More than 350,000 family abductions occur in the U.S. each year, nearly 1,000 per day. 1,000 children abducted by a parent, a relative every day! On November 2, 1987, I lost my two children to such an abduction by their father. Monica was almost six years old; David was one and half. I had never known or heard of anyone who had had a child abducted either by a family member or non-family individual(s). I did not know where to turn or what to do. What I fervently did know was I would find and be with my children no matter the obstacles. Above all, I vowed I would never give up hope.
During the almost thirteen years it took for me to locate and reunite with Monica and David, my journey had many twists, turns, and often heartbreaking dead-ends. For a long time, I was unable to look at or touch my children’s toys and clothes that had been left behind. I would drive by the school where Monica had attended kindergarten and I would start to cry. A child in a stroller would remind me of David.
There were numerous calls to and conversations with local, state, and Federal law enforcement, and attorneys both in the U.S. and Mexico. There were repeated futile attempts to find organizations that would help. There were disreputable private investigators who claimed they would find and bring Monica and David home if I just paid inordinate amounts of money. Ultimately, I connected with The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). This organization understood and I knew they would undertake the steps needed to find my children.
As the years went by searching for my children, I made important professional and personal decisions. I knew that I had to take care of myself both physically and emotionally in order to be a strong person and parent when I reunited with Monica and David. I sought and obtained my accreditation in public relations and started a firm, which continues today. In conjunction, I found immense value in therapy, which allowed me to grow and obtain a sense of self. Along the way, I met a man, Earl, who is now my husband. He has been my rock and support through all the “ups and downs” in the journey.
Through the relentless efforts of several at NCMEC, Monica and David were found in Toluca, northwest of Mexico City. I will never forget April 4, 1999, when I received the incredible news!
Except it was not a fairy-tale reunion. Monica and David were strangers. My children had been told I was dead, and as I was still alive, why had I waited all these years to come for them? Both stated that we would never be friends and, definitely not family. My journey in searching for my children was not over. It had actually just begun. And, I was determined, more than ever, to remain hopeful and patient that one day I would have a relationship with my children.
Nine years after we reunited, on February 4, 2008, my birthday, David called me. “Happy Birthday, Mom, I love you!” I was speechless.
The following year, Mother’s Day 2009, Monica sent me a card.
“Happy Mother’s Day, Mom! Love, Your Favorite Daughter!”
Today, Monica calls me Favorite Mom and she is Favorite Daughter.
And David calls Earl “Dad” and signs all of his cards, emails, and texts to each and both of us, Love, Son.
My journey continues.
P.S. – Susan Morrow’s book chronicling her search, reunion, and rebuilding the relationships with her children is due to launch fall 2013.
Susan Morrow MissingKidsLogois a crisis management specialist and helps organizations in the areas of internal planning, communications with media, community, and industry audiences, and counseling during actual crisis situations. She uses her immense talents as a consultant at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. In this role, Ms. Morrow’s nationwide team of 20 volunteers supports families whose children have been abducted by one parent or a family member to locations here and abroad. She and her team have helped over 2,000 families in the last seven years. Ms. Morrow also counsels families experiencing long-term abductions and provides post-reunification support.
Your Functional Divorce Assignment:
As you’re progressing through your divorce, how have you been able to use love, patience and hope to get through your toughest spots? I hope that you’re not in Susan’s situation of having your children abducted, but I know that you have had some tough times. These are the times I’m asking you to think about how you’ve had a chance to use love, patience and always hope to make it through them.
How might you rely more on love, patience and hope to support yourself as you use your divorce as the starting point for you to live the BEST of your life? Although it might not seem like your divorce could actually be the beginning of the BEST of your life, with a bit of determination and creativity it can be. If you’d like some support in figuring it out, just let me know. I’ll be happy to help.
If you’re looking for more help on how to navigate the challenges of your life now, read more articles on Life After Divorce.
To heal from divorce, you must learn to trust again.
Divorce is the result of a betrayal of a trust. A trust we place in another to love, support and care about us. It’s also a trust we encourage our partner to place in us – to trust us to love them, to support them and to care about them. Trust of this magnitude is amazing when you really think about it. It’s an wondrous thing when two people decide to blend their lives and live together in partnership. And when a trust like that is broken, it can be a terrible, ugly thing which causes many people to not want to trust anyone else for any reason.
“When you trust someone to be who you want them to be instead of who they are, you get hurt.”
I know it was true in my case, and I suspect it is true in yours also. When I got divorced I realized I had trusted my ex-husband to be someone I wanted him to be instead of who he was. Because he didn’t meet my expectations I got hurt. I got hurt a lot because I had deceived myself for years by expecting him to be who I trusted him to be and not who he was.
“…if you don’t feel like you can trust anybody to talk to anybody, you feel like you’re really alone.”
With all my mis-spent trust in my marriage, I wasn’t sure if I could trust anyone as I started on my divorce journey. I was suspicious of just about everyone and as a result, I felt really lonely. And the more lonely I felt, the more depressed and fearful I became.
“You must trust and believe in people or life becomes impossible.”
One of the things I did as I was building my trust in myself again was I reached out and asked for help. When I moved into a new home during the course of my divorce, the previous owner mentioned that the neighbors across the street wanted to meet me when I was ready.
“We’re never so vulnerable than when we trust someone – but paradoxiacally, if we cannot trust, neither can we find love or joy.”
One day, shortly after I was mostly settled in my new home, I screwed up my courage and walked across the street to meet the neighbors. It was scary walking across the street. But I did it. And you know, the rewards have been immeasurable.
The family who lived there was generous and kind and recognized how scared I was to be facing my new life on my own. They turned out to be my family away from my family. I felt loved and cared for in a way that I hadn’t since I lived at home as a kid. (I’ve lived across the country from my family since I was 18 years old)
“Do not trust all men, but trust men of worth; the former course is silly, the latter a mark of prudence.”
Screwing up my courage and walking across the street that spring morning was a real turning point for me in my divorce journey. It was the first time in a long time that I had trusted myself to be able to discern if it was OK for me to trust someone.
That’s exactly what I want for you. I want you to know that it’s OK to trust yourself, that it’s OK to trust yourself to meet new people and that you’ll know if they’re worthy of your trust. And if they are worthy of your trust you just might find another family to support and love you like I did.
Divorce for most of us is scary and learning to trust yourself so you can trust others can take some time, but when you start down that road of trust the rewards of joy and love can be yours again.
Your Functional Divorce Assignment:
Reread the 5 quotes in today’s article. I used the quotes to tell a story of how I learned to trust again as I was going through my divorce. How do these quotes apply to you?
What actions do these quotes inspire you to take? You might need to screw up your courage like I did before you take action. Or, the action you choose to take might come easily to you. Whatever you’re inspired to do to test your ability to trust, trust yourself enough to know when the right time is to do it.
Do it and evaluate the results. The thing about any new experience is that you need to evaluate the results. Check in with yourself after you take action and see how you feel about it. You may be pleased and feel empowered to trust more. You may be displeased and choose to choose differently next time. You might feel something in between these two extremes. The key here is to be truthful with yourself and adjust so you can continue to build your trust in yourself and in others.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. And if you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.
© 2013 Karen Finn. All rights reserved under all copyright conventions.