This is a fascinating article from the always wonderful Guardian about what it’s like to be the brother or sister of a missing person. They interviewed people from several different families — all British, of course, but I’m sure they would have the same feelings as American families do. It’s rather wrenching to read. At the bottom, though, they interviewed a guy who was missing for over a decade and then came home.
In the comments section I saw this:
my brother disappeared for 19 years, we hired a detective, registered him with the Salvation Army (they have a missing persons register) and after 16-17 years we had a note from the SA telling us our brother was alive but did not want to be in touch with us. It was simultaneously a relief and further torture and frustration. A year later I had a woman contact me via Facebook to say she knew my brother and wanted to let me know he was fine but didn’t want contact. Another year passed and he agreed to meet me on the condition I not let the rest of my family know. I agreed and met him for three hours, we cried and cried and cried when we met and hugged each other endlessly. It was a one-way street he wanted to know everything about the family but would tell me nothing of himself and his circumstances. To cut a very long story short, he agreed to meet my family and had an emotional reunion. It was fine for a few months but my family found it very hard to forgive him the decades of pain he had caused them. He continues to ‘disappear’ to this day for months/a year at a time and my father now says he wishes he had never returned at all. Sometimes there is no happy ending.