Coping with an Uncertain Loss: Aspects of Bereavement in Two Families with an Abducted Child
Ziebell, Steven M.
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The problem. Assuming the form of a clinical case study, this research project was an exploratory study of the family dynamics operative when a child is abducted by a nonfamily member. The problem of the study was to investigate, compare, and categorize the coping patterns of two families against the framework of attachment theories as described by John Bowlby. Procedure. The author conducted a series of structured interviews with two families to explore and assess clinical dynamics of bereavement and coping strategies. The results were categorized against the backdrop of attachment theories developed by John Bowlby. Findings. The Bowlby model provided an adequate, if not complete, means of assessment of bereavement processes in the two families. One subject adopted a chronic mourning style while the other demonstrated a pattern that focused on a continued search for their son and which disallowed conscious grieving. Both subjects were observed to be unfinished in the grief process. The uncertainty of the loss seemed to be the prime factor that prolonged grief in both subjects. Conclusion. The Bowlby model was acceptable in defining general grief reactions of the subjects. Each family remained in the grief process for prolonged states which was a taxing problem. Parental commitment to the child remained strong in both cases, however. Although differing in degrees, each subject retained a sense of hope for the safe recovery of the abducted child. Recommendations. Recommendations of the study focused on clinical assessment points for professionals involved in bereavement counseling. Unique family, parental, and sibling dynamics were highlighted. Personal awareness issues of the counselor also were discussed. Further research topics included investigating a multi-disciplinary team approach in solving the problems of childhood abduction and studying grief reactions relevant to various childhood and family life developmental stages.
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