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Overcoming Anguish
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Overcoming Anguish
This article began as information concerning child kidnapping, specifically parental kidnapping. There are new laws addressing the issue, and this ugly subject needs broad awareness. My three children were kidnapped many years ago by their father, so I know the devastation. I wanted to call attention to some concerns of handling the trauma emotionally as the abandoned parent, and how moving forward under difficult circumstances gave me strength for later life battles.
[863 words]
Sandra Lee Larsen
I am a three-year cancer survivor, on disability for arthritis, living in San Antonio, Texas. As a published freelance writer, I enjoy sharing my many experiences and exploring additional ones. My writing is eclectic reflecting my many interests.
[February 2000]
Disquiet In Hesperides (Poetry) A poem. [178 words]
Overcoming Anguish
Sandra Lee Larsen

Lessons I learned from a parental kidnapping experience served as a foundation for overcoming anguish. This challenging time set the stage for emotional survival tactics that are lasting through my life.

When I arrived home after work to a stripped house, I reacted in fear and panic. The experience in 1966 distorted my atlas of how the world should be. My equilibrium was out of kilter, shaken to the core. I was overwhelmed with my initial tunnel vision of distress. It wasn’t later that I even took stock of how I felt. I was numbed to the core. My entry-level job provided little money. My family was confused and overwhelmed. They were many miles away and offered little emotional support. In those days, there were no laws or agencies to protect my children and me.

Eventually, I began rebuilding my life with a strength I did not know I possessed. There was no choice. Coming to the realization that there was nothing I could do to change the tragedy was the catalyst. I had to be strong, or self-destruct. Knowing that I had to take care of myself finally dawned. Laws that protect children and the abandoned spouse from parental kidnapping only began to be in effect in 1980. They continue to be addressed with the recent U.S. Immigration & Naturalization Service cracking down on single adults departing the United States with children. A child traveling with only one parent, a guardian, or even grandparents or other relatives, must have a written and notarized permission from both birth parents or legal guardians to enter many countries. Reciprocity between states may still a loop hole.

Even though I had a heritage of faith in God, it seemed He’d gone on vacation and no one was in charge. My change from tears and frustration came from a realization that my continued expression of grief was counterproductive. It was destroying me, physically and emotionally. I had to turn my life around, or die! Like leaning over a chasm, surveying my obstacles had a dizzying effect. It did lead me to know that I had nothing to fear but fear itself.

I developed a tight focus on my work and began to develop new friendships. It was not an easy assignment. Anyone can discover new strengths. If you were stranded on an island, you would develop survival techniques and remain intact. Often we do not give ourselves credit for our ability to spring back. Instead of surveying my whole disaster, I took each possibility one issue at a time. I could not swallow the whole elephant! Day by day I got through my life doing what pop psych experts have told us not to do: compartmentalize. I stuffed my tragedy into the mental equivalent of a file drawer. It gave me the strength to keep plodding forward. I wanted my children deeply, but could not have them. I pursued legal possibilities, and learned I was helpless. No amount of tears was going to change that. I had no recourse. I could have made circumstances my identity or I could broaden and reawaken myself.

I made a tangible decision not to focus on the disaster that had happened to my children and me, but on discovering new strengths. I developed a resilience that would be an underpinning in my future. Coping made me less afraid of taking risks. Today I have a sense of perspective that is indispensable.

Grieving is the process of restoring our energy and affirming our goals. If it continues beyond a reasonable period, it is destructive. I began socially climbing out of my despair, making new friends and eventually dating. Two years after their kidnapping, I was remarried. We had two wonderful children. Years later, I was able to cope with the mental illness of a son of that marriage. When he was diagnosed and treated for paranoid schizophrenia his father was in denial. I walked that path alone. Ten years later, I remarried and that short-term marriage soon became emotionally abusive. It worsened with my diagnosis of breast cancer. I did not waste time wondering “Why me?” I refuse to let my circumstances consume my life. I called upon my gutsy survival techniques. Through my surgeries and chemotherapy I was alone – again. Never wanting to be considered a victim, I moved forward. My treatments completed, I refused to be in an abusive environment. I obtained a divorce, moved to a different state and began a new life. This coping made life easier, and my survival certain – step by step. My concept on what’s actually bad is now vast!

To recognize that whatever you think, feel, question, or believe is acceptable. In each of my challenges, I had to realize that making excessive demands or imposing rigid restrictions on myself was counter productive. I had to live through my grief without denying the pain. Each time I slowly healed as I worked for balance in myself in my changed world. Sometimes, I feel like I’m flatfooted by continuing my posture of landing on my feet, but it certainly beats the alternative; being emotional road kill on the highway of life! Step by step anguish can be aced!



"What can I say. I admire you. I will try to take some of your lessons to heart. Thank you!!!!" -- georgie, san jose, ca.
"Being new at this I can only say that your story seemed to have no begining or end. Also what happened in between should be expanded upon. You may have many short stories within this story. " -- Robert Carlomagno, San Angelo, Tx, USA.


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© 2000 Sandra Lee Larsen
February 2000

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