Unresolved Grief and How to Overcome It: Part 1 with TCK Expert, Dr. Ruth Van Reken

Imagine this: Bernard’s family was enjoying a ski vacation in the Alps when news broke out about Russia’s attack on Ukraine. Little did they know that this seemingly ordinary ski trip would mark the end of their familiar life in Moscow. Their house, their beloved pet, and for Bernard’s teenage son, his serious girlfriend—everything would soon become memories.

Such scenarios are not uncommon for Third Culture Kids (TCKs), who often face sudden evacuations and uprooting from their familiar environments. As parents, we naturally focus on the positive aspects of this global lifestyle, which we discussed in last week’s episode with Michael V. Pollock. However, it’s equally important to support TCKs the best we can through these life-changing transitions.

In today’s episode, we’re exploring unresolved grief, and I have the pleasure of being joined by Dr. Ruth Van Reken. Ruth is a second-generation Third Culture Kid, a mother of three adult TCKs, co-author of Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds, 3rd ed., and author of Letters Never Sent. For over thirty-five years, Ruth has traveled extensively, speaking about the impact of global mobility on individuals, families, and societies, including what we now refer to as Cross-Cultural Kids (CCKs)—children who grow up cross-culturally for any reason. She is a co-founder and past chairperson of Families in Global Transition.

Ruth’s research and writing have given a voice to TCKs and helped all who support them make sense of their experiences.

I myself discovered the term TCK (Third Culture Kid) while pregnant with my first child and I can attest to the profound impact David and Michael Pollock and Ruth Van Reken’s research and writing has had on me. 

When my family moved to Zimbabwe, I devoured their book “Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds” during the flight and was moved to tears by some stories and her insights. Since then, I have made it a personal mission to validate the emotional journey that ‘living among worlds’ represents. 

As we approach the time of year I like to call the “great migration,” when our TCKs say goodbye to their friends and move to new places, us parents are bound to feel a roller coaster of emotions.

Just remember, you are not alone in this experience. Whether you’re traveling back home, relocating, or going through a reentry process, Girafe Coaching newsletter provides invaluable guidance to help you transition with ease. Gain the resources you need to fully support the well-being of yourself and your TCK this moving season. Make sure to sign up here!

Here are some highlights that Ruth shared with me:

  1. How cross-cultures and high mobility adversely influences TCKs
  2. The impact a ‘home’ has on identity
  3. 3 types of responses TCKs can have from their experiences & how to better support them
  4. Hidden losses of TCKs
  5. Unique challenges that the pandemic presented to TCKs


Discover the transformative power of Unlock Your Full Potential, Girafe coaching’s flagship program. Say goodbye to indecision and create a life of clarity, where every aspect of your life thrives – your wellbeing, relationships, career and family. 

Experience the joy of crafting a compelling vision for your future and design a strategic game plan to make it a reality. Take the first step towards your best life no matter where the world takes you at girafecoaching.com. Join us now and unlock your true potential!  

P.S. Be sure to tune into part 2 next week where Ruth Van Reken expands on parenting TCKs.