The present study examines the issue of "ambiguous loss", the presence-absence of a parent, from the perspective of adults who were children when their father was a POW. Almost four decades after the POW event, in-depth interviews were conducted with a POW's four children, both individually and as a focus group. The findings indicate long-term effects, and that the experience continues into the children's adult life even after their father's repatriation. We contend that the Two-Track Model of Bereavement (Rubin, 1981; Malkinson & Rubin, 2007) can serve as a theoretical and therapeutic framework for the families despite the differences between permanent loss resulting from death and temporary loss resulting from absence. Even after the POW's repatriation, the family's coping continues along the model's two axes (functioning and inner), as a formative inner experience.
The recommendations emerging from the study are that ambiguous loss be recognized as a state of stress, and professional and social support be provided for family members, especially the mother/wife, to build and maintain as normative a life as possible during the period of absence. It is further recommended that psychological assistance be provided for the family upon the POW's or MIA's repatriation.