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The Lost Boys of Sudan: Ambiguous Loss, Search for Family, and Reestablishing Relationships With Family Members*

Authors


  • *

    Support for this research was provided by the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station, Families and Communities Together Coalition, and University Outreach and Engagement at Michigan State University. We would like to thank the Sudanese refugees who participated in this study and shared their very personal stories with us. In addition, we are grateful to the two resettlement agencies—Refugee Services of St. Vincent Catholic Charities, Inc. and Lutheran Social Services of Michigan—who were our community partners in this project. We would also like to acknowledge Dr. Karen Shirer, who first suggested that we look at the issue of ambiguous loss with this population.

**Tom Luster is a professor in the Department of Family and Child Ecology at Michigan State University, 13 Human Ecology, East Lansing, MI 48824-1030 (luster@msu.edu).

Desiree B. Qin is an assistant professor of Human Development in the Department of Family and Child Ecology at Michigan State University, 103E Human Ecology, East Lansing, MI 48823 (dqin@msu.edu).

Laura Bates is a research assistant in the University Outreach and Engagement at Michigan State University, 93 Kellogg Center, East Lansing, MI 48824 (bateslau@msu.edu).

Deborah J. Johnson is a professor in the Department of Family and Child Ecology at Michigan State University, 7 Human Ecology Building, East Lansing, MI 48824 (john1442@msu.edu).

Meenal Rana is a graduate assistant in the Department of Family and Child Ecology at Michigan State University, 911 Cherry Lane Apartments, B, East Lansing, MI 48823 (ranameen@msu.edu).

Abstract

Abstract: The Lost Boys of Sudan were separated from their families by civil war and subsequently lived in 3 other countries—Ethiopia, Kenya, and the United States. In-depth interviews were conducted with 10 refugees who located surviving family members in Sudan after an average separation of 13.7 years. The interviews probed their experiences of ambiguous loss, relationships in the refugee camps, the search for family, and reestablishing relationships with family members living on another continent. With guidance from elders, peer groups functioned as surrogate families until the youth reestablished relationships with surviving members of their biological families.

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