Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Surfing through life

I was recently asked whether other families of missing people felt detached from their own lives, like they are watching themselves in some bizarre pantomime. 

I have thought about this lately and I know that I have felt this way for so long, that it has become the norm.  I do feel detached; like I am watching myself in some really poor B movie.  If I were to write a book nobody would believe it, or the road we have travelled this past almost 16 years.

I have often wondered “how do I cope?”, as that is the question that is most often asked.  I don’t know is the simple answer… I have to continue my life for various reasons, especially for my other children that were dependent on me at the time my son disappeared.  Also for financial reasons I have to keep going while living this other life, that is filled with total disbelief that this has actually happened to us.  My other children are now grown up, with their own families, but they are still dependent upon me and need me in their lives and in my grandchildren’s lives.  But how do I cope whilst, Damien is missing

The only way I can describe my life is that I ‘surf’ it.  I go through the motions every day, getting up and going to work.  I interact and even laugh with people around me.  I sometimes feel a little odd or guilty for seeming to be ‘normal’, when I know that I am far from normal anymore.  Co-workers are very concerned for me and genuinely feel sorrow for me and they do care.   I do have to pick my moments before speaking about Damien.  I have learned how to smile and interact even though the police have just told me that they are going to make arrests or dig up a garden and search a property for my son’s body.  Sometimes, if the subject comes up about Damien, I keep it short and sweet because I can see the squirm and wild eyed look on someone’s face as they struggle for the right words.  They are afraid of bringing up the subject because it might upset me.  They don’t realize that I am always upset and never stop thinking about him and it is such a relief when I can speak his name without people getting worried I might break down.  It is okay to ask and it is even better for me to be able to talk.

I have noticed that I am detached.  I feel as though I surf through my day without really ‘feeling it’.  It is like I skim along on the surface doing and saying all the right stuff but never really engaging myself thoroughly in any of it.  I say the right things and do the right things to function at some level.  But I am aware that I am not engaged on any level.  I don’t actually care much about all those daily aspects of my life that I have to perform.  The only mantra in the back of my head, all day, every day, every moment is me crying out “where is Damien, what happened to my son, where is he?”.  Over and over, that little voice is asking ‘why?’  But I can stop and smile and pass the time of day and do my job and do it well.  How do I cope?  I wish I could tell you, I just function and skim along and hope that one day I will hit land and some solid news that will make sense of this weird, odd life.  

Having this situation in your life is a huge emotional rollercoaster.  Your time is spent worrying, striving to find your child.  Then there is a financial cost and emotional toil, plus the effect on your family and friends and co-workers.  The loss and the grief and the constant distress are debilitating.  It is an uphill battle to make sure that he is not forgotten.  

Missing people has recently developed a Mindfulness Based Programme of counseling entitled ‘Living Better when Living in Limbo’, aimed at those left behind when someone disappears. Click the link for a summary.

By Valerie Nettles
Mother of missing Damien Nettles


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