Friday, 27 May 2011

Gone missing

I was astonished to read that up to 200,000 children go missing in the UK every year. Can you imagine all the grief, guilt, anger and bewilderment parents and carers go through as they realise their child has gone and face the agonies of trying to find them and wondering if they might be seriously injured or even dead?

Some children just get lost accidentally for a few hours. But it's terrible how many children deliberately disappear, possibly for years, because of overwhelming personal problems or family tensions they simply can't sort out. They feel their parents don't understand their difficulties, or aren't giving them enough help, or are actively hostile to them.

They're being bullied, they're secretly gay, they're taking drugs, they're failing at school, they've been abused, they're depressed. Whatever the reason, they feel their home life is making things worse rather than better, and walking away from it actually seems the sensible choice.

How sad that parents who presumably love their children are unable to give them the support they need, because they're too busy to listen or they trivialise the problem (or they are the problem) or they simply don't know what to do.

And how distressing it must be when children go missing for years or even decades, with no clue as to where they might be and whether they're alive and well. There's not even a letter or phone call to reassure their parents they're just living their own life and haven't come to a grisly end.

The continuing despair of Kate and Gerry McCann over their long-lost daughter is only the most dramatic example of how a child's disappearance traumatises the parents and family. But there are plenty of other families in similar despair.

Even learning your child is dead must be easier to deal with than the endless uncertainty over their fate, simply not knowing anything, imagining one horrible scenario after another, day after day. It could very well drive you crazy.

Parents always fear their children's disappearance. But if it actually happens, it must be so much worse than anything they've imagined.

25 comments:

nursemyra said...

Can't imagine much worse than to have your child go missing

Nick said...

Myra - Especially if they're missing for years and you have no idea what happened to them.

Suburbia said...

horrible thought. Didn't realise it was so many, just awful.

Nick said...

Suburbia - If these are children desperately in need of help, why aren't they getting it?

Miss Scarlet said...

What made Angela Bradley leave her spectacles in her car, the keys in the ignition, and walk away one January day in 1995?

I remember this one; it makes me want to go and investigate the case myself. It must leave the families, and the police tearing their hair out.
If I was in flippant mode I would suggest Aliens. But I'm not. So I won't.
SX

Nick said...

Scarlet - I don't remember Angela Bradley. Just looked up some details. Apparently she was depressed and ill at the time, so I suspect suicide with the body never being found. But who knows?

Grannymar said...

I find it impossible to comprehend what those parents feel.

Nick said...

Grannymar - Me too. It must go so far beyond any everyday experience of distress or horror.

Wisewebwoman said...

Close.To.Home.
XO
WWW

Baino said...

I'm working with a woman now who hasn't seen her daughter for 15 years. The kid 'went off the rails' disappeared and reappeared then the had an almighty bruhaha when she was about 18, drugged up and pregnant and her mother just let her go . . imagine that? Awful. I'm so close to my daughter that if I don't hear from her every other day I fret.

wendy house said...

I remember being lost, my parents occassionally lost us. Isn't there some empawering, valuable learning experience for young children to be temporarily lost? (e.g. 2 minutes in a supermarket)?

Nick said...

W3 - I know, you've mentioned your long-lost daughter several times, and the hurt and loss you feel. Interesting that you try to imagine what she's thinking and feeling even though you never see her.

Baino - Fifteen years, that's awful. And if she was drugged up and pregnant, you really have to fear the worst.

Wendy - You're probably right, being temporarily lost would be educational. Funnily enough, I don't remember ever being lost when I was a kid.

Nick said...

W3 - Just read the bit in your post about your granddaughter's friend trying to kill herself. Very sad. Another instance it seems of someone not getting the help they need before doing something desperate.

Rummuser said...

Runaway children in India must be in millions. You can see them in all towns of reasonable sizes and all the cities. There are now homes run by charities and some government run ones too, for them where, they are taken in and cared for and educated, but there are simply not enough of them. We also often read news about abuses in these homes as well. For a substantial number of children all over the world, child hood is not what we had or we give our own.

Nick said...

Ramana - So why are there so many runaway children? Is it for the reasons I wrote about or is it something else? Abuse in care homes is regularly reported in the UK as well.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I cannot imagine the pain they must feel, and I also think of little Madeleine McCann often. If there is anything worse than outliving ones own child, it is probably not knowing.It says a lot about our society that the statistics are so mind-boggling.

Nick said...

Heart - Societies everywhere simply don't care enough about the well-being of their children. Too many children are neglected, treated badly and commercially exploited. And then we wonder why they go missing.

Rummuser said...

It is mostly ill treatment by an alcoholic father, sexual abuse by relatives, or one hears about step motherly treatment as well.

Nick said...

Ramana - I expect those all figure quite heavily with British runaways as well.

Eryl said...

I look at my son, now 25, and thank god he's made it to an age that makes him the strong one. Oddly enough last night over supper my husband mentioned someone whose son hadn't spoken to him for twenty years, and our son said he couldn't imagine how such a thing could happen.

I can't imagine – but am willing to concede I'm wrong – that any parents actively want to hurt their children, they just don't know how not to.

Nick said...

Eryl - Yes, it must be a relief when your child has reached adulthood without any disasters. I didn't speak to my own father for a good ten years, he could never accept I was different from him and was always trying to undermine me. But I think you're right about (most) parents not consciously wanting to hurt their children.

Liz said...

It doesn't bear thinking about

Nick said...

Liz - I think it's a prospect most parents systematically push to the back of their mind and try not to even contemplate.

secret agent woman said...

I once dated a guy whose sister disappeared when they were teens. Only a couple of years later did they discover she'd been abducted by a pair of serial rapists-murders and only part of her body was ever recovered. I can't even begin to imagine the horror of having a child missing.

Nick said...

Secret Agent - That's terrible. The emotional trauma caused to her family and friends doesn't bear thinking about.