When you are told that a body has been found

Finding out that a body has been located can bring up a huge range of emotions.

If you are in this situation yourself, you might be feeling shock, anger, disbelief, grief, sadness or fear, to name a few. Some family members have told us that it feels overwhelming; your brain goes into overdrive, imagining every scenario that could have led to this outcome.

“I had so many questions for the police. But they couldn’t give me the answers.”

“It was like being hit by a train.”

“It’s the loneliest place in the world.”

“I felt so lost.”

How to manage while you wait

Whilst you wait for further news, it’s important to try to look after yourself. Think about whether there is someone you would like to be with you. Is there someone you can talk to as you try to process this information?

You may fin that you are repeatedly asking the same questions to yourself; having the same conversations over and over. This is natural, but it may feel distressing for you. It is not unusual to have trouble sleeping, or to experience intrusive thoughts. It might be a good idea to speak to your GP, to let them know that you are undergoing a period of distress and upheaval.

“Try not to be alone. It helps to get all those thoughts out in the open, to speak to someone you trust.”

“You’re a prisoner of your own thoughts. It helps to share them.”

“I had to remember that they weren’t sure. It was a possibility, a strong possibility. But until I knew for certain, I still had hope.”

“Don’t make any plans. Don’t accept anything until you know the truth. Police told me they were 88% certain it was my son, but in the end, it wasn’t him. I had begun to plan a funeral. Don’t go there until you have to.”

“Missing People were there for me. I think I called them every day. I said the same things and asked the same questions every time. I knew there were no answers, but it helped to get it all out and to be listened to with kindness and patience.”

Coping with the news that it isn’t them

If you are told the remains are not your relative, there are a number of things that you might feel. Many families feel relieved. Others say that they experience something close to disappointment. It is possible and perfectly natural to feel both at the same time. You may have thought the nightmare of not knowing would be over; then find you are returned to the limbo of uncertainty.

“I had prepared myself for it to be him, and it was a shock to be told that it wasn’t. For a time, hope was taken away from me. Now I have hope again.”

Supporting the family

If you are not a direct family member, you may read a news article that reports of a body or remains being found, and a link to a particular missing person. It can be upsetting for family to hear people offer their condolences when they are still waiting for confirmation. It can be hard to know what to say, but the most important thing you can do is make sure they know you are there for them; that you are there to listen.

 “Just listen. Don’t ask them if they are all right. They won’t be all right. Don’t ask how they are feeling. Maybe just say you are checking in with them, touching base. Let them take the lead.”

“Try to send a message every day. Let them know you are thinking of them.”

“Don’t assume it is their loved one before police have definitely confirmed that it is.”

Talk to us

Whoever you are, and however you have been affected by the disappearance, and any news, we are here for you. Speak to us any time, for free and in confidence.

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