The referendum’s over and I’m still trying to work through my emotions and feelings, which have intensified. The results have already started to come in, with the overwhelming majority of votes in favour of the South’s secession. This is not a surprise.

Conversations with other Sudanese friends and family, all who have lived outside of Sudan for a significant amount of time, and none of who live there right now, help me voice what’s going on.

I’ve been trying to word the emotions, and the closest I’ve come is grief. As in mourning death. Other Sudanese peers critique ideas of patriotism and nostalgia, deriding them as false and historically ignorant. But it’s not about that. I don’t feel the same sense of patriotism as older generations and those who still live in Sudan. I’m an “alien of Sudanese origin”, or so say my identification papers.

I barely know Sudan. And what I do know doesn’t stir up feelings of fervent nationalism. There’s plenty I find problematic there, merely on a personal, individual scale. My third culture self long ago gave up on reconciling fragments tagged national identity. I quietly do not respond when asked whether or not I am in favour of secession.

But… there’s still this confusing sense of grief. Someone described it as a sense of loss akin to the death of a close loved one. I lost my grandmother over a decade ago, but I can’t compare this to the sadness of losing her. It’s not like that. It’s not like not hearing her voice.

I think that this isn’t my awake, conscious sadness, but my body’s response to its inherited history. That explanation makes sense to me because it helps explain this intrinsic response; the physical is affecting the mental.

I’ve spoken about my grandfather and his poetry before. He wrote about the glorious nation, but his time was toward the end of the British presence in Sudan. His time was of new horizons, hopes, victory, possibilities. In contrast, this time seems to be about potential violence, failed states, further fragmentation. Fear of what is to come. I hear the sadness in elders’ voices.

It’s grief not for the end of Sudan as I know it, but rather for the death of an idea that contributed some of the pieces of a pastiched identity.

Still working through it. But I’m looking forward to getting through this grieving process so I can come around to the idea of new horizons, hopes, and possibilities.