Lebow advises them against looking for some sudden moment of reconnection, but rather to be loving and patient.
Coming back from combat
Dugard's reuniting with her family could also be likened to a soldier coming back from a "hellacious war," Lebow said.
A recent survey of military spouses of deployed Army soldiers with school-age children found that the return from deployment is the most stressful, according to three-quarters of respondents. Reunification brings excitement and relief, which is sometimes accompanied by emotional conflict, the surveyors said.
In the military, bonds of brotherhood form as people face dangers together, Tabin said. When service members come home, they may find life "shallower," and feel that they are not the same people as when they left, she said.
In a case where a husband has been away at war and returns to his wife, the desire to understand one another's feelings is fundamental, she said. "She wants to be understanding, he wants to be able to shove it aside, then he has nightmares, and she says, 'you're not setting it aside,' " Tabin said. "Well, consciously he is -- he's not awake when he dreams."
Don't force the person who has been away to talk about their experiences, Napoletano said. She also stressed that a family should try to normalize the life of the service member who has returned from war. Waking up in the morning, going grocery shopping, washing clothes and doing other day-to-day activities help create a stable, comforting environment, she said.