Lori Meier: From Loss to Love. An abducted child, now an adult and mother of two, shares her story.
Lori Meier:From Loss to Love
I was an abducted child for ten years. My brother and I lived with our dad under a false name and with him as a fugitive, on the run, though we hid in one place the entire time. Those years of paranoia and fear altered my life and those around me forever. Family abduction is a travesty in which everyone loses. A ten-year-old child or any child does not deserve to lose everything they know.
I lost my mom, but also my childhood.
For ten years I lost my mother tucking me in and kissing me goodnight.
I lost my identity, the world that I knew.
I lost the reassuring smell of my mother’s hand lotion as she held me in her arms.
I lost my mom applauding and praising me during ballet lessons.
I lost her being there to help me purchase my first bra and makeup.
She wasn’t there to see me in my senior prom dress and tell me when I should be home.
I lost four loving grandparents, cousins and years of sharing Christmases together and countless treasured moments.
I lost my Southern roots and my family heritage.
Most of all, I lost the innocence and wonder of childhood, living instead a life of mistrust, fear and paranoia.
Abducted children are forced to learn much they should not have to experience.
I learned to live a lie and to live in fear of telling the truth.
I learned a new name and to sign it without slipping up-EVER.
I learned to avoid questions about my mother.
I learned how to take care of my brother and myself while my dad desperately looked for work.
I learned not to trust anyone and to be constantly on guard. I lived in fear that someone was following us who might take my dad away.
I learned not to see how wrong it was that my father took me away from my mother.
As an abducted child I learned much that I shouldn’t have had to learn.
I lived my life not knowing if I would ever see my mother again. By day my brother and I pretended we were a normal family. By night we shared our tears wondering if we’d ever see mom again, and wondering what we would do if dad died. We thought of mom all the time. What was she like? Did she ever marry? What would our lives be like if we had been with her? Would she want us back?
Every abducted child suffers deep emotional wounds that take years to heal. Years are required to sort through the emotional scars that result from being ripped from your mom or dad to live in hiding. And then more pain and more memories come back when you have your own children. Being abducted as a child affects you for the rest of your life.
Bringing missing children home is the primary goal, and where the concentration of work must continue. Of course preventative efforts must be made as well. Changes must be made in our court system, and counselors, attorneys, mediators and parents must put the children first in all matters. We must begin identifying early warning signs of high-risk cases and educate the many players involved leading up to the eventual abduction. With so much at stake, let’s look closely at what we are doing as a society and as individuals that create 350,00 parental abduction cases every year in this country. I challenge all of us to turn part of our attention to asking ourselves: what can we who are closest to this dreadful plight on our families, do to reduce the rampant occurrence of parental abductions in this country?
Many abducted children will grow up to be parents like myself. I’m now a mother striving every day to protect the wonderment of childhood in my own children by living every action with love and compassion. Children are innocent and fragile and are easily dented and damaged for life. They are the precious bearers of love and joy who speak the real truth for us all.
I would like to share a letter I wrote to my dad [Lori’s father, Lee Coburn, is the author of Runaway Father, and an advocate against family abduction] just before gave a keynote address for a missing children’s organization’s fund raising event:
While visiting with Janelle about which Try-it she wanted to work on for Girl Scouts, I encountered the true essence of being a child. Here it is…
We sat on her bed, looking through the Brownie handbook. Janelle stopped on the hobby page, so I read the “getting started” paragraph.
“Before starting any hobby ask yourself these questions. Then, talk about starting a hobby with your family.
Is this hobby fun? Is it too expensive? Do I have enough room in my home to do this hobby? Is this hobby safe? Will it hurt the environment? Do I have enough time for this hobby?”
Janelle did not have a hobby, so I was curious as to what she would pick. At that moment the world stopped. Sitting together on her canopy bed, she looked up at me with big brown eyes and spoke one sentence. Her voice resonated from the heart as she said, “Mommy, I already have a hobby. It is LOVE.”
We went back through the questions. I read them through my tears. She was so right. I wondered what our world would be like if more people chose love as a hobby.
Children are born loving. They deserve love. They are not little chess pieces we can move around in the game of life. It is no game. We are all connected by the circle of life. We can create that circle around love and generations will follow. It starts with this moment, with the conviction to love.
Ms. Meier works as a child advocate with missing children’s organizations and with families in areas of reunification and prevention. She believes that every child has a right to be loved by both parents, regardless of circumstances. Committed as an advocate against any instance of parental abduction except where children’s lives are in great jeopardy, she is available to work with missing children’s organizations and for speaking as a child advocate wherever she can make a difference for children. She has spoken at missing children’s conferences, been interviewed by Oprah Winfrey, C-NBC and many othersThe Link is written by and for people who have experienced family abduction as children, and our families. By sharing our stories, problems and solutions, we can help ourselves and others overcome the obstacles that family abductions can create.