Supporting the families of missing people
By Alison Crawley, Big Lottery Fund communications Manager
Christmas is traditionally a time of year when families and loved ones come together to celebrate, but what if one of your family members is missing? What if you have no idea where they are, wondering constantly whether they are alive?
The stress and emotional impact on families, friends and loved ones of a missing person is immense. Their disappearance leaves a massive void in the lives of those left behind – like the family of missing chef, Claudia Lawrence. This is where Missing People can help.
Thanks to an England-wide £499,517 grant from BIG, Missing People has been able to put a dedicated programme in place – improving support for families left behind when someone disappears.
With over 17,000 calls per year from people worried about a missing relative or friend, Missing People provides 24 hour support with all helpline staff and volunteers trained to assist families experiencing ‘ambiguous loss’.
The organisation has improved online resources for families, introducing a new online forum for families to ‘meet’ and provide peer support. Telephone counselling is also available, allowing families to take part in the ‘Living Better When Living in Limbo’ programme. This explores how they can be supported most effectively through therapeutic interventions and Family Support Days.
Each year Missing People organises a Christmas carol service in London, providing families with the opportunity to remember their missing family member or friend.
The first regional carol service was held in York last week and was organised with Peter Lawrence, the father of missing Claudia Lawrence.
Claudia, 35, went missing on 18 March 2009. The last confirmed sighting of her was at 3pm in York as she made her way home from the city’s university. Her father Peter has worked tirelessly to find her and is working with Missing People to support other families.
He said; “It is every parent’s worst nightmare when something like this happens and the times the family are living through are indescribably difficult.”
At the carol service, Claudia’s best friend Suzy Cooper spoke of her anguish. “My life as Claudia’s friend was content, unassuming, and fun,” she said. “I do not have that life anymore. Her disappearance has left a massive void in my life. It has changed me as a person and it has altered my life irrevocably.
“Christmas is a very difficult time for people who have loved ones missing and many will not be able to embrace the festivities in the way they would have done before their lives were turned upside down.
“Some of the emotions felt will be of loss, sadness, or even guilt. As we approach Christmas this year, I am hugely grateful for this service as it offers warm comfort at a challenging time of year.”
So far this year Missing People has supported the families of 1,262 missing people and they have reconnected 882 children and adults with families and carers. 742 families are currently receiving ongoing support and help with their search.
Whilst the search for Claudia and hundreds of other missing people continues, there is comfort in the knowledge that Missing People is at the end of the phone for those families who are searching for loved ones at a time of togetherness for so many.
If you would like to find out more about Missing People, volunteer or have information about a missing person please visit the Missing People website.