Its a week since flight MH370 disappeared on it's night time flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing and the grief of relatives has turned to a mixture of grief, fear and anxiety as new facts emerge about the strange movements of the flight that night and the revelation that the aircraft's transponder appears to have been manually turned off, coupled with the mystery about the two passengers who boarded the plane using stolen passports. As the situation unfolds the poor relatives are left with confusing, conflicting and ambiguous reports and a heavy uncertainty prevails about the fate of their loved ones.
As human beings, we have a natural tendency to want certainty, particularly in stressful situations. Not knowing and ambiguity adds to the stress and increases fear and anxiety. The ambiguity of this situation is undoubtedly making the situation worse for the relatives as grief and fear swings to hope as the possibility of a hijack appears to be back on the agenda again, which in turn leads to anxiety.
Uncertainty and ambiguity makes fear and anxiety worse. It leaves us without control. The lack of control means that there are few if any actions we can take to make the situation better or at least distract us from the grief, at least temporarily. As an ex-police officer I have seen this occur on many occasions where we were searching for a missing child and the parents have had to stay at home in case the child returned and also to keep the emotion out of the search procedures. The effect on the poor parents, having little control and awash with the emotions of fear, anxiety and grief and nothing to do that can at least distract them and give the feeling they are at least doing something is terrible.