Returning to Ireland to live can be harder than leaving in the first place, a leading emigrant chaplain has stated.

Since the beginning of this year the Irish government has made a major effort to convince emigrants to return home, stating that the economic improvement means that jobs are available again.

But Father Alan Hilliard stated in an Irish Times article that “leaving is difficult, returning can be infinitely harder. The process is made even more complicated by the assumption that it’s just a matter of slipping back in the flow of things.”

Hilliard is coordinator of the Chaplaincy Service in Dublin Institute of Technology, and a board member of the Irish Episcopal Council for Emigrants.

He stated that family dynamics are often different as well, citing family members having learned to live without the person who left.

“It can be difficult for the family unit they are returning to too, which may also have changed in the meantime. Other siblings may be looking on from the sidelines seeing a great fuss being made of the returnee, and will have their own thoughts, views and feelings on what is happening as well,” Hilliard said.

He added, “Return, like a lot of change, has to be negotiated carefully. There is delight but there is also a degree of anxiety. This is all part of the emotional process of emigration and return that can be collectively called migratory mourning."

He stated the returning emigrant has also learned a different life.

“The experience of living in a new place radically alters their view on things. What they believe, how they perceive, think, feel, and act can be very different,” Hilliard said.

He said the old dynamic in the family was gone forever. “It is quite clear that returning is never just a matter of fitting in to the old ways; this approach is sure to cause conflict and damage relationships,” he said.

“A person may not realize how much they have changed until they come back. When they return they see, hear, sense and feel things differently. It is only then they begin to see how they have changed; this experience can be quite startling in itself.”

“The only advice one can give is don’t expect things to be the same as they were before you left. It will only cause heartbreak and disappointment,” he concluded.

Read more: Migratory mourning – the emotional distress of Irish families split apart