It’s important that people who are living with the disappearance of a loved one know that they’re not alone. We work closely with a network of over 60 families, and have a wider support network – through social media – of over 10,000 people.
Being able to share stories, tips and insights – as well as the ability to air grievances or specific challenges – in a safe space where others understand can be comforting, validating and empowering. We involve and update those in our circle of the progress we’re making in this field. A sense of belonging can lessen feelings of isolation that are common for families and friends of missing people.
Ambiguous Loss is the complex type of grief that loved ones of missing persons experience. Some psychologists consider to be one of the most traumatic kinds of loss, and most unmanageable form of stress. It’s different to standard grief (where the loss can naturally become easier to cope with over time), as it is a continual loss.
Accordingly, standard grief counselling isn’t adequate for families and friends of long term missing people, and many said that the experience of seeing a counsellor left them disheartened, as most counsellors in Australia aren’t equipped to support people living with this unique form of grief.
In 2020, we ran a pilot program that connected family members wanting to receive specialised counselling, to Australian psychologists and counsellors that we commissioned Sydney-based, internationally-renowned expert Dr Sarah Wayland to conduct Ambiguous Loss Training.
In 2021, based on the success of this pilot, Sarah trained service providers across Australia and abroad, including the AFP’s National Missing Persons Coordination Centre, the Red Cross, Wayahead, as well as the UK’s Missing People charity, Ireland’s National Missing Persons Helpline, and Canada’s Missing Persons Research Hub. With support from Dr Kerrie Noonan, we are now expanding the program to reach more people.
If you or your workplace would like to undertake our professional development course in Ambiguous Loss, get in touch.
If you would like to speak to an MPAN-certified mental health professional that has undertaken the training, we can refer you (ask us).
* Ambiguous Loss, the theory and the book; Dr Pauline Boss (Harvard University Press, 1999/2000)
MPAN acknowledges the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the first inhabitants of the nation and the traditional custodians of the lands where we live, learn and work.