Monday, January 1, 2018

Creating Hope from the darkness

Life as we knew it was cast away from its course into dark and deep waters of despair and confusion.  Dealing with what is known as “ambiguous loss” has been a long journey with many hard lessons learned along the way. Lessons about life and family and what is meaningful anymore.  One thing that has grown out of this darkness and continues to lift us is the light that was and still is Damien.  The joy that he brought.  The good and decent person he had become.  Not perfect but delightfully silly and entertaining.  The joy he brought lives with us still.

It is because of this deep confusion, lessons learnt and continued shining light that keeps me focused on making his loss into something meaningful.  It is because he shines as a beacon of hope and joy and we refuse to let his spirit flicker and die.  We continue to strive to make things better for other missing cases.  We will endeavor to ensure that cases are given full, respectful scrutiny by police and other organizations that are involved in any way.  We want all stones turned and nothing left to chance.
Please help us get the support we need.  The momentum is growing for this idea and we are delighted that this call has been taken up by professionals in their fields who see the value of these ideals.  Please sign our petition and support the call for Damien’s Law and the principals that form the manifesto.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Something is not working!

And still they keep on coming – one after the other after the other.

Smiling faces, some full of hope and optimism, some not quite so cheerful, but every one has a story and belongs to someone.

For 21 years we have searched for our missing son and in the process encountered more faces than I can ever remember from all over the world.  Lost souls.  Some come up so many times I get to know a bit about them and have even met their families left behind to cope.  Some are found alive, others are not.  Others like my son are never found and we just do not know what their fate is.
But 21 years and they are still coming – disappeared without trace – out of character – some appeals are big and reach huge audiences but others don’t.
When does one give up?  Never.
If, in the early days everything that can possibly be done IS done then there is fair chance at finding them or what may have happened.
21 years on and social media is a huge asset in getting the story to as many people as possible – but still they come!  Face after face and one has to ask how so many can vanish and their cases languish on a dusty shelf – forgotten.
I am calling for a law that will ensure all cases get the best shot from day one with better risk assessment, especially for young males.
Check out our manifesto and if you think this is a way forward please add your signature – anyone anywhere can sign it. Thank you!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

I never knew you at 17 years old….

You are going to be 37 years old soon and a whole lifetime has passed you by and cheated us out of the joy of watching you grow into the great human being I know you could have been.

It is very hard to come to terms with that idea.

I feel like you’re still with me because I still have not felt that I can let go of you.  You are my child and you vanished for no apparent reason.  When this happened we were are all shell shocked.  In way this is akin to PTSD although nobody ever really thought about it in that way, not for a long time. It does make sense.  I can only speak for myself.  I was in shock for so long and still am to a degree.  I have learned to live with this though still carry around a pain in the depth of my soul.  There are no words to describe this feeling.  I can’t leave you behind and I spend my life thinking about you and searching for answers.

I wonder what my life would be like if I only had to fret about how you’re doing at work or about your life in general.

I carry you still.  I feel the weight of this in my heart and wonder how much longer I can keep this up?

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Fractured Lives – remembering 20 ½ years on…..

I remember a big tall lad bounding out of the door, catching the door post, poking his head back through the doorway saying “bye mum, see you later”.  He fell back into the room briefly and I told him to be back by 10.30 p.m. to which he replied in a good natured way “awe, mum, I haven’t seen my friends for a week so can I stay out a bit later?”  I replied okay but no later than midnight.  Then off he loped with that big stride, and that lovely smile beaming, to the car where his dad waited to take him to his friend’s house.

Nothing untoward, nothing abnormal or ugly, just this lovely lanky 16-year-old off out to visit his pals. I never saw him again.

The next day we discovered his was missing and our lives have been fractured since.

Over the past 20+ years there have been countless other people who have gone missing but the focus seems to be fixated on a select few.  The issue is much larger.  I have met some of the most amazing people who have suffered this same loss and who have fought valiantly for just a little of the limelight for their own loved one. Not for the glory of the limelight but out of a desperation to get their loved ones face out there in the public eye, “in case”  always in the back of your mind.  “What if” this time we find them? What if we finally get a lead.  What if we finally find out what really happened?  Will someone finally come forward to put an end to our anxiety and our misery and our desolation?  We silently hope against hope even when your gut tells you that you may never know where your child is.

"Here is to all the lost and missing". 

