Each year, the NZ police records over 8,000 incidents of missing persons. But as much as the statistics are alarming and saddening, it doesn’t reflect the emotional turmoil families of missing loved ones go through. While every journey is unique, people commonly go through these emotional responses:
The search can be tiring, not just physically, but mentally. You probably have spent sleepless nights thinking about how your loved one is, if they’re okay or in danger, whether they’re sleeping well or eating right. Acknowledge that you’re under intense stress, but at the same time, don’t be too hard on yourself and recognise that surviving the days is already a big effort on your part. Make sure you that you take good care of yourself as well. Aim to eat nutritiously and sleep well because your physical health is especially crucial during this time. It will also help to get the help of private investigators specialising in finding missing persons; NZ agencies have the technology and techniques that could make the search process move forward.
The thought of not knowing what happened to your loved one can shoot up anxieties. Often people describe this as ‘unresolved loss’ because you don’t have a sense of finality to their disappearance. This anxiety could quickly turn into guilt, with some people blaming themselves for not being there for the loved one at the time they went missing, for not being able to protect them. Forgive yourself for your perceived shortcomings. Talk to a friend or a relative about your feelings so you can live with the idea of lack of closure little by little.
Some people get to the point of accepting the reality of their missing loved one. But guilt could crop up any moment. You might feel like you don’t have the right to feel happy because this is a tragedy to your family. But know that accepting your loved one’s disappearance doesn’t mean you’re celebrating or you’ve given up all hope to find them. Through months of counselling sessions, there will come a time when you’ll find peace in some way. But the fight for finding your loved one and knowing what happened to them is still very much alive.
Relatives of people who have gone missing experience an emotional roller coaster. If ever you’re experiencing such, find people who can give you emotional support during this fragile time.