Anna Leask is senior police reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

'Limbo' for loved ones awaiting news of Malaysia Airlines flight

Sara Weeks' brother Paul Weeks was on board Flight 370 that disappeared over the South China Sea. Photo / TV3
Sara Weeks' brother Paul Weeks was on board Flight 370 that disappeared over the South China Sea. Photo / TV3

The families of MH370's missing passengers and crew are in limbo and will be confused as to how to act and feel about the situation until they get solid answers about what happened after the Boeing 777 left Kuala Lumpur, says an expert.

Auckland psychologist Nate Gaunt, a specialist in trauma, stress and anxiety, said compassion fatigue was also setting in, which would make it even more difficult for those directly linked to the flight to cope.

Meanwhile, the sister of one of the New Zealanders missing on flight MH370 has spoken of the ordeal her family is going through as they wait for news.

Sara Weeks, whose Perth-based brother Paul was on the flight, emailed radio station More FM breakfast programme hosts Simon Barnett and Gary McCormick who interviewed an aviation expert about the missing jet. In the email she spoke of the confusion, worry and desperation the family was enduring as they waited for news.

Mr Gaunt said when someone died their loved ones went through a grieving process, but that was not possible for the MH370 families as they did not know one way or the other what had happened.

"One of the pathways of grief is going towards the idea of acceptance. Considering the coming and going of information, and hope, and hope taken away, it is very difficult for people to get on with that process without feeling they were doing the right thing or the wrong thing," he said last night.

He said those trying to get on with life could be racked with guilt and feel they were betraying their missing family member.

"Compassion fatigue is also starting to set in. We all have a finite amount of empathy. The story is saturating the media and it's becoming less and less shocking for us."

The families of the missing would also be feeling trapped.

"It's like being held in limbo and even in a way they are also hostages. They are not allowed to be free," Mr Gaunt said.

"People in these situations are always worried about being appropriate - are they being hopeful enough, are they grieving enough, are they crying enough, are they complaining enough, what do they tell the children?

"People want to do the right thing ... but there is no script for this, there is no right way of handling a situation like this."

He said it was important to remember the human element - that the situation was more than just a missing plane.

"We really should remember the lost people and the impact that has."

Sara Weeks whose brother Paul was on the flight writes about the family's ordeal:

"As someone with a family member on board the flight, [my brother], I just wanted to say that, yes, it is very, very distressing, especially when no-one actually knows anything for certain.

"As a family, we spend hours watching news reports on every channel you can think of, trying to make sense of the confusing and conflicting reports. We live and breathe this missing flight and hope that it will be sooner rather than later that we find out what went wrong.

"We hope and pray every day that my brother and all the other passengers on board flight MH370 will be found and return home safely."

- NZ Herald

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