You are are not forgotten and you are missed beyond words and many hearts are heavy with loss.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Ripples in the Pond

When my son went missing our family and friends were all devastated.
You can understand the family and close friends grief, as that is the one you usually see.  However the impact on the community at large can be long and lasting too.  The friends, casual or close, are all impacted.
In our case this has become apparent several times over the years as Damien's  friends grow and mature and have families of their own.  Generally, it seems  young males have a more difficult time. They pop up once in awhile with a funny heart warming story about Damien.  They all had to deal with Damien's loss, who was one of their own, in their own way. 
Sometimes the way they deal their loss is with substance abuse, not understanding that this will never give them the emotional support or help needed. It's a spiral leading to addiction and destructive life styles.
Sadly, some took it really deeply to heart and never got over the loss.  One has to wonder if it is because they knew more than they could say.
As time goes on, we have the occasional  lull in activity and just as I feel we might not get another lead, something comes up that begs more questions.
When someone goes missing it isn't a quick fix.  If the missing person is missing for many years the community lives with that constant reminder too.  When will it end?  Probably not until we have some resolution, no way to know.
The impact on young teens when this happens is often overlooked. 
Things may have improved over how it was 20 years ago in the UK.   Counseling should be provide by schools to help younger people cope. If this is not being provided by schools now then it needs to be implemented for any kind of loss that may occur in their circle of friends and school community.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Candle of Hope

Tinsel, bells, glitter, lights, sweet songs of praise, warm  greetings between friends and family reunions, happy excited wide eyed children, anticipation, expectations, traditions, caring and sharing

These words conjure up the Christmas/holiday ‘moments of joy’ we have grown up with and know and love.  If you have been dealing with great personal loss these old sentimental moments of joy may fall upon dark hollow ground.

There is light at the end of the tunnel.  It is a faded light that replaces the warmth that once wrapped itself around you at this time of the year.  But there is hope because, like it or not, life does go on.  It is a life off kilter, spinning a little sideways from how it used to be and you may find yourself hanging on and hoping not to fall into oblivion.  But there is hope.  You can weather the storm.  It will be okay and life does go on.  You will find a balance again.  The world will always be a little different.  You may even feel you have become colder and more cynical.  Less tolerant. It’s okay.  Life will resume, just a little differently.  I imagine it is much like having lost a limb but learning to walk or write again.  It can happen with the right aides and help. Everyone gets through this in their own way, so I cannot provide a formula.  It just happens and life goes on.

I go through the motions and I do have enjoyment watching the faces of small children as they experience the magic and joy at this time of year.  It brings back happy memories of my children and the lovely times we had.  It also reminds me that one of them is missing for no reason that we can understand.  The sadness of that ambiguous loss is beyond words.
But life does go on and while it does I make the best of what I can and keep the candle of hope burning.           

Monday, December 12, 2016

Here is a blog I wrote a few years ago, I updated it, as its now 20 years on.

So This Is Christmas 
It is our 20th Christmas without Damien. 

How has Christmas changed? Totally. I used to be all about Christmas.  Loved it and planned for it. I enjoyed spending time with my children and we had our traditions that we loved every year.  Favourite shows to watch, school plays, favourite foods to prepare and decorating the house.  All the things that one does in anticipation of the wonderful unfolding of Christmas and the family joys it brings. The wonderment of little children and the squeals of delight as they see the presents under the tree.  I loved to walk home from work through town and see Christmas lights happily dangling across streets, bustling with shoppers laden with bags of holiday food and gifts, heading home as the day turned to night.  I loved Christmas and the feelings of happiness and joy were tangible.  Now we have had 15 years of loss.  Damien is gone. I don’t feel the joy anymore. We have a hole in the center of our family and we don’t know why.

After Damien went missing in November 1996 we went about our usual preparations, but instead of joy, I felt fear.  The tree was trimmed and presents were purchased and placed under the tree. We waited every day for the sound of him coming home, but it never happened.  We honestly thought he would be home by Christmas.  It was unthinkable that he would not be found by then. 

This was the beginning of the new, changed Christmas. The joy was gone and I tried ever so hard to keep it all together for my other children.  I did all the same things. School plays and festivals and shows and traditions. But I was quaking inside with sadness. I felt guilty the second Christmas doing anything because he was not here.  It was clear he was nowhere to be found and probably would not be walking through the door.  But for the children’s sake we went through the motions.

I think that is how Christmas has become…going through the motions and trying oh so hard to ‘feel’ the joy, but quietly and methodically avoiding the knowledge that this is all for show and there is no joy at all, not as I knew it.  Putting on a good face and making it the best that I can for the children.  I listen to the Christmas music old and new. I am trying to muster a tiny tiny glimmer of feeling, but it is gone and I am numb. No matter how many Christmas programs I watch, it is gone. 

I have grandchildren and I watch the shows with them that I watched with their daddy and his brother Damien, and his sisters.  I am trying so very very hard to feel something, but it is just so difficult to find any feelings at all.  I am numb. I love to be with the grandchildren and watch little faces…. but still - I am numb.  I think every soft mushy, tender, soppy, warm, happy, gushy, sentimental feeling is gone.  

I feel content the grandchildren are excited. I am satisfied that my effort to continue to do Christmas has given my children the desire to continue with the traditions and enjoy the anticipation of the season with their own children.  I hope I saved Christmas for them a bit by not giving up completely but by making the best of a bad situation and doing the right thing for those left behind to cope with the loss of a loved, cherished child, and brother.