Being an “organization of loss” puts us in a unique community. We exist at an intersection of loss that puts us in communion with many different “organizations of loss”. As a member of that community, we dutifully maintain our awareness of the issues and ideas of other organizations that deal with loss.
I was reading the newsletter for The Central Minnesota Chapter of the National Organization of Parents of Murdered Children.
In it, there was an article about the stages of grief, and how grief is a sometimes cyclical process towards peace with a loss or a death.
Understanding that process doesn’t make it any easier, and does not diminish the suffering of people going through it. People in grief for a lost loves one, especially a child, do not want to hear about “the process of grief”. They are IN it, and they just need to feel whatever they are feeling right now.
When our families have a child missing over years or decades, they go through similar stages, but what stands out to me is that with no known outcome, there is no progress towards being at peace. You can’t accept an outcome that never comes.
People discuss the concept of a outcome as “closure”, but many of our left behind and searching families shake their head (and sometimes their fists) at that word. “Closure” implies an ending to the process, a close book means that you are done reading it. A close door means an end to possibilities.
But finding out what happened to your child isn’t an ending, it is a beginning. A beginning of processing an outcome, whether it is your child found unharmed, your child found with substantial injuries (physical, mental, emotional), or your child found deceased.
Until you know what your child needs from you, what they went through, what happened to them, you cannot begin to make progress.
Our parents of long-term missing go through the stages of grief without progressing towards peace, however temporary.
They endure the endless questions, the analysis, the accusations, the casual blame-game of the public, the invasive manner in which some outsiders express sympathy, the self-doubt and questioning, the depersonalization of their child’s case (“Oh your child is missing? How awful, I can’t even imagine. I just saw that special about Adam Walsh the other day!”) – and then they get up the next day and do it again.
For families of murdered children, the process of grief never truly ends. It reaches a point where they can do other things, think other things, have joy in their memories more often than pain…but that grief comes back again and again.
For families of missing children, that journey can’t even begin until their child comes home.
I’d just like to remind people that “answers” are NOT “closure”. Even “closure” isn’t “closure”…since we all know that pain and grief revisit us throughout our lives when we lose a loved one. They are never truly gone, and the pain of missing them is never truly gone.
Answers are important. They are needed and vital, and our families deserve them. But they are just a beginning, not an ending.