and clearing your mind to a more a productive stance.
  3. BE EXCITED FOR THE FUTURE. What would best motivate you is looking forward to the time that you will be together again Make it your goal and a constant reminder that the reason for all the hard work will see an end objective of you coming together soon. Each day will never be a sad day but will be replaced with focus, determination and eager anticipation of your goal.

While we are dealing with our own separation anxiety, the same should also be shared to our families back home. As they say, “home sickness hurts, but it does get better with time”.


Today, June 10, 2017 – my son, JOHANN MARCUS TUNAY is celebrating his 16th birthday. I would like to dedicate a space on our blog to honor him as a strong young man with a bright future of becoming a chef/businessman.

If you are reading this post, anak (my son), know that DADA has always been and will always be proud of you. Continue on what we have started here… your faith in the Lord and all the life reminders that i gave you.  There will always be a perfect time for everything, like seasons in the sun. As you become faithful in every season, you will reap your reward when it is due… that’s a promise not only from me, but the Lord’s. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!


  1. I am feeling for you and I do agree but sometimes there is a reason for everything. I am glad to know that your son is now with you and the rest of the family. I hope he is happy there. 🙂

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