Missing MH370: Families suffer roller coaster of emotions

Missing MH370: Families suffer roller coaster of emotions

Anger, confusion, denial.

The roller coaster of emotions that families of MH370 passengers have experienced has been made worse by sightings of debris which turned out to be false alarms.

Grief counsellors said a disappearance that is unaccounted for indefinitely could take years to be accepted by families.

"The key word is uncertainty. There's no clear information so inevitably, a lot of scenarios play in their minds," said psychiatrist Ang Yong Guan.

Some also suffer guilt. "They think, 'If only I convinced him to delay his flight, if only I convinced him not to go'," he added.

For now, it is crucial that the airline constantly updates family members on what is happening so they do not feel abandoned, said psychologist Daniel Koh of Insights Mind Centre. "It's the waiting that's the most difficult."

If an alarm turns out to be false, family members should be told as soon as possible. Dr Ang said: "Keep speculation to a minimum."

Dr Thong Jiunn Yew, a consultant psychiatrist at Nobel Psychological Wellness Clinic, said: "It's understandable that they'll be upset. Officials have to be aware they will face a lot of anger."

For Mr George Joseph, 64, a copy editor at the Business Times, the disappearance of Flight MH370 brought back painful memories.

His younger brother John - aged 45 and married with three children - was a passenger on SilkAir Flight MI185. It crashed into the Musi River in Palembang, Indonesia, on Dec 19, 1997. There were 104 people on board.

Only fragments of human remains were recovered.

"I went through the same emotions that you're seeing now," he said. "There were mood swings - hopelessness, anger, denial."

His brother's death sank in only when he visited the crash site days later. He saw photographs of scraps of the wreckage and retrieved his brother's passport.

mellinjm@sph.com.sg


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