This is the transcript from the Project Jason Family Member Chat held on Wednesday, September 27, 2006, with guest Duane Bowers, nationally known and highly respected grief and trauma counselor. An explanation of the chat purpose, and more about Duane, will be noted on the post made after this one.
To protect the privacy of the family members participating in the chat, all identities, dates, and locations have been falsified other than my own and Duane's.
I took the liberty of bolding some chosen key phrases that I believe may help other family members of missing persons who were unable to attend the chat and are reading this.
If you do not have a missing person in your life, use the words below to aid you in understanding what we go through, and why we need your help and support.Transcript: Kelly: Good evening and welcome to the Project Jason Family Member Online Chat.
Opening comments, Duane?
Duane: Hi, this is Duane Bowers, and I want to thank Kelly for inviting me. I'm new at chatting so bear with me.
Kelly: Several in here are also new, so we understand.
Duane: I look forward to this evening and hope I have some info that may be helpful.
Kelly: Ok, Mary, go ahead please.
Mary: I'm Mary, Mother of Beth, missing since Oct. 18 2003, 15 yrs. at the time of her disappearance.
Duane: Hi Mary.
Mary: I've feeling extremely depressed ---and feelings of guilt--that I could have somehow made better decisions about allowing her to go stay with her cousins, where she disappeared --I feel it's my fault I allowed her to stay there. Oct 18th is coming up again.
Duane: Your feelings are normal, but how do they manifest? Physically, emotionally, to the point of interfering with normal routine?
Mary: When I come home from work or school, and I'm alone. I cry a lot and stay in bed.
Duane: I understand. With the anniversary coming, what do you anticipate the day will be like?
Mary: I pray that I will get a call from Beth.
Duane: That's a great prayer, but what have you planned alternatively?
Mary: a prayer vigil
Duane: Excellent. I think I may have gotten you off track. Do you have a specific question?
Duane: In addition to the vigil, what plans have you made just for you?
Mary: I haven't thought about that.
Duane: If she has a favorite thing to do like hike in the woods or gardening or going to the mall, could you 'spend time with her' in that activity...Just for you?
Kelly: Mary, would you like to think about this and come back to it on the next round?
Kelly: OK, no problem. Jennifer, please go ahead.
Jennifer: Jennifer, daughter of missing Beverly, age 59 then, missing since 10/09/04, suspected foul play
Duane: Hi Jennifer
Jennifer: After the disappearance, I immediately took leaves of absence from my full-time and 2 part-time jobs. After 3 months had gone by, I decided to resign so that I could focus as much time as possible on the search for my Mother, gaining more coverage of her story, and raising awareness on missing persons cases. Now, many months later, I am working only part-time by choice and living on my savings.
Here`s my question: Many people question me as to how I was able to just quit working and make comments about how I should get on with my life and how nice that must be to not work and how lucky I am. When I get comments like these, I feel the urge to sarcastically ask them What is lucky about having to search for my missing mother!?!?!?
How do I politely tell them that my work status and what I have chosen to do and how I am able to afford to live is none of their business? I know I should just ignore people like this, but I have trouble doing that. They don’t have a clue what emotions I feel and what I must do at times just to get through the day.
Duane: That's the key, they don't have a clue...You might explain that searching for your mother and working for the 'missing' cause has become your career, and that jobs are what you do to support your career. If they ask for more information, they are interested If not, they've already made up their mind about your status, and nothing you say will change that.
Jennifer: Very well stated, Duane.
Duane: Our career is what sustains and fulfills us, and at this point in your life you are sustained by your career of searching for mom and 'missing'. That needs no further explanation. (end of thought)
Jennifer: It sounds very good to hear it from you. Thank you
Kelly: Interesting question, Jennifer..thank you. Letmein, are you ready?
letmein: I am. Hello everyone..To the others here, I am so sorry for your losses. Duane, thank you for being here.
Duane: Hi, letmein
letmein: I am not able to let my search for my son Jarred, missing since his 21st birthday, November 24, 2001 be my "career". I feel great guilt over that. I need to be moving heaven and earth, and I just simply don't know what else to do.
Duane: Help me with what you said...what is moving heaven and earth?
letmein: Like our Kelly here..doing something that makes a difference..getting the word out..screaming my lungs out and being heard for my son..
Duane: If career is not the right word, then has it become your life?
letmein: I have not been able to let it become my life. I have a little grandson who is handicapped who lives with me full time. After Jarred, his sister went over the deep end into drugs. I am overwhelmed with those two. My Jarred gets what I can give, but I know it's not enough. I sometimes hate myself for that...
