PREPARING FOR THE RESOLUTION OF A hostage Taking or Wrongful Detention

It is sensible to prepare for the resolution at the right moment, but it is also important to maintain realistic expectations. You might want guidance on how to help your loved one get back to life or you might want to explore preparations for all outcomes.

It is difficult to prepare for the worst case scenario - one where your loved one does not come home. You should always maintain hope until you have proof that your loved one will not be coming home. If the worst does happen, Hostage US is here for you - you do not have to go through this alone. Follow this link to learn more about preparing for the worst.

When thinking about your loved ones return, there are several areas you will want to think through to be well prepared. Outlined below, you will find the main areas to prepare for their return.

Preparing for Return

Getting the news that your loved one is coming home will be wonderful. You will be excited to see them and relieved that they are safe.

You may have other mixed emotions as a result of what you have been through during their kidnapping. You might feel apprehensive or nervous about them coming home or angry with them for what they have put you through. This is normal. It will take time to adjust and you need to take things one step at a time.

What to expect

You may be shocked by the changes you see in your loved one. If they have been away for a long time, they will probably have lost a lot of weight and their appearance will be different. They might have been injured during captivity or during their release. This can be upsetting and distressing to see.

The reunion

The moment of reunion is likely to be highly emotional. For the returning hostage, it can be overwhelming and difficult to deal with after so long without contact with loved ones and potentially being held in isolation. They might still wonder whether they have really been released, or be overwhelmed by the attention they receive. They might feel guilty for what they have put you through, or for any hostages they have left behind in captivity.

As you plan for the initial reunion, consider the following:

  • Think carefully about who will be there for the reunion. It can help to limit the number of people to reduce the pressure on the returning hostage.
  • The returning hostage is likely to find it difficult to cope in large groups of people.
  • Coordinate with others who have been involved and might be there for the reunion, too, such as the government, your loved one’s employer or private security company. Make clear to these other agencies who you want to be there for the reunion.
  • Remember that you know your loved one best.
  • Take things slowly and at your own pace.
  • Try not to have expectations about how the reunion will go.
Debrief process

There is usually a debrief or period of ‘decompression’ after the hostage is released, without any family members present, which will be conducted by experts and supported by trauma specialists. The hostage will be asked to recount what has happened to them, and this might be used as evidence to support a future investigation and prosecution by law enforcement.

As a family member, you may want your loved one to return to you immediately, but we know from experience that it is beneficial for them to have a period of debrief after they are released. And it is best done soon after they have been released so the information is fresh in their minds. This period can be cathartic to the returning hostage.

Returning home

The period immediately after their release will be very strange and disorientating for your loved one. They will be struggling to come to terms with being free at last, being able to move freely, and they may be emotionally overwhelmed to see family and friends again. This may impact on their ability to connect, and might mean they want to spend time apart as well as time together. This is not unusual and will change over time.

This is the point when you will all begin to come to terms with what has happened and rebuild a new life together. Sometimes you won’t know the best way to support your loved one – what to say, what to do. This might feel frustrating. And what might be right for your loved one might not be right for the rest of the family.

This is normal. It is very likely that your relationships will change, because you have changed.

It is good if you can talk about what has happened and how you are all feeling. However, this might not be right for you – some former hostages have never spoken in depth to their family or friends about their experience, as it can be a very painful and emotive subject for them. You will need to be patient and understanding with each other.

If you feel you need someone to talk to outside the family, Hostage US can help you. You don’t need to go through this on your own.


Children can have unexpected reactions to the return of a parent. They may resent them for having been away and missed birthdays or holidays. They may be angry at having to share their mom or dad. They might struggle to express their emotions or feel some sense of blame themselves for what has happened. These are all natural feelings, which need to be recognized and can be worked through.

Health and medical needs of the hostage

You will need to accept that your loved one may need lots of rest because they might not have slept soundly for weeks, months or years. This could mean that they will want to sleep more than is usual and at different times of the day and night. You might feel this way, too. It will take time for everyone to reestablish a normal sleep pattern.

You can also support your loved one by acting as a gatekeeper to manage what could become an overwhelming experience.

You can also help by encouraging simple activities that are not too physically or emotionally taxing, such as going for a walk or gardening. It is advisable to create some kind of routine and structure for the returning hostage without being too regimented.

It is important that you help your loved one to get a medical and dental check as soon as possible after they have been released. They might be malnourished, have muscle wastage or picked up a virus or infection. They should also get advice about a healthy eating plan and sensible fitness regime to bring them back to full health.

Hostage US can help you to make sure you and your loved one get access to the medical and dental assistance.

Dealing with the impacts of trauma

Your loved one may experience the following as a result of the traumatic experiences they have had:

  • Cognitive problems: such as impaired memory and concentration; confusion and disorientation; intrusive thoughts or ‘flashbacks’ and memories; denial, perhaps that the kidnapping happened; and hyper-vigilance and hyper-arousal which is a state of feeling too aroused, with a profound fear of being kidnapped again.
  • Emotional reactions: such as shock and numbness; fear and anxiety, although panic is not common; helplessness and hopelessness; dissociation, such as feeling numb and ‘switched off’ emotionally; anger which could be directed at anyone, such as the perpetrators, the authorities or themselves; anhedonia, a loss of pleasure in doing things that they previously enjoyed; depression; and guilt, whether at having survived if others died, or for being taken hostage and the distress they caused to you.
  • Social problems: such as feeling withdrawn; irritable; or practicing avoidance, such as of anything that reminds them of the event.

Most hostages make a full recovery from their experiences. Even those who go on to suffer from PTSD can overcome these problems with the right care and treatment. Hostage US can help them to get the right support, so they will not have to go about their recovery alone.

Don’t forget that you have been through a traumatic incident, too, and might also need support to come to terms with what has happened and rebuild your life. Hostage US is here for you, too. You do not need to go through this alone.