In the early moments and days of a loved one being missing, it can be difficult to remember or organise the usual daily routines. This is totally understandable, as you are dealing with a new crisis which will no doubt take a lot of your attention.
There should be no shame attached to missing, whether in respect to the missing person or their loved ones left behind. People go missing for so many reasons, and as a family member, you will need support in various ways. Think through who you need to tell, whether that’s an employer, your children’s school, family, friends etc and have a look at our page which has tips on how to talk about missing. When you tell people will be a personal thing, as it depends on your own situation. For example, if your loved one is on leave from work, it’s not a rush to tell their employer, however if you need a friend to collect your children from school, then you will need to talk to them a little more urgently.
Do you have children? If so, who usually takes them to school and how? If your loved one usually drove them for example, what could the alternative be, are you able to drive them, is there someone else you could ask such as a friend or family member. If it’s someone different collecting your children, you might need to contact their school to give permission. Do they have any clubs or after-school activities, if so, who usually takes them or ensures any payments are made. It’s easy for things like this to slip out of the priority list, however if it’s possible to keep them up they could be of a great benefit to you and your children.
If you have any pets at home, or are responsible for one elsewhere, do you need help with them? Having a pet during difficult times can be a great source of help and comfort, but they of course have their own needs to. Do they need walking, or some other form of exercise, if this isn’t something you are able to do, think about who you could ask. If no one immediately springs to mind, try reaching out within your community online using apps such as Next Door and by talking to neighbours.
Are you a carer, or is the missing person? How will them not being around for a period of time impact that caring responsibility? Is there anyone who can step in for a while until something more secure can be arranged? Having to think of these things can feel daunting, especially if the missing person was your carer. Depending on the needs of the person being cared for, you may have to speak to your local Social Services team for support. There will be emergency teams who can discuss arrangements with you. Although these changes may well be short term, it’s important you get any support you need.
During times of stress, it’s common to ‘forget’ to eat, or to not prioritise taking care of yourself with what you eat. That does not mean you should be angry at yourself for grabbing that takeaway meal because you were busy or wanted a treat. Being kind to yourself is a huge part of self care. It does mean that only ever grabbing a tiny snack could leave you feeling sluggish during the day, could cause headaches, loss of focus along with various other issues which can be caused from not eating and drinking enough to keep yourself going. This is especially important if you are managing any health conditions which require regular meals.
If you’re responsible for feeding others too, at times that could seem like an extra thing on the list which may already feel quite long. Have a think, is there anyone else who could help, either by prepping food and dropping it off or even taking over your kitchen. It’s okay to ask for and take support which is offered.
One of the best ways to manage emotional and physical stress is to take care of yourself, and your body is a big fan of sleep when it comes to helping it cope. When you’re worried about someone, or the impact of them being missing, sleep can feel very hard to get. You deserve it and need it, so taking some time to find something that helps you get to sleep, is really important. There are so many things to try, finding the right one will be very personal to you. For some it might be using mindfulness or other meditation techniques, for others it could be a hot shower or bath and for some people, it may involve medication with support from your GP.
Your finances will be impacted in some way due to having a missing loved one. How much they are impacted, is a personal thing which depends on your situation. In the early hours and days, check you have enough money to cover your basic expenses. If the finances were handled by the missing person, you may have to rely on support from family and friends until better arrangements are made. We know this is not always possible for everyone, and you may have to contact other agencies for support. If you are an adult with a disability, or care for children, contacting your local Social Services team or talking to the children’s school is a good place to start. All over the country there are various local support services for people facing temporary financial difficulties, local agencies with a safeguarding remit, such as the school, will have lists of what is available and how to access it.
Living with the trauma of a missing loved one can impact people in a variety of different ways and you deserve to be supported with these in ways you find helpful. If you are having physical or emotional symptoms, talk to your GP. They’ll work with you to find the best package of support, whether it is medication or therapy from the local mental health teams. Sometimes referrals to other agencies can take time, so as soon as you feel you need the help, get in touch to get the process started.
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