When a child never returns . . .

What happens when a person or family experiences a loss so unfathomable, distressing and profound that they cannot make sense of? I’m talking about when a child goes missing and never returns? How does a family cope when sentenced to disenfranchised grief forever, a life-long uncertainty that hovers in the background always. When does a family move from the frantic and crisis driven head-space, when it is discovered that their child is missing, to the appalling realisation and question of  ‘what if he or she is never found?’ And then, if that’s not enough, having to actually continue some resemblance of a functioning life for the well-being of the lost child’s siblings.

We have all read about children who mysteriously go missing. Abduction. When the alarm is first given there is usually great concern and worry but mostly, I think, we expect the child to be found. As a community we hold hope, we wait until authorities do what they are good at, solve the mystery, find the child or children and the perpetrators/s. There are however, some rare circumstances when children disappear and are never found. Often fresh clues result in false hope of finding the child or their remains. Over time (I suspect) the full extent of the tragedy is woven into the daily lives of the child’s family. I can’t begin to imagine the extent of pain and torment for parents and siblings when such circumstances occur. ‘Living hell’ are the only words that come to mind.

From time to time I’ve read about a young twelve-year-old boy who went missing from a Central Victorian town in 1975 and was never found. Until this day his younger brother, who was ten at the time, has never given up hope of finding the remains of his brother. He has diligently followed all clues and even when the police have been unable to continue due to lack of substantial information, the adult brother of the missing boy has continued his plight. It can’t be easy when the authorities run out of clues, the community starts to accept that it’s a mystery, extended family and friends perhaps give advice to move on and yet, sometimes moving on (whatever that means) is impossible . . .

The fact that a young boy was abducted and thought murdered is horrific, an unbearable situation. So too, I suspect are the lives that have been forced to live in a shadow as the result of the uncertainty of their son and brothers’ death.  Not to have a body to bury, mourn and visit on special occasions is surely an insufferable and life changing scenario for a family to endure.

And so back to the man who refuses to give up the search for his brother. How has he managed to pursue the truth for all of these years, refusing to accept that he will never know? Is this his way of mourning and honouring his big brother? I suspect it is. I find myself thinking about this man on his long, sad journey, seeking to find his brother and to rightfully bring him to a calm resting place.  I’ve never met this courageous person but I’m overwhelmed by his determination . . . I admire him enormously for doing what he knows he has to do.

About Heathermargaret

I'm a writer and the author of Finding Eliza, 2018. I'm currently working on my second novel.
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3 Responses to When a child never returns . . .

  1. Predictable that I’d comment on this one I guess…what a powerful and moving piece. I loved how you conveyed acceptance of the things people just need to do to somehow cope with the unimaginable. Yes, what does ‘moving on’ mean and who are we to judge….
    As I read I thought about the disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines plane and also the wonderful series ‘Broadchurch’. Thank you Heather for writing about the sharp edges of life.


    • Thanks (as always) for your well thought out comments Jennifer . . . can’t imagine what it must be like for the families of the missing Malaysia Airline plane . . . not to know is such a terrible personal dilemma.


  2. deivamarina says:

    This is such an emotive topic. None of us could imagine this horror. As you know I’ve had a child die and I often think that to have a child ‘missing’ would be far worse. Yes, you could live with hope that one day he or she might return, but after days, months and years, it must be a difficult hope to sustain. And during all of those years your life would be in some kind of suspension it would seem. The most cruel of fates. Do you know the story (now a book) about the young Indian boy who becomes lost and ends up being adopted by an Australian couple? He did eventually find his mother again in India. A true and very moving story.


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