To the families of the missing persons

Leaving without Goodbye

It takes time to accept reality as it is, even when it’s right in front of you. It is still hard to believe that a family member is missing. Getting used to the situation can be a challenge. “I get anxious thinking about them all the time, I feel mired in the thought that he/she is not alive, and sometimes, when I think he/she should be alive, and I feel very unsettled.” Also, because these feelings are not understood by those around them, the remaining family member(s) may be hurt when they are told to “forget about it” or “give up”. Even when one thinks he or she must be gone, they often continue to hope and wait as long as it is unconfirmed.


There is no answer for “ambiguous loss. No one can give the right answer as to whether the missing one is alive or not. In that situation, the family is waiting for him, and they don’t know what to think, how to live or how to think of him/her. This is very unsettling and I don’t know what to do. In addition, even within a family, each person may have a different way of seeing and dealing with the situation.


In such a case, what should be done? In many cases, we feel like we need to give up, and those around us encourage us to give up. It’s very hard to settle for something that is so uncertain.


When advising people with this condition, Dr. Boss often tells them, “You don’t have to decide”. How can this be? Because, in these situations, “No one knows” is the most correct state of affairs. However, even in the state of “not knowing,” it is possible to cope with that loss.


You don’t have to “decide one way or the other” if you are still suffering from the situation. You don’t have to attend a memorial service or funeral if you don’t feel like it. You don’t have to try to forcefully acknowledge the loss, but it is said that it is better to do something that makes you feel connected to the person. For example, talking about the person as a family member, putting up pictures, or inviting their friends into your home can help you reconnect with the person in your heart.


It can also be helpful to talk with people who have gone through a similar experience or who understand your thoughts. At that time, even if the other person feels differently than you do, it doesn’t mean that either party is wrong. Because of the ambiguity and uncertainty of the situation, the thoughts and ideas that emerge vary from person to person.


Coping with ambiguous loss begins with saying, “It’s okay if each person thinks differently.” When those around you and yourself are able to acknowledge that, we can support each other. When a person feels their thoughts are respected, they are able to take the next step.