Duane: Ah, I see. Of those you mentioned who needs you the most right this minute?
letmein: Sometimes people say:.”Oh Look. God took one son and gave you another.”...meaning my grandson. I want to just cry. What if Jarred did not die that night? What is he is alive out there and wandering homeless with schizophrenia. My God, he could be waiting for me to find him right this minute. How could I have let him down like that?
Duane: I understand the thought, and while this is a rational response, how many people would be hurt if searching was all you did?
letmein: What if he killed himself that night, and I will never know because we will never find him? I don't even know where to search...not any more.
Duane: What if's are the worst part of this. Of course you don't...what human would? I'm not sure I can give you an answer to this pain except to say…..
letmein: No human would, and yet, who will if I don't? Do I just leave him out there? Lord, it's horrible. I am all he has..who else would care?
Duane: What gives you peace, if even for a moment?
letmein: My belief in the fact that I will see him again in my future. I am a believer..I know that Jarred and I will meet again. That gives me peace..helping another gives me peace...
Duane: Excellent....in what ways do you see yourself helping others?
letmein: In anyway available to me. I have many opportunities with the people that my drug addicted daughter knows…also the families of my grandson's acquaintences who often "think" they have problems. I am now a more empathetic person, and now I care as never before.
Duane: I don't have the perfect words, but your faith is the source of your strength. Stay with your faith and forget what people say, or what you think their expectations are.
letmein: Thank you friend..I will try with all my heart.
Duane: The people who care are the ones who support your faith. (end of thought)
Kelly: I have a question for someone who couldn't get in:
Clare, Mother of missing Robert, age 30 at time of disappearance, missing since 12/14/03, unknown circumstances. My son disappeared from Denver, CO. I live in Fresno, CA. I constantly struggle with the need to be in Denver to work his case, but my job is in Fresno. I’ve used up all of my savings and run my credit card up $10,000 looking for my son.
I don’t know where to draw the line or what to do. I can’t replace a son, and he is clearly my top priority. Yet, friends tell me not to jeopardize my job or finances any further, as I’ll dig a hole so deep I can’t get out. The guilt is enormous. I can replace a job, BUT I’m 59 and not at a great hiring age. I feel guilty and feel like I should be in Denver, but am afraid of making an emotional decision, not a smart one. How do you balance the need to do whatever you can to find your child, and the need to make a living?
Duane: You can't search when you're trying to survive yourself. This results in two victims. Picture as honestly as you can what life would be like in Denver. Is there a way you can make it work? What will you feel when you are there....more at ease or less? Is Denver a symbol for you, but actually going would be more painful? The point I'm trying to make is be sure that going to Denver doesn't end up causing more pain on top of the cost and struggle for employment. (end of thought)
Kelly: Thank you, Duane. Christina, do you have a question for Duane?
Christina: Yes, thank you...
Christina, wife of missing Alan, age 31 at time of disappearance, missing since 6/11/2005/ unknown circumstances.
Duane: Hi Christina, This must be a rough time for you.
Christina: I’m not used to this yet..I'm a bit shaky...here's my question...Alan disappeared of his own volition. It was shocking and out of nowhere, but clear from the way he left that he meant to do it. Sometimes I feel that looking for him is conflictual...does he want me to find him if he disappeared on purpose? How do I handle this? Would he be mad? Do I "respect" this choice he made & go on...we had been separated which makes me feel more guilty. We were still so close & unresolved.
Duane: Worrying about his feelings is perhaps not the question, but what do you need to be able to let him go. Searching is a normal response for having a bond broke...it's called Attachment Theory in mental health circles. However, at what point does the search interfere with the rest of your life? Is it time to find another way to let him go? Would that be more positive or is searching still a must?
Christina: But maybe he eventually did lose his mind after he left...I'm not answering your question...he would need help, he could be dead already...if he did come back, we might never get back together . When you say "is it time to let him go" I start crying!!!
Duane: (feel free to answer that question)
Christina: If he needs help, then I might be the only one who can help him...but he might want me to stay the *&^% away.
Duane: What hurts worse? The thought of letting him go, or the pain of searching? Your question was how to handle this...here's a suggestion..
Christina: This is making me break down...I don't want to let go but what is it that is there?
Duane: Make a decision to either search or move on (your words). If you decide to continue searching, give yourself a time frame and during that time, don't second guess yourself. By questioning what you’re doing it becomes more difficult. When the time period is up, make the decision again. Do the words make sense?
