Closure remains elusive for flight MH370 families
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Closure remains elusive for flight MH370 families

Closure remains elusive in the mystery of missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 which disappeared on March 82014. Hopes have been raised and dashed repeatedly, and the search and rescue mission was declared a search and recovery mission some time ago.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott called the search for the missing jet “the most difficult in human history.” And for the families of those on board MH370, the long wait for any news and the lack of closure is taking its toll.

The mother of Iranian teen Pouria Nourmohammadi, who boarded the flight with a stolen passport, wrote on her Facebook page after claiming she had been forced to stay away from briefings in Kuala Lumpur:

As a human being, as a mother, nobody thought of me. I am alone with no support except for God.

Although he had a stolen passport, he was so young with many beautiful dreams. I’m a mother just like the Chinese mothers, and I want to know what happened too. I trust in God and whatever he wants will happen. But all 239 persons are the same, maybe somebody doesn’t believe that.

“In such times of grief, some may be emotionally numb, or in a state of mental fatigue and sleep deprivation. They may be in a state between hopefulness and helplessness,” said Adrian Lim Peng Ann, a counselling psychologist from Singapore. “What really helps is for families to unite.”

He added that as part relatives’ care, they can “allow people to support them, to take care of their basic needs. It may help to go for traditional bodywork, natural therapies or to utilise natural sleeping supplements such as melatonin. Some may not be sleeping well, with the flood of stress hormones released under such prolonged trauma.”

Anger and disbelief followed the widely criticised SMS announcement that those on board the flight were lost.

On Twitter #RIPMH370 spontaneously mourned for the loss of all passengers and crew, as the search and rescue operations officially moved towards search and recovery.

Yet in the absence of any evidence it remains very difficult for families to move on, and some have refused to give up hope.

“Sometimes the intention to help, to bring closure, is not only annoying but feels like a premature death sentence proclaimed upon the lives of the missing passengers and crew,” said Lim.

Self care is very important for grieving next-of-kin of the missing passengers and crew, as they come to terms with the daily reality of the practical and legal matters at hand, such as claims of insurance, property and care of young and elderly family members.

The Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation was contacted by Malaysian Airlines to support the Chinese relatives who travelled to Kuala Lumpur to seek information.

“As caregivers, you do not know where they are in the grieving process,” said Raymond Tan Chee Wei, an administrator from the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation coordinating care giving efforts in Kuala Lumpur.

His advice to volunteers is simple: “Be mindful and talk less. Your body language and presence can be source of comfort and acknowledgement of the difficulty faced.”

Tan adds that grieving next-of-kin may reject offers of care, or express their unhappiness, but the simple presence of unpaid volunteers demonstrates concern. For the relatives who eventually open up, all they may need is a shoulder to cry on, and assistance with small, daily, practical matters.