Skip to main content

Flight 370 families, I feel your pain

By Marilyn Tam
March 28, 2014 -- Updated 1241 GMT (2041 HKT)
On June 26, the Joint Agency Coordination Center released a map showing the new search area for flight MH370 in the southern Indian Ocean. On June 26, the Joint Agency Coordination Center released a map showing the new search area for flight MH370 in the southern Indian Ocean.
HIDE CAPTION
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
43
44
45
46
47
48
49
50
51
52
53
54
55
56
57
58
59
60
61
62
63
64
65
66
67
68
69
70
71
72
73
74
75
76
77
78
79
80
81
82
83
84
85
86
87
88
89
90
91
92
93
94
95
96
97
98
99
100
101
102
103
104
105
106
107
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Families of Flight 370 victims are grieving as searchers continue to look for plane
  • Marilyn Tam: I know how they feel; my father died in a plane crash in 1985
  • She says lack of closure is the hardest part for relatives, who may hold out hope
  • Tam: All of us can grow and thrive through the trials of life with peace and happiness

Editor's note: Marilyn Tam, a speaker, consultant and former business executive, is the author of "The Happiness Choice," a book that offers life lessons on how to cope with catastrophes.

(CNN) -- The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 is an enormous tragedy for the families of the victims.

It is excruciating to live through the pain, helplessness, shock and anger. It is as hard to regain some degree of normalcy.

I know because I've been there. In 1985, my beloved father died on the Japan Airlines Flight 123 that crashed outside of Tokyo, killing more than 500 passengers and crew. It's one the largest plane accidents in the history of aviation.

Sitting on the tatami mat in the city hall in the small village close to the crash site, surrounded by hundreds of other people looking for their loved ones, I felt desperate, scared and suffocated. Contemplating another day of looking at pine wood boxes with inscriptions like, "part of left hand, possibly male," I thought the agony would never end.

Marilyn Tam
Marilyn Tam

How can I steel myself to keep on looking to try to identify some remains of what was once my dear father, hero to his family? Emotionally, physically and in every way, I felt drained of life force, like the body fragments in the boxes we were going through one by one in our search for our loved ones.

All these years later the scars still sting when scratched, as they were when Flight 370 vanished. I want to share with the grieving, scared and frustrated relatives of Flight 370 victims that while life will never be the same, it will get better. It will take time, but you will laugh again and the sun will come out once more.

The lack of closure is the hardest part. How do you know for sure that those on the plane are gone since their bodies have not been found? What if they are alive somewhere waiting for you to rescue them? How do you have a funeral when there are no remains? How can you be so sure?

MH370 families react with 'raw emotion'
Families going through swell of emotions

But the truth is that while you may hold out hope, the world is presuming they are gone forever. You have to accept it and move on.

Here are some steps that helped me recover from my loss. Perhaps it could be of help to the families of Flight 370:

1. Grieve. Allow the pain to be released. Cry, punch the pillows, share stories, do what you need to let the feelings out. Let the emotions flow.

2. Get support. From your family, friends and experts. From your spiritual source, in prayer or in nature. In time, maybe join a bereavement group.

3. Eat as healthy as you can.

4. Get rest, even if you can't sleep well, take some down time.

5. Move. Walk, exercise, play a sport, dance, do something physical so that the feelings can be dissipated.

6. Go into nature. Nature is big enough to hold you and your grief. Nature is healing.

7. Know that your loved one(s) are at peace and will be with you always.

8. Help someone who may be in a worse situation than you. In my case I saw that a couple of American families didn't make the trip to Japan. I sent them notes to let them know that I prayed for their loved ones, and that everyone was very kind and respectful in the whole search process.

9. Trust that something good will come out of this tragedy. We may not know what it is, or how, but it will happen. My father's death helped me learn how to be more present, to survive adversity, and appreciate the wonderful kindness of strangers.