Christina: I feel like I can't let go intellectually, but it passes over in a way.
Duane: The converse is to decide not to search for a period of time, don't second guess yourself and when that period is up decide again.
Christina: The search itself is less of a problem than the emotional toll.
Duane: I guess what I'm saying is allow yourself to do what you need to do without questioning yourself. The best way is in time periods so that you can re-evaluate. (end of thought)
Sheila: Sheila, sister of missing Tim, age 36 then, missing since 3/22/2005, suspect foul play. Suspect ex-wife and family are involved in his disappearance. They had one daughter, now 6 yrs old. Ex-wife and family relocated to Brazil after ex was indicted on bankruptcy fraud charges and has a warrant for her arrest. Documentation provided to investigators led to her indictment and their subsequent relocation to Brazil. We have no contact with child or ex-wife.
I don’t know how to handle my fear. My fear was the greatest just after his disappearance. I feared for my own life and felt paralyzed. It has affected me and my familyin my own home. I lock all doors and windows. I don’t feel safe taking a walk alone. It’s gotten better, but I feel that I need protection with me at all times. Even a trip to the store, I feel vulnerable. This has also affected decisions on employment.
I’m currently unemployed by choice, but I plan to obtain employment within the next year. I’ve avoided jobs that I previously held because of public access to information. I believed Tim let his guard down and that is why he is not here today. I’m fearful that her family will retaliated against me because I haven’t stopped trying to get answers and I’ve exposed them. Even to this day, I’ve requested welfare checks with the state department to check on my niece in Brazil.
Duane: A risk.
Sheila: I need to let it go.
Duane: What do you consider to be safe other than your house?
Sheila: I'm safe with my husband. Maybe I'm more aware of my surroundings more than ever.
Duane: Can you expand your safety zone just a little at a time by having a cell phone, etc instead of your husband?
Sheila: Yes, I have been doing this. My husband told me I could wear a side arm if it would help. I even locked him out while he was grilling. I know it's a bit extreme. Then I get angry.
Duane: They still have control over you by having this effect on you. Part of the work will be taking your life back from them. They can't have both you and your brother.
Sheila: I agree, thank you.
Duane: That's going to be hard work, but the more you think about not letting them have you, the freer you might be. (end of thought)
Sheila: Thank you.
Kelly: Barbara, welcome. What is your question for Duane?
Barbara: Barbara, wife of Paul, age 32 at time of disappearance 2/22/06, unknown circumstances, but was suffering from health problems and had some depression. How do Iget over the extreme guilt I feel about his disappearance? I feel like I could have and should have done so much more to help him.
Duane: This disappearance is still very new. Sometimes feeling guilt protects us from what we consider worse possibilities. Also guilt helps us to find a sense of control. If we can see something we could have done it's not completely out of our control. What I'm suggesting is that guilt hurts but allows us to continue to function....overwhelming pain does not. I try to suggest to folks that of all the feelings they could feel right now, where does guilt fall from best to worst? Where does it fall for you?
Barbara: Well it's definitely after pain but it's probably right below it. It's the second emotion I go to when I'm hurting.
Duane: The point I'm making is that you are going to feel some emotion, is guilt the worst you could feel? Some people feel guilty about feeling guilty, which adds to the pain. You will figure out whether guilt is appropriate with time, but for now, is it tolerable?Your question was how to get over the guilt, and that comes from you over time of looking at what is truly your responsibility and what is not. Until then is guilt tolerable?
Duane: I would love to hear how you said that.
Barbara: The guilt brings lots of pain with it though. Tolerable pain I guess.
Duane: To reiterate...you have to feel, you’re human, while it's not what you want to hear, perhaps, tolerate your feelings of guilt until you can work it through, don't place the expectation on yourself that you shouldn't feel this way. (end of thought)
Barbara: Thanks. I know I just have to live with it.
Duane: But don't punish yourself for feeling. (end of thought)
Tammy: Tammy....missing 23 yr old son since August 1,2006. My son suffers from psychosis and stopped his meds 5 months ago. I have an idea where he is, but he has not contacted me. I'm worried because of his past suicide attempt and his inabilities to hold a job for a length of time. He has disability but that runs out at the end of this month and he has to reapply. I worry constantly and although I know I'm not alone in this situation. I do feel someone neglected by LE as they are not understanding. They treat his case as a run away and tell me to not worry and he is an adult.
