Talking about your missing person

Explaining that someone has gone missing

It can be a difficult conversation to have, and you may not always feel up to having it. That’s okay. You don’t have to share anything if you don’t want to, and not everyone has a right to receive details about you or your family. Close and extended family, friends, neighbours and work colleagues – you can decide how much to share, when, and with whom. In most cases, when someone goes missing, it’s important to get the news out to help with the search. It can help to agree in advance with other family members how much information you want to share with others.

Some of the families we support have shared with us how they deal with talking to others about their missing person.

“It is up to each individual to walk through that conversation to find how much information you wish to share. Usually I don’t go into too much detail unless I am pushed to elaborate. I generally say I have three children with me and one who is no longer with us. Hopefully that is enough to stop further pressing. But, with people who know us and the story behind the fact my son is missing, then I am always open to discuss it. It’s not a dirty secret. My child is missing and needs to be found.”

“I texted 3 friends to tell them Anthony was missing, and that we were going to do a search of the local area in two days, and asked for their help.”

“I found it better to tell people myself. Just be honest & give the facts about what you actually know at the time you tell them.”

“Try not to beat around the bush and just let people (in your close circle of friends) know – you will need all the help you can get and will appreciate the support.”

Letting official people know

.g. school, college, university, workplace, financial institutions, landlords, mortgage companies. Link to page with practical information.

Keeping people informed

You may wish to keep family members up to date with news, and equally, people in your circle may contact you frequently for updates, but it can be both physically and emotionally exhausting to manage this. You could think about setting up a WhatsApp group, or a similar closed group on a social media channel, adding only those you wish to keep in the loop. Let them know when or how often to expect a message from you. That way you have control, and you avoid the stress of dealing with frequent calls or texts asking for updates. When the news that your loved one is missing is shared on social media channels, there may be an influx of comments and suggestions from acquaintances or members of the public. It can be a good idea to nominate someone else to manage this for you.

“Try to get someone you trust to manage any social media groups you set up on your behalf and don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know – they may mean well but they can be very intrusive and you will have enough to deal with.”

“Try not to be the one that runs any Missing pages on social media. Don’t put your personal mobile number on missing posters – always use 116000 and 101 or get a SIM only PAYas YouGo so you can get rid of the number once your loved one is no longer missing.”

Read more about how to stay safe online when appealing for your missing person. ADD LINK

Dealing with intrusive questions, unwelcome comments or suggestions?

Most people mean well and want to help, but there will be times when comments or questions feel intrusive. When this happens, it’s okay to let people know. You can be honest and say something like, “I appreciate that you want to help, but that doesn’t feel helpful right now.” Or “thank you, but it doesn’t feel helpful to hear that.” You can offer an alternative way for them to help, or just say you don’t want to talk about it now. Find your own words to let them know what you need from them instead.

“Be honest, let people know if they are not being helpful, and suggest maybe they could do something to help, like taking posters and distributing them.”

“If people press for more details, I just spoon feed basics until they stop. If they don’t stop, I will tell what happened because then they have to sit and listen. If they have a suggestion, I say “good idea” and we have that conversation. It is a problem when people take what you say and repeat it, but speculate and it becomes a different story. But I am always polite as their concern is usually coming from a good place.”

“If I find myself in this situation, I just stick to the facts that I know and repeat them if necessary. Be honest and tell them that you don’t want to answer the question.”

“Not everyone is nice, and you need to protect yourself. Don’t be afraid to say ‘No’ or “I don’t want to answer that question”. You don’t have to tell anyone anything.”

Being honest about what you need

You may welcome the opportunity to talk about the person you are missing. There may be some days when you don’t feel like having that conversation. It really is about how you are feeling and what is helpful for you at any given time. Many families tell us that friends and acquaintances avoid mentioning their loved one’s name for fear of upsetting them. That can feel hurtful and as if your loved one has been forgotten. Let people know that it’s okay to talk about them, if that feels right for you. People who care about you just want to get it right, but they might need some guidance from you.

“Talk about the missing person still… ask people to get in touch if you’ve been a bit quiet. Just to listen to you about how it is in this situation and try and have an understanding.”

“Don’t be scared to reach out to say “thinking of you”, even a text can be very powerful. Offer to meet up, if able, sometimes you won’t want to be alone… however other times you will, but the offer alone will mean so much. Share the appeal posters from the Missing People website and any posts made from family appeal pages.”

“Talk about our loved one and talk about their own families and what is happening with them. A lot of people are afraid to of upsetting you when they talk about their own lives.”

Talk to us

Families tell us that there are times when they don’t want to talk to other family members or friends about how they are feeling. That might be because they aren’t ready to share thoughts or show strong emotion, or they are afraid it will add to the burden for others. It’s important that you have a place where you can talk things through; a safe space where you can express emotion and where you don’t have to worry about the person who is listening.

We’re here 24/7, and our trained helpline team will listen without judgement.

Talk to us