Monday, 29 September 2014

Missing Blog Post by Kate Brown (names have been changed)

When I think back to those first days and weeks after my partner, Craig, went missing, I wonder how I got through that period. Initially I had to deal with the shock of being told by the authorities that he had disappeared. But within a very short space of time that shock was joined by confusion and stress. Craig and I didn’t live together, and we had no joint finances. But he had no family in the UK, so it was down to me to take action. I began to worry about what to do about his flat and his financial affairs. The short answer was that I couldn’t do a lot.

Within a few days of Craig’s disappearance, I told the police officer with whom I was dealing that I intended to go into his bank to explain the situation. She advised me not even to bother; I wasn’t their customer, so they had no reason to listen to me. She kindly rang them on my behalf, but that was the limit of her power. As the days went by, I found bills mounting up at Craig’s flat. The police suggested that I write to all the authorities and utility companies, simply informing them that Craig was missing. It took me a little while to gather all the relevant information, but I did this, following legal advice, and for a time I felt relieved. But the bills kept arriving at Craig’s flat, and were soon followed by final demands and warnings of legal action. I rang the companies to explain the situation. Some were sympathetic, but said they could not close Craig’s accounts without his authority. Others were far less reasonable; one national company told me that their debt collectors would find Craig.

The situation made me extremely anxious, and I began to dread visiting Craig’s flat. I think he would have been very upset to know how the stress was affecting me. I wanted to safeguard his belongings and do my best for him, but nobody could tell me what was the right thing, the correct thing, to do. I felt overwhelmed.

Eventually Craig’s flat had to be reclaimed by the housing association that owned it. They were sympathetic in their dealings with me, and I managed to put as many of his possessions as I could into storage, either in a lock-up or with friends. I was fortunate to have their help, otherwise I could not possibly have afforded the expense of further storage. Once I returned the key to Craig’s flat, I could no longer keep an eye on the post (and I did not have the authority to have it forwarded), but I know that things would have remained unresolved with the on-going bills. I could not help thinking that I had somehow failed and let Craig down, because it all seemed such a mess.

I received helpful advice from Missing People, and through them I became aware of the campaign to introduce legal guardianship to enable families to manage the affairs of a missing loved one. It would have been a huge help to me to have had guidance on such matters when Craig disappeared, and to have been able to take a clear course of action. When families are already at their lowest ebb, they could certainly do without the extra worry of the gas bill and Council Tax. I very much hope that the Government will introduce guardianship provisions, so that in future families will be spared additional distress and frustration when trying to deal with the financial affairs of a missing person.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Working with those who have someone missing

When I started working as a counsellor for the Missing People charity nearly two years ago, I was struck by the unique situation people found themselves in and how empathic and caring the organisation was in response.

Having a loved one missing often triggers a mixed range of emotions; some understandable like fear and the pain of loss, but others may be less familiar such as shame and guilt, which makes them harder to manage. Without any explanation or reason, many go through a stage of blaming themselves for what may or may not have happened and it is difficult to move forward from this position as there is usually no evidence to dispute this. These thoughts and feelings can vary depending on how the individual may be feeling, the response of others around them and/or recent events. The constant switching of emotions can be intrusive and disruptive; it is hard to lead a ‘normal’ life with things feeling so chaotic emotionally.

Working with people who in the main manage to achieve this has been a moving experience and I am at times in awe of their ability to cope. The determination to not lose hope creates a tenacity which appears to give individuals strength to continue in their search for information, regardless of the many hurdles they have to overcome. It feels like someone has been catapulted into an unfamiliar world and it has been a learning experience observing their ability to adapt. Dealing with the media and police are new to many and some who would like anonymity and privacy have to discard this in the interest of the investigation. Although apparently necessary, this can bring a lot of discomfort.

Within the family there may be differences in how others respond and this can create increased tensions. Unlike other forms of loss where there is a gradual move to acceptance, some feel this would be like giving up and disloyal. Many report that the feelings remain the same even after several years, they just acclimatise to carrying the pain.

There is a fear of moving on - what if the missing person returns? This can also create problems as some of those around them assume this is easier with the passage of time, and some say they no longer discuss their loved one due to this lack of understanding. There is an assumption that in some way they have ‘got over it’, and there is a sense that there is a time limit for support and understanding. At times it can feel easier for someone to separate the missing issue from certain areas of their lives and they choose to keep it private, sometimes fearing others’ judgement, but also to create a temporary sense of normality.

The physical and emotional impact of sustained anxiety and uncertainty are often underestimated. Living with the constant hope of information, looking every time you leave the house in case there is a sighting, means there is little chance of relaxation, and this can take its toll. We all identify with our roles and this is challenged by having someone missing. People may ask themselves whether they are still a parent or wife, for example. Without a resolution or reason, some find themselves questioning what they did have with the missing person and at times doubting their own judgment. This can impact both the present and future.

These are just a few of my observations from working with those who have someone missing, and naturally each individual will respond in their own way.

We cannot change what has happened or the behaviour of others, but in therapy we can explore thoughts, feelings, and responses, and hopefully work towards developing coping skills and strategies to manage the bad times.

Penned by Helen
Telephone Counsellor.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

The amazing People's Postcode Lottery Millions Draw; helping Missing People deliver vital services to missing children, adults and their families

The sun shone and the canap├ęs were plentiful as a marquee full of lucky People's Postcode Lottery players mingled nervously on Saturday. All were winners, but nobody knew how much of the enormous Millions Draw £2 million prize pot they would take home.

Some of the charities that have benefitted from grants this year arrived to thank the winners for taking part - a whopping £47 million has been raised for charity through ticket sales so far. Missing People is so grateful to have the on-going support of players of People's Postcode Lottery and I was thrilled to be able to thank so many players in person.

As the tension built, a winner from the last Millions Draw came on stage to tell us how it had changed his life. He's been able to pay off his mortgage, replace his broken down car and take his family on a much needed and well deserved holiday. Ripples of anticipation could be felt around the marquee!

Then the waiting was over and the prizes were announced, with each winner tentatively opening a giant gold envelope to reveal their prize, with whoops of excitement and tears of joy! Everyone was delighted to be part of the People's Postcode Lottery family and to share the experience together, from the staff, to the charities who benefit, to the players who had won often life-changing amounts of money.

One winner explained how he had never won anything before and had thought it was a joke when he got the call to say his postcode had been drawn. Another shook with nerves and broke down in tears after she told the crowd how she had always wanted to treat her children to a once-in-a-lifetime holiday. One couple told me how they hoped to win enough to buy a new car...ten minutes later they had won a brand new BMW as well as enough petrol money to last them for years! Fantastic!

I was honoured to share this amazing day with the fantastic staff at People's Postcode Lottery and all the wonderful players, who make it possible for Missing People to continue delivering vital services to missing children and adults and all the families we support. I will definitely continue playing the People's Postcode Lottery, keeping my fingers crossed that my postcode will be a winning one soon!

Penned by Jocelyn Mooney
Senior Grants Officer, Missing People

Around 250,000 people go missing in the UK each year. The Missing Blog aims to give a voice to all those affected by this issue.

Written by families and friends of missing people, supporters working to raise awareness of the cause, and volunteers and staff at the charity Missing People, we hope that this blog will offer a window into the issue of missing.

The charity Missing People is a lifeline when someone disappears. To find out more about Missing People and ways that you can support the charity visit

Call or txt the charity Missing People for free on 116 000, 24/7 if you or anyone you know is affected by a disappearance.