From disaster I've learned to be strong and flexible, and to seek assistance when I need it. With faith and courage I can make a positive difference in other people's lives. During the course of my life, I've been fortunate to reach many of the goals I had set. I know that my dad was there, guiding, supporting and inspiring me the entire time. He smiled with pride with each new milestone that I crossed.

I believe all of us can grow and thrive through the trials of life with peace and happiness. It just takes one step at a time. The families of Flight 370 victims will come out of this tragedy different -- but they will endure and honor the memories of their loved ones.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Marilyn Tam.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 1221 GMT (2021 HKT)
Carlos Moreno says atheists, a sizable fraction of Americans, deserve representation in Congress.
August 31, 2014 -- Updated 1625 GMT (0025 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says Democrats and unions have a long history of mutual support that's on the decline. But in a time of income inequality they need each other more than ever
August 31, 2014 -- Updated 0423 GMT (1223 HKT)
William McRaven
Peter Bergen says Admiral William McRaven leaves the military with a legacy of strategic thinking about special operations
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1611 GMT (0011 HKT)
Leon Aron says the U.S. and Europe can help get Russia out of Ukraine by helping Ukraine win its just war, sharing defense technologies and intelligence
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1724 GMT (0124 HKT)
Timothy Stanley the report on widespread child abuse in a British town reveals an institutional betrayal by police, social services and politicians. Negligent officials must face justice
August 30, 2014 -- Updated 0106 GMT (0906 HKT)
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say a new video of an American suicide bomber shows how Turkey's militant networks are key to jihadists' movement into Syria and Iraq. Turkey must stem the flow
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 1554 GMT (2354 HKT)
Whitney Barkley says many for-profit colleges deceive students, charge exorbitant tuitions and make false promises
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1434 GMT (2234 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says the time has come to decide whether we really want police empowered to shoot those they believe are 'fleeing felons'
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 1432 GMT (2232 HKT)
Bill Frelick says a tool of rights workers is 'naming and shaming,' ensuring accountability for human rights crimes in conflicts. But what if wrongdoers know no shame?
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 0243 GMT (1043 HKT)
Jay Parini says, no, a little girl shouldn't fire an Uzi, but none of should have easy access to guns: The Second Amendment was not written to give us such a 'right,' no matter what the NRA says
August 30, 2014 -- Updated 1722 GMT (0122 HKT)
Terra Ziporyn Snider says many adolescents suffer chronic sleep deprivation, which can indeed lead to safety problems. Would starting school an hour later be so wrong?
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1330 GMT (2130 HKT)
Peggy Drexler says after all the celebrity divorces, it's tempting to ask the question. But there are still considerable benefits to getting hitched
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1849 GMT (0249 HKT)
The death of Douglas McAuthur McCain, the first American killed fighting for ISIS, highlights the pull of Syria's war for Western jihadists, writes Peter Bergen.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2242 GMT (0642 HKT)
Former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford says the West should be helping moderates in the Syrian armed opposition end the al-Assad regime and form a government to focus on driving ISIS out
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1321 GMT (2121 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says a great country does not deport thousands of vulnerable, unaccompanied minors who fled in fear for their lives
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
Robert McIntyre says Congress is the culprit for letting Burger King pay lower taxes after merging with Tim Hortons.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2335 GMT (0735 HKT)
Wesley Clark says the U.S. can offer support to its Islamic friends in the region most threatened by ISIS, but it can't fight their war
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2053 GMT (0453 HKT)
America's painful struggle with racism has often brought great satisfaction to the country's rivals, critics, and foes. The killing of Michael Brown and its tumultuous aftermath has been a bonanza.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1919 GMT (0319 HKT)
Rick Martin says the death of Robin Williams brought back memories of his own battle facing down depression as a young man
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1558 GMT (2358 HKT)
David Perry asks: What's the best way for police officers to handle people with psychiatric disabilities?
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 1950 GMT (0350 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2052 GMT (0452 HKT)
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2104 GMT (0504 HKT)
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 2145 GMT (0545 HKT)
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
ADVERTISEMENT