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Supporting Families
of the Located

Overall, this module will focus on how to respond to and support the family of the located person that was missing. It is important for a support person and/or family member to validate the located person’s experiences as well as their own experiences while the located person was missing. Providing a judgement free environment for the loved one within the family is essential. The support person should provide this information to the family and located person and help them to follow guidelines explained throughout the module. 

Learning Objectives

  1. Identify the guidelines for how to set an appropriate, healthy tone for the new relationship with the located loved one 

  2. Explain how to appropriately interact with the located person

  3. Recognize the various emotions and behaviours of family members when reacting to the located person and how to control/understand these emotions and behaviours 

  4. Explain how to re-establish physical and emotional structure in the family that includes the located person

  5. Recognize the different ways to respond to the located person and the family of a located person regarding the different reasons for the located person going missing

  6. Define self-forgiveness

  7. Describe how to respond if the loved one was abducted by a non-family member 

Module Instructions

  1. Watch Ambiguous Loss Webinar Video (39:35-43:16). Watch this video clip for a brief overview of the content that will be discussed in greater detail in Module 3. 


  2. Read Supporting Families of Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls & Other Missing Persons manual (pages 31-42).

Required Readings

  1. Ambiguous Loss Webinar Video clip (above)

  2. Supporting Families of Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls & Other Missing Persons Manual section (pages 31-42).

Key Terms & Concepts

  • Self-forgiveness: is a difficult task for both the returned loved one, and the family members. They must define forgiveness, identify the criteria necessary for self-forgiveness in this circumstance, and then measure themselves against that criterion.

  • Single perception of the future: A perceived future that includes the returned loved one

  • Avoidance of the Future: Future may not be viewed as being as safe as the present moment

  • Recrimination: In the context of a located person, recrimination means the located persons’ fear of punishment for behaviour while away

  • Reunification: In the context of a located person, a loved one is no longer missing physically but may be absent psychologically. 



This module will focus on supporting families of the located. Concepts of self-forgiveness and single perception of the future will be examined. Issues such as resolving the pain of absence, uncertainty, fear, and guilt will be discussed in relation to a located loved one. Different approaches to forgiveness will be explained. 


Supporting Families of Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls & Other Missing Persons Manual (pages 31-42)


Ambiguous Loss Webinar Video Clip (39:35-43:16)

In this part of the Webinar, Duane discusses six main points about what the family is going through when a missing person is located. These six points are discussed further in Module 3.  

Resolve the Pain of the Absence, Uncertainty and Fear

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In our manual reading we see that, even though the family member has been located, the family may still have fears that the located person could go missing again. The resolution of the pain and of the fear in part depends on the ability and willingness of the returned individual to discuss his/her experience. To establish trust between the located person and the family, giving the family time for adjustment to the changed family structure and validating feelings and emotions is key. 

The Role of Guilt


In this section of the manual, we see that feelings of guilt should be addressed and balanced with a plan for change and moving forward. Self-forgiveness in the context of a located person means that once the individual has created an idea of self-forgiveness for someone else, they can then start to use it for themselves. Lastly, differentiating between the two approaches to forgiveness (separating self from persons behavior and accepting whole person in spite of and including one unacceptable characteristic) can help family members and the located loved one to forgive each other and oneself, grow together, and move on.

Perceptions of the Future

Image by Yannes Kiefer

In this section of the manual, we can see the hesitancy of family members thinking about the future because as a result of their experiences, the future may not be viewed as being as safe as the present moment when the loved one returns. The switch from dual sense of future to avoidance of the future means that the family no longer needs to perceive a future that does not include the loved one and focus on the new future that does include the loved one. Professional help is needed when a family member continues to maintain a dual sense of future for the locate loved one. 

Abduction by a Family Member

Image by Priscilla Du Preez

In this section of the manual, we can see that the family may find that the return of the loved one has fostered a life centered on the capture, prosecution and sentencing of the abductor and family structure/feelings may be complicated if the abductor is a family member. Support for families in this situation can include creating a space where family members may vent frustrations and concerns about the legal process, discuss the costs of pursuing justice, and frequent review of the reasons for continuing this activity. Remember that it is important to identify your own needs and limitations as a supporter and to reach out for help/support if needed. 


If you have any questions or information/ideas you would like to discuss, please bring those up during the zoom training session. 

  • What is an example of a way to provide support to someone going through emotional shock?
    Exposure to someone who has had that experience Validating any feelings expressed by the family members Providing a safe place for feelings to be discussed
  • Children will react to the absence of the missing person the same way as an adult would: True or False?
    False. While a missing person will totally consume the consciousness and awareness of an adult, this may not necessarily be true for a child
  • What should a person providing support avoid saying to the family members of a missing person?
    Avoid any reference to loss/ grief, and must be very aware of their vocabulary. Any use of words related to death (i.e. ‘grief’, ‘loss’), will definitely block attempts to provide support. Only terms such as ‘missing’ and ‘absence’ are appropriate.
  • What is a primary emotional issue of the family?
    Uncertainty and fear as to the fate of the missing person.
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