By Mark W. Danielson
A missing child does not always refer to the physical sense. In fact, too many parents have lost a child and never realized it until there is a suicide attempt. In some cases, kids take others down with them before taking their own lives. It’s a tough world out there, and it’s getting tougher. With 24/7 media bombardment, I’m not sure how any child copes these days. The “lost boys” in Peter Pan and Lord of the Flies were reflections of our children decades ago. Technology has merely amplified this problem.
I’m constantly amazed at how many parents suffer from family tragedies. During a recent discussion with some fellow authors, two were sharing stories about deaths in their families. At my age, death is not uncommon, but child or young adult deaths are never expected, and always have staggering effects on family members and friends. When I mentioned that one of my children became so emotionally detached and distraught that she needed professional help, one of the other authors piped in saying that she had twice attempted suicide. Sadly, many have shared the thought. Though mental detachment is often curable, there are far too many failures.
We all have ways of dealing with loss. Some turn to religion, others join support groups, authors turn to writing. Such was the case when I wrote Diablo’s Shadow, a missing child story where the child, caught in the middle of two estranged parents, runs ahead of her father and disappears in the woods. The child’s disappearance forces her parents to work together to find her. In many cases, children hide to bring their parents together, but sometimes they simply vanish. Writing Diablo’s Shadow was my coping mechanism for what I experienced during a very dark period. It’s the most difficult story I’ve ever written and will be the only mystery I ever write on this subject.
When I meet other writers, it’s clear that our stories are driven by personal events. Where else would our characters’ passion and conflict come from? How else do we create characters that readers care about? Readers connect through their own experiences. Empathy gives our stories heart.
I frequently hear people say, “I can’t read missing children stories because I have kids.” Trust me, I understand. But stories like Diablo’s Shadow can help heal and offer guidance. Chances are good that one of your friends is or has experienced difficulty or loss with one of their children, but most bury this information so deep you will never know. The truth is you’re not alone.
How to live fulfilled lives is the greatest mystery of all. Some figure it out better than others. Parents must watch out for their children’s emotions as much as they do their children’s physical health. Kids who are withdrawing from society are at a huge risk for abuse and suicide. Be alert and bring them back before it’s too late. There are plenty of available resources to assist. A good start may be: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255). www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org , and The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678) http://www.missingkids.com/missingkids/servlet/PublicHomeServlet?LanguageCountry=en_US