What I want you to know about what it's like to have a missing loved one

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here.  Today’s guest post is by Anita Davis Sullivan.

Those people you hear about on the news or see flyers of? They have real families behind them and people longing for them, missing them. I'm one of them. My brother has been missing since June 2007. You should know what's it like. Not those few cases that get lots of media and FBI help, but those every day cases like ours, the other 99.9% of them.

Let me tell you what it isn't like first:
- It isn't like TV
- There are few officers involved
- There is very little, if any, media attention
- There aren't big rewards offered

Here's what it is like:
- Forcing law enforcement to take you seriously
- Begging news stations to show your loved one's face for a moment
- Organizing searches yourself
- Spending your money on flyers and gas and searching and time off

When my brother went missing, he was an adult. A cute, dimpled-faced, sweet, young man of 26. He was depressed. We feared for his life and couldn't believe that the police would do so little. He lived with me at the time and so I was the one who filed the report. I remember standing in my kitchen with the officer believing that he'd walk in the door and be mad at me for making a big deal of him being gone a few days. I prayed he would. But he didn't and never has. We were told by law enforcement that their resources were limited and it would be mostly up to us to find him.

We spent the first days posting flyers, making calls, and searching woods. We had family come to help and friends we'll never forget who walked beside us through those dark days. We spent the next months fielding possible sightings and organizing searches.

We once had a detective tell us, "This looks like something on TV." He was talking about our search, one he visited but did not participate in. No law enforcement did. We realized then that we had garnered more experience than our big city missing persons unit had.

It's now been almost six years. Austin hasn't come home. My 9 year old still misses his Uncle Austin, and my 3 year old never met him. 

But what else should you know?

You should know that we still have HOPE. We have hope that we will have answers one day, and that even if they aren't what we want, that we're not alone through this and that good will come.

You should know that we go on. We still live and laugh and celebrate.

You should know that we still cry. We still hear his laugh and see his smile, but only in our dreams.

You should know that we still feel guilt over not seeing how much pain he was in.

You should know that we're not alone. You should know that each year, about 700,000 people go missing. And many of them come home, but over half do not. Most of them never make the news.

You should know that you can help. Post a flyer, share a story, give some encouragement. Give some hope. 

Check out CUE (Center for Missing Persons)  for information on what you can do to help.

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