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Many told of being unable to focus on work and of losing their jobs, and the consequent economic and social difficulties they suffered, like losing their homes. In some cases, these problems have been impossible for the interviewed parent to climb out of and have made it so difficult to do what was necessary to retrieve the child(ren) and to then attend to the child(ren)’s needs when suffering so badly themselves.

Where left-behind parents did not know the child(ren)’s whereabouts during the entire period of absence (25%), One mother described the time that the child(ren) was away, during which time she felt, unlike in death, there to be no right to grieve, as being “beyond the boundaries of humanity” . Others worried about the child(ren)’s welfare, especially where the child(ren) needed special attention or medication, and the left- behind parent was unable to ensure that the child(ren) was being properly looked after in this respect. One mother spoke of the only contact with her child being through the snippets of news from those who responded to public appeals for information and her distress at hearing of the poor physical condition of her child at that time and about which she was unable to do anything.

Many of the left-behind parents spoke of the effects that they suffered once the child(ren) had been returned, including a failure in health, exhaustion and hospitalisation. There appears to be consensus amongst these parents that the return of the child is not the end of the abduction process and, in many cases, marks the beginning of a new stage of management, far more taxing than anything that has come before. This often includes a constant fear of re-abduction and the prospect of having to finance proceedings in those countries where, like the United States, legal aid is not available for the seeking parent. There is acute relief at getting the child(ren) back, but this is tempered by having to take care of the child(ren)’s needs whilst feeling depleted and drained personally from the experience, as well as feeling angry but without the avenue for expression.


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