Remembering your missing person

We know that every day can be hard when you are missing someone. But some days might be harder than others. It might be Christmas or another religious holiday you celebrated together, their birthday or yours, the day they went missing, or relationship anniversaries. These may be different for different people, but there will be significant dates which are harder to bear.

There are different ways that you can mark, and cope with these key dates.

“Do what feels right for you, by yourself or small family group, or larger community appeal. You can light a candle, have a toast, share stories of your loved one, or have a community event. Whatever is done, including nothing, is your choice.”

– Family member with a missing loved one

How you are feeling

It may be difficult to watch others celebrating family events, like graduations, marriages, the birth of grandchildren. Perhaps it makes you feel angry or resentful. These feelings are normal, but can be distressing. It’s important to acknowledge how hard these times can be. It’s natural to feel the absence of your missing person more keenly on dates that have a special significance. Feelings of sadness, anger or depression may intensify, and that can be scary. It can help to prepare a little for this. Would it feel better to arrange something in advance? To be with people on the day? A gathering of family and/or friends can sometimes help. A chance to talk about the person you are missing, to share memories and talk about how you are feeling.

What others do

“A small gathering of close friends & family possibly. I always try and do something to remember Finn that’s respectful, and something that he would enjoy. Go by gut instinct, and how you feel on the actual day. They are always hard days.”

– Family member with a missing loved one

Some family members tell us that they just want to get through it, to get away and spend the time somewhere quiet. Others don’t want to attach too much significance to any day. It is completely up to you.

“For me, it’s just another day in the dreadful situation. Do not try to get too preoccupied with the day.”

– Family member with a missing loved one

There is no right or wrong way to approach this. Members of the same family may have a different way of marking these days, and it’s good to recognise that that’s okay too.

“Organise something that your missing person would like to have been involved in. Something simple like a family meal or a bigger event like a charity walk.”

– Family member with a missing loved one

Our advice

It might help to tell family and friends what your wishes are. Some family members may want to meet up or create an event to remember together. If that feels too hard for you, it’s important to let people know. It is okay to change your mind. You might feel different on the day. Ask yourself what’s best for you.

Ways to remember them

  • Be with others. Gather for a private meal, perhaps preparing one of their favourite dishes.
  • Do things they liked to do, or go to places they liked to be.
  • Create a ritual. You could light a candle or plant flowers in a pot or in the garden.
  • Do something creative. Paint a picture, write a poem or song. Make a square for the Missing People Memory Quilt. 
  • Take part in religious or life celebrations.
  • Create a ‘memory box’. You can do this with younger family members. Add items that belong to the missing person, or your own creations, pictures or messages.
  • Organise an event in their name. This could raise awareness of their appeal, and also raise funds for the charity. Read more about our Walk For initiative here.
  • Just be with others, and raise a glass together to your missing person.
  • Share your experience through a blog or video.

Talk to us

We are here for you 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Consider letting us know if it would help you for us to make contact on important dates. Some people won’t want to talk to us on the day but may want a call before or after. Others don’t want to be in contact at all. It really is what feels most helpful for each person in their individual circumstances.

To mark the missing person’s birthday, or date they went missing, we may be able to publicise their appeal. This could be in the form of a social media post, or with one of our media partners. Get in touch to talk about whether this is something you want.

Talk to us

Sign up to be a Digital Search Hero

We have launched a regular email so that you can be aware of new missing person appeals and share them far and wide! We are also calling on all Heroes to be the eyes and ears for Missing People on the ground. Your sighting of a missing person could make a difference in a crucial time.