Friday, April 27, 2007

4/27/07 Siblings of the Missing: Special Report, Part III

This report is being posted with the permission of the Family and Friends of Missing Persons Unit, (FFMPU) a division of the Attorney General of the Department of NWS, based near Sydney, Australia.

Project Jason agrees with the FFMPU that issues concerning siblings of missing persons have long languished behind the scenes, not unlike the siblings themselves. We hope the series will aid those who support the siblings to have a better understanding and response to their special needs.

30 APRIL 2005


Participants were asked to consider whether there were any stages that they could see in their journey. They described distinct initial stages, happening in the first months surrounding the time when their sibling went missing.

This early stage is characterised by:

• intense shock and disbelief;

• an obsession with detail - details that might shed light on what happened and lead to finding their sibling (‘what was he wearing’; ‘what did he say to his friends’; ‘where are the places she loved’, ‘what was he doing in the days, hours, minutes before disappearing’, etc.);

• an all consuming focus on trying to find their sibling – regularly searching places they used to go; an obsession with never missing a phone call, in case it might be them; meeting with friends to search for clues; following up any leads;

• an attempt to try to keep their normal routine going in the midst of a totally abnormal situation, just in case their sibling might make contact with them at school, work, on their normal walk, etc.;

• the gut wrenching experience of ‘seeing’ their missing sibling everywhere;

• expectation that services will really kick in and help to find the sibling (e.g. police) and then disappointment when it becomes clear how little help there really is; and

• constant consoling of other people and putting people at ease.

Just how long this stage lasts is not clear, but the unanimity of the above experiences in this early stage were clear from our discussion.

The traits of subsequent stage(s) were not as easy to define. People described gradually coming to the realisation that there wasn’t anything more they could do, beginning to get tired of dealing with friends and families issues and an emerging interest in their own life again as the key signs that they were moving into a new phase of dealing with the loss of their missing brother or sister.


Participants to the workshop were asked to consider the following question: If you could have the world exactly right for siblings of missing persons, what would it look like to you?. Working with a tool called ‘photo language’ they selected one or more photographs to help them describe what they hoped for. Their responses were evocative, describing a world in which:

• siblings grief was not forgotten and there were many different avenues of support for them;

• siblings had time to reflect on their own as well as opportunities to share their experiences with others;

• services, particularly the police, were actively looking for their sibling;

• siblings left behind could find out easily what to do and follow some kind of process that would ensure they did not lose valuable time or exhaust themselves in a lonely pursuit of their loved one;

• there were clear roles for everyone, and people were working together to find their sibling and support those left behind; and

• siblings were not forgotten and could more easily find a way to get their life back.

Further discussion was then held to pinpoint ways in which the service system could more adequately support siblings of missing people. There were common views about the
need for change in a number or areas, summarised below.

To be continued.............


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