“The families were so intent on holding onto hope that they also had hangover from that hope because they were wishing so much for a better outcome and that each day that they woke up and were reminded that the answers to their questions, weren’t forthcoming, that they had to keep repetitively finding the energy, to put their story out there.”
What happens when someone you love goes missing? How do you move forward if they’re not found? And how does this impact families and relationships?
In this episode we look at the realities of what it means to work with police and media, campaign to find your loved one and navigate your life whilst nothing feels normal. Karen speaks with Dr. Sarah Wayland of the Australian Federal Police and Loren O’Keefe, whose younger brother Dan, went missing in 2011. Loren shares her personal experiences of searching for her brother for 5 years before his body was found, which led her to set up the Missing Persons Advocacy Network (MPAN).
Sarah explains the missing persons process in Australia and highlights inequalities and vulnerabilities for First Nations communities. She explores whether the idea of ‘hope’ can be helpful or damaging to relatives who have to balance this with feelings of grief, loss and trauma.
Loren is keen that families and loved ones who are living with the uncertainty of a missing person are able to access and learn about services. You can find out more at MPAN on their website and Twitter.
When her brother Dan disappeared in 2011, Loren left her job as an online communications advisor to manage what became the biggest social media campaign of its kind in the world. The search spanned multiple platforms, attracted consistent traditional media coverage and comprised everything from billboards and bumper stickers to t-shirts and fun runs, with tens of thousands of people across Australia.
In 2013, other families desperate for guidance prompted her to establish Missing Persons Advocacy Network (MPAN). A registered charity, MPAN exists to humanise missing loved ones and alleviate the practical, emotional and psychological impact on their families and friends. The foundation project, MissingPersonsGuide.com, offers direction and resources and has helped over 100,000 users internationally.
Loren now works closely with over 70 families, connecting them to pro bono graphic design, media, communications and legal support, whilst reframing Missing Persons as the community issue it is, to spark the social and policy change those affected by missingness deserve.
Dr Sarah Wayland is a Social Work academic at the University of New England in Sydney Australia. She has been working in the Missing Persons space since 2004, initially as a Counsellor and now as a researcher exploring the experience of being missing and of being left behind. She provides expert comment to various media outlets as well as facilitating training for counsellors internationally, as part of her collaboration with the Missing Persons Advocacy Network.
Her PhD study ‘I still hope but what I hope for now has changed: a narrative inquiry study exploring hope and ambiguous loss’ was awarded the Chancellors medal for Doctoral research in October 2015 and to date she has published over 50 peer reviewed articles on trauma and loss. She is passionate about exploring the untapped potential in seeking new ways to develop prevention strategies to address the incidence of missing.