Relationships with family and friends

First contact with your family

Your first contact with your family will be a happy experience – but it can also be challenging. Your family may be shocked by the changes in your appearance and they may find this upsetting and distressing. You might be overwhelmed to be with people after your period in captivity. You are likely to be tired. Don’t be hard on yourself – take things as slowly as you need to.

Returning home

For you, returning home is the point at which you begin to rebuild a new life with your family and friends. Sometimes your family won’t know the best way to support you – what to say, what to do. This is a new experience for all of you. You won’t always know what to do. And what might be helpful for you might be unhelpful for your family – and the other way around. This is normal. It will take time to readjust. If you are returning to live alone, it can help to identify friends or family members who live locally. Don’t be afraid to reach out. And help them to support you by telling them what you need and how you would like to receive their help. This will change over time with your recovery process. Download the Reintegration Guide.

Changed family dynamics

It is very likely that your relationships will change, because you have changed. You may find that you need help re-negotiating your relationship with your partner or your children. You have all been forced apart under difficult and stressful circumstances and you will all have changed. It is good if you can talk about what has happened and how you are all feeling when you feel comfortable to do so. However, you may not want to and your family may be afraid to ask for fear of upsetting you. Some 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. You can help your family members to support you by explaining to them what might be helpful. For example, you could explain that you might need to sleep much more than normal and at odd times. You could ask them to act as gatekeepers for wider family and friends or the media until you are ready to see more people. You could ask them to encourage you to engage in simple activities, such as going for a walk or getting out into the garden. They could help you – over time – to re-establish a simple daily routine, without being too regimented.

Teenagers and young children

Adjustment can sometimes be hardest for teenagers and young children. They may have been shielded from most of the details of your kidnapping in an attempt to protect them. They may not be able to understand why this has happened. They may blame themselves. They might also be angry at you for missing birthdays or holidays. These are all natural feelings, which need to be recognized and can be worked through.

Wider family and friends

Members of your wider family and friends may not have known much – or anything – of the fact that you were held hostage. Often knowledge about the case will be limited to just direct family members for security reasons. Not having been involved, they may struggle to understand what you have been through or not know what to say or do for the best. Sometimes this means that even close friends stay away. Be patient with them and take your time seeing people after you are released. There is no need to rush.