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Episode 110 S3-29

Reuniting Family after a Long Term Absence


Special Guest:

The Walls of Freedom Ch 29

Sara F. Hathaway

In The Walls of Freedom story, Erika and her family reunite with Vince's parents. Reuniting with family can be a tricky thing to accomplish after a long period of absence. Today, I will present common issues that individuals face from both a military deployment aspect and a hostage type situation.

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Reuniting with loved ones is a theme that occurs in all of my novels. When disaster strikes no one can guarantee where you will be or who you will be with. You may be minutes or miles away from your loved ones. The road home in this new landscape would be an arduous journey that would take time. During this time, you will probably have many traumatic experiences and you can guarantee that your family is probably facing many unusual stresses as well. I looked at a couple of possible scenarios to determine how people may react during separation in a SHTF situation and what problems there may be after reunion. The first  is from a military point of view. Soldiers go off on deployment, leaving family behind and when they get home there could be a whole new set of problems to face. The second is from a hostage point of view. There have been cases of people being taken hostage for many years and then reuniting with their family. What sort of problems to they have melding back into society?



I equate the reunions in my first book Day After Disaster and this current chapter of The Walls of Freedom with that of deployed soldiers returning home. Although, it is true that the Moore Family was being held captive and that could have some additional side effects, especially on the children. In both cases, traumatic experiences have changed not only the individual but the individuals they were returning home to. 


When returning home after an extended period of time the fist hug and kiss may be awkward. You haven't seen these people in a while and you may simply be out of practice. The individual returning may be tired from a long trip home. Make sure that if you make plans for the day of their arrival you communicate your plans to them. They may not want to do to much right away. However, small gestures of celebration like a sign or a favorite meal may go a long way to make the individual feel welcomed.


As time ticks on, realize that communication will be top priority. There may be feelings of resentment that either side had an easier time in the other's absence. New behaviors from both parties may surprise other family members but remember to discuss the behavior, never attack the person. Explain how the house is running now and discuss how big the individual returning home wants their roll to be initially and slowly work them back in to the daily routine. Make sure you make time to be alone with each family member so you can begin to get to know them again. It takes time to accomplish most thing that are worth anything so remember reintegration will take time too.


Children present a unique problem with reunions. They may bounce in between happiness in seeing the individual and anger that they left and missed important events. The military has a great informational pamphlet, Families with Kids, with useful information on making this easier. Here's a list of tips to make reintegration with your family easier:

  • Remember you are all adjusting

  • Tell your family how much you love them

  • Don't take things personally

  • Listen sensitively to your family members. Try to understand their concerns.

  • Don't force your children to spend time with you

  • Spend time with each child individually

  • Limit criticisms and judgements

  • Praise children verbally and physically for big and small accomplishments

  • Keep in mind children mirror parents

  • Don't change discipline your spouse used while you were away

  • Learn about what's happened while you were away and accomplishments made

  • Hand out bravery metals

  • Show an interest in everyday events of your children's lives 

A hostage situation has a different set of dynamics than a military deployment although many of the remedies are the same. In Without Land, Erika is dealing with the physiological effects of being in captivity and the trauma of being put into a metal box following her involvement in a rebellion. Her family shares in this captive state. In this chapter of The Walls of Freedom, the family tries to reintegrate with their family and society after ten years of captivity.


The pain of the experience coupled with physical harm inflicted during the time as a hostage piles trauma on top of trauma.  This can leave survivors feeling depressed and anxious. They can develop problems like PTSD (Post Traumatic Distress Syndrome) and dissociation disease. In a SHTF situation, the trauma of the experience is going to cause many of these same problems to be common place among the population at large. 


The survivors of these traumatic experiences will have to deal with learning how the world changed while they were in captivity. Children, although often better suited to deal with these types of situations, have to deal with the effect of this confinement stunting their emotional and intellectual maturity. 


Time under duress makes a big difference as well. Often times people that don't have extended time as a hostage can cope better. This ability to cope depends upon their personal experiences, training and genetics. Counseling may or may not be beneficial. They should be informed of the symptoms of chronic anxiety and seek help if needed.


The psychological effects of a long term hostage experience can be much more traumatic. PTSD is common in both military deployment situations and hostage situations.  Symptoms of PTSD include: flashing back to the original experience, avoiding triggers, negative mood changes, sleep disturbances, and these symptoms last more than a month. 

Stockholm syndrome is another side effect that can develop because of a hostage situation. The hostage fights captivity at first but after a while of physical and mental abuse, the hostage starts looking to someone to end the pain or provide companionship. Often times the only individual possible of making this happen is the captor. The victim may begin to associate positive feelings towards this person, even though they are the ones holding them prisoner. After the victim is rescued they may feel embarrassed and confused by these feelings.

You can bet that in SHTF situation there will be a lot of people with PTSD and there may not be many counselors or depression medicine available. We need to know how to help these individuals so they can function again. Here's a list of ways suggests:

  • Time is the best healer. People are more resilient than we think and can "bounce back."

  • Focus on daily living

  • Talk and talk. Tell the story.

  • Use distractions like reading and discipline activities like running.

I found it interesting that in both cases communication was stressed above all. It is important to share your experiences with others. It benefits both you and your loved one. I have found that in life communication is always key. It is my belief that too many people walk around assuming what the other one is thinking rather than communicating and learning who they are. Communication is not always easy and must be practiced and trained like any other muscle but the rewards are usually worth every bit of stress.





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The Walls of Freedom Ch 29

Sara F. Hathaway

Author Sara F. Hathaway is an individual with an insatiable urge for learning. She grew up in the woods of Michigan, fishing, hunting, gardening, canning, and horseback riding with her family. She loved to learn about the stories of times past from her great grandparents and grandparents. She learned about a time much different from our own when a trip to the grocery store was not all it took to make sure your family was fed. She delighted in the outdoors and learning how to survive there without the trappings of modern life.


After moving to the rural mountain landscape of California, she attended The California State University of Sacramento and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in General Business Management. She managed many businesses, all while working on the manuscript for her fictional novel, Day After Disaster. Eventually she realized that her passion for the outdoors and learning about survival techniques outweighed her passion for the business world. She took her marketing skills and applied them to launching a successful platform for her first novel, Day After Disaster and its sequel, Without Land.


Sara still lives in Northern California with her husband and two sons where she is at work on The Changing Earth Series. She delights in helping other authors find the same marketing success and enjoys her time that she gets to spend honing her survival skills while teaching these skills to her sons. For more information and a free copy of “The Go-Bag Essentials” featuring everything you need to have to leave your home in a disaster visit:

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