Most articles I write I do as if I’m having a chat with you, the reader. I want you to feel free to ask questions or make comments, and it’s easier if you feel like you’re involved. Right now, I’m going to share with you something that we’ve been dealing with for quite some time. Our eldest daughter is missing.
I won’t go into all of the details of the case, though there are quite a few. I’m not going to invade her privacy if this is of her own free will. I will say that I seriously doubt it is of her own free will.
Obviously, the first thing you should do is file a missing person’s report. Be prepared. Unless you have strong evidence to the contrary, law enforcement on any level is unlikely to believe you. Even if your evidence is something you believe is strong, their take is that the person is an adult and they can leave without parental (or any other sort of familial) notice. While it hurts and is frustrating, it’s the law.
In choosing which law enforcement agency to report to, you need to ascertain where the missing person was last physically seen. That police/sheriff’s agency has jurisdiction over the case. Any information you can pass along will help. Here are a few things to have ready:
Date of birth
Social Security number
Passport info (if applicable)
Last known sighting
Name of the person who saw him/her last, with contact info
Recent pictures, preferably in black and white
Associates that may be involved
Web information, such as Facebook, e-mail accounts and so on. Be aware that law enforcement cannot get into someone’s e-mail account on their own without probable cause.
Any know scars, birthmarks, piercings or tattoos
Any comments made directly to you or someone else with credibility that indicate the missing person is a threat to him/herself or others.
Where and with whom has the person worked.
Any driver’s license, state I.D. card or other legal documents of that nature.
These are just a few of the questions that will be asked. If your missing child has a spouse, be aware that the spouse will probably be in for quite a grilling. In many cases, the spouse has a good idea why, if not where, the missing child has gone.
Some missing person’s cases have enough evidence to warrant a true search. This isn’t, however, like the crime dramas you watch on television. Getting the FBI and other federal institutions interested will take time without dramatics. By dramatics, I mean blood, a known stalker, etc. It’s not that they don’t want to help, but they have to follow the law.
If you can afford it, you can hire a private detective. You should get references and make sure that his or her specialty is finding missing people, especially adults. The detective will want the same information as the police, and probably more than that. A detective can take the time to do some of the leg work law enforcement doesn’t have the time for.
You will have to take care of yourself and the rest of your family through this crisis. I highly recommend that you see your doctor as soon as you’re sure this is a missing person’s case. You may need blood pressure medication, or to have said medication increased. You may also require anti-anxiety medications. It’s kind of hard on everyone if you start sobbing in the middle of a sermon, I can tell you that from experience, so don’t look at this as a sign of weakness.
Let me add in here that crying is not something to be avoided. It’s God’s way of letting us blow off some of the stress this situation causes. I try to hold off crying only when it will disturb or hurt others, but believe me, I cry. Daily. Sometimes, hourly.
You will also probably need counseling. For me, as long as I felt that I could help find our daughter, I was ok. Now that no city, state or federal agency is willing to take jurisdiction or try to find her, it’s time for counseling. Like the anti-anxiety medications, this is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of strength and intelligence (even if I had my husband, younger daughter, sister and both parents insist…). I can’t tell my family many of the things I feel and believe because it will make their suffering worse. I can tell a counselor.
While I have felt like the last two months are part of a bad novel, I’m aware that I may never have an “end” to this story. This isn’t a book or movie, it’s real life. One of the hardest things we, as parents, may have to do is accept that we’ll never know what happened to our children.
The honest truth is that this acceptance is far harder than knowing she is dead. I won’t use the term closure. I’ve never liked it when I’ve heard it being used for others in this situation. Closure for me would be our daughter walking in the front door and giving us a big hug.
Our family is still hopeful that this will happen. Giving up is not an option. If we find another lead, we’ll follow it. That’s all we can do now.