When someone you love and care about goes missing a part of you goes missing as well. The first few days the stress is unbelievable and unless you have experienced a missing loved one you have no idea. Sleep is almost impossible – how can you possibly sleep when your loved one could be somewhere hurt and waiting to be rescued. Your mind won’t shut down and your imagination runs wild. Panic is just a few heart beats away. Each time the phone rings your heart leaps into your throat making it very dry and hard to speak when you answer the phone. When there is no bad news you become limp with relief. This can go on for many days. As the days turn into weeks its hard to stay positive and when the media is no longer reporting updates on your missing loved one you suddenly feel very alone and tired.
It’s hard to stay focused on the little things in life – they seem so unimportant – who cares if the stupid plants are watered, so what if the grass is getting long, the laundry can all go to hell. The only thing you have on your mind constantly is where is your loved one, what has happened? The emotional toll on a family can be devastating. Relationships with family and friends can become very strained, especially if they are continuing on with their lives and you are frantic to find out what has happened to your loved one. Families drift apart, jobs are lost, a social life becomes impossible – hard to be interested in Suzie or Billy’s grades or sporting events. Life becomes drab and uninteresting but you are obsessed with finding out what happened to your missing loved one. A decent sleep may only be obtained with sleeping pills, it can keep the nightmares at bay, but your missing loved is the first thing you think about when you wake up in the morning and the last thing you think about before you fall asleep at night. Not sure that will ever change…
You start finding yourself in situations that you would never have been in before your loved one went missing. We started going downtown Kelowna in the wee hours of the morning talking to the people on the streets, many of whom were drug addicts and homeless. You soon find out just how dangerous the streets of downtown Kelowna can be. We had one guy who was obviously high on something tell us that Mike was picked up by an Alien Ship and beamed up just outside a nightclub. As crazy at that seems you listen and try to make any sense of it all….and of course you can’t! The strange part was we had no fear, even though we knew we could be in danger it just didn’t matter. We were so desperate for answers, even bizarre ones! We began walking under the Kelowna bridge at all times of the day and night and were shocked to find that people were actually sleeping under the bridge. I stepped in human excrement and just tossed out that pair of shoes and was more careful where I walked after that. We talked to anyone that would listen to us, asking if they had seen Mike on that fateful night, but no one had seen him but many of them had seen us on the News begging for information about our missing son. Not sure where that TV was but it does show the media can reach people from all walks of life.
As the weeks turned into months and then a year hope begins to fade, but not completely. The RCMP told us early in the investigation that as long as there is no body you have hope…and we clung to that hope. There were many days of frustration, many tears but there is a certain amount of guilt mixed in with that as well. As parents we are responsible for our children and although our son was 25 years old when he went missing he is still our child. You are constantly doing the would a, could a, should a and its very hard to move forward.
You become very vulnerable and wide open to scammers and they are ruthless. You would sell your soul to find your loved one so money is no object and they play on your emotions. Many families of missing loved ones will turn to Physics to find answers and unfortunately these people can give you a lot of false hope and send you off in the completely wrong direction. Of course you will never find that out unless your loved one is found….
If you do decide to try to move forward, take better care of yourself, show an interest in the petty things in life, the guilt is there again. How can you possibly enjoy life when your loved one is missing? It feels like if you move forward you are leaving your loved one behind and that is impossible to do. Even grieving has guilt with it because if your grieving you have lost hope and if you lost hope you are somehow not being true to your loved one. If there is one word of advice I can give anyone who has a missing loved one is “Counselling.” It does a person good to talk to someone who is completely removed from your life. You can share you deepest horrors and confess your worst fears, shed many tears and it does help. Perhaps the first person you seek for counselling doesn’t work for you, try another. I also remind myself that my son would not want me to waste my life away in sorrow and he would want me to enjoy the little things in life. I know this is very hard to do but even just going for a walk along a beach or a hike in the mountains is good for the soul.
It has now been over six years since our son Mike went missing. I finally had to allow myself to grieve and it is a very hard thing to do, because in a way you are admitting that you may never see your loved one again however I do allow myself that little sliver of hope that some how, some way our family will be whole again. My house, yard etc have all become less important and I don’t know if that is a good thing or not but it is the way my life is now. I enjoy my family and treasure the time I spend with them. Lately I have started to take better care of myself and the guilt is still there but just a little nagging bit, I can live with it.
When a body is found, my reaction is always the same sick feeling deep in the pit of my being, but I have learned to continue on with my day because no matter what I do it won’t change anything.