He has a mental illness that mostly causes him paranoia. There are people in the town that he is probably in, but I still don't know for sure that he is still there. He lived at home when he went off for a bike ride and did not come back. He was doing better on meds and then just stopped.
He said he didn't need them. Part of his paranoia is focused towards me . He had no friends and I was his daily contact. I hope I don't sound too scattered with this thought. I feel like he is abandoning his family, yet I know it's his illness.
Kelly: LE=law enforcement FYI
Duane: You’re right to understand that his illness is in control. Without his meds he functions less, but is he still functional?
Tammy: He can cook and keep himself clean while living at home. From what I understand he is on the street right now. Like I said, his biggest issue is paranoia.
Duane: Do you have access to the doctor who prescribed his meds?
Tammy: He won't go to a shelter for help either. The place where I suspect that he is at has not seen him around for a week now. I do have access. My son and I have gone to those appts. together.
Duane: Have you talked to the doc about this situation? He has the authority to 'bring him in for observation' if he thinks your son is in danger.
Tammy: I don't want to scare him away, but I do want to hear from him. Is my case somewhat unique for you? My son is probably in a different state now which limits the dr. privelige.
Duane: I see. It might be worth talking to the doc, though, to see what he can do or recommend. He does still have some obligation to his client...it might be helpful to see what is possible through him.
Tammy: There was a mental health warrant, but it ran out time wise and he has no fixed address now.
Duane: If someone could help YOU at this point, what would that help be?
Tammy: That sounds like good advice. I struggle with "bad parent" syndrome right now and almost feel that I'm grieving something that is not really gone, but in a way is gone.
Duane: Grief is a good term. Grief is adjusting to a loss even if the loss is temporary.
Tammy: I know I'm not responsible for his mind, but feel helpless.
Duane: What gets you through right now....what belief what thought?
Tammy: So then grief can take as long as it wants... I do work and am able to focus on that most days. I guess my belief is that he is God's hands ...I'm a Christian... and I have to have people rally around me that way.
Duane: Excellent. Keep putting the word on the street that he can come home whenever he wants. Is there something else you can think of to do?
Tammy: I always have my cell phone just in case I get a call. I'm sure all of us experience that. Thanks for the kind words. I think I've probably done all I can right now except try to get the dr. more involved and take of myself by eating and getting rest. End of comments.
Duane: One more thing...the doc is not only there for your son. (End of thought)
Tammy: Thank you... I know... I do have help that wait.
Kelly: We can go to Mary and then Duane will give closing comments and any other info he wishes to provide.
Duane: Hi again Mary, I hadn't gotten to finish my thought and we moved on. You had asked, if I remember, about the feeling of guilt, and I was discussing spending time with you daughter...
Mary: After reading what others had to say --helped me understand.
Duane: My thought behind that was, the more time you spend with, perhaps the less you will feel guilt. It's not what most mental health folk would say, but it may work. Do the words make sense?
Mary: I don't understand.
Duane: By allowing yourself to be 'present' with her, you don't focus so much on the guilt.
Mary: I see.
(Duane was referring to this previously made comment: Duane: "If she has a favorite thing to do like hike in the woods or gardening or going to the mall, could you 'spend time with her' in that activity...Just for you?")
Duane: I'm in a corner, and not sure how else to say this in typing. Does the thought make sense; you don't need to agree with it?
Mary: I agree.
Duane: Again, I wish I could hear how you said that. Thanks for coming back (end of thought)
Mary: Thank you.
Kelly: Duane, I feel the session was highly beneficial. Some questions were posed and answers given that helped me reflect as well. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for doing this.
Duane: I have enjoyed the experience and hope this was in some way helpful to folks. (End of thought)
Kelly: Feel free to add any closing comments and other info.
Do not place expectations on yourselves about what you're feeling and doing, and certainly don't let others place expectations on you. You are coping in ways that no one else can judge. At the same time, seek out professional support when you need it. The key is to know when that is.....and that's where your loved ones come in. Listen to those who care and know you...not their expectations but their suggestions. (End of thought)
Kelly: It's our feelings and we have the right to them...correct?
Kelly: Thank you once again. Many blessings to you and your work and I will see you in November.
Tammy: Thank you so much for taking the time to listen and chat with us. We're all in a struggle together and it's great to know that we're not really alone even though sometimes it feels that way. And you're right Duane...people should not judge us for coping and feeling the way we do. We do need our family's support. Family is important.
Duane: Thank you all (logging out)