British Columbia

Where could they be? The struggle to cope when people go missing

'Nobody tells you how to deal with something like this. You never think it's going to happen to you'

January 01, 2018

Luther Demmon, left, was last seen in Vancouver on Oct. 22, 2017, while Jordan Holling went missing on his way home from a friend's house in Campbell River on Oct. 16, 2017. (Missing Person Luther Demmon-Facebook/Missing: Jordan Alexander Holling -Facebook)

The New Year's resolution for many families and friends of missing persons is simply that: resolution.

"It's terrible to think that we may never know," said Diane Caldwell-Demmon, whose son Luther Demmon, 25, was last seen in Vancouver on Oct. 22.


"It's very surreal. It's like we're in limbo. You don't know what to do. You can't fix it, you can't solve it, there's no closure, there's no resolution."

Thousands of people are reported missing to police across British Columbia every year. In 2017, the Vancouver Police Department received more than 5,000 reports — an average year.

The good news is that most cases get solved. But there are always some that don't — leaving families feeling desperate, holding out hope that their loved one will return or at least be found, so there can be closure.

'Reassure them'

Cst. Karen Cedik is an investigator with Surrey RCMP's Missing Persons Unit, which handled 2,800 reports in 2017.

Cedik says a part of her job is keeping hope alive for families.

"[To] reassure them that you know we're going to take every investigative step to try and locate their loved one," she said.

Families turn to police when they can't find their relative on their own.

Cedik says police have multiple resources at their disposal to look for missing people, including improved access to databases and help from search and rescue groups.

As for the VPD, it says it usually has up to 30 active investigations occurring at the same time. And Cedik says help from the families themselves is also valuable.

"The family knows the missing person on a more intimate level," she said. "They can do patrols as well if they want, and sometimes they do end up finding the person."

Social media has also become an important resource for families, as it allows searchers to widely disseminate information around the world if needed.

Like Luther Demmon's family, the family of Jordan Holling has created an extensive post on Facebook to try and help locate him.

The 17-year-old went missing in Campbell River on Oct. 16 when he was on his way home from a friend's house.

The Facebook post reads like a manual of what is known about his disappearance and how people can help look for him.

'There's no handbook'

Holling's mother, Andrea Holling, says it was a daunting task to learn what to do to try and find her son, but she's thankful for the support she has received from people in the community.

"There's people that I don't even know behind the scenes that are helping out with stuff," she said.

Andrea Holling, pictured here with Jordan at a fair in the spring of 2017 in Campbell River says 100 different scenarios run through her mind when she thinks about what happened to her son. 'It is the worst feeling in the entire world,' she says. (Andrea Holling)

Despite sophisticated social media sites in place, posters on streets, police involvement, and sometimes private investigators, the families still have to deal with the most difficult part: coping.

And it gets even harder as time adds up.

"We don't know anything more than we did the day he left," said Caldwell-Demmon about her son, Luther. "It's just a huge hole, it's a huge hole in our family."

Diane Caldwell-Demmon, the mother of missing man Luther Demmon, says her best tool in coping with his disappearance is to talk about it. (Diane Caldwell-Demmon)

Both families admit that Christmas was a very difficult time to get through as both missing men have siblings who are also struggling to understand what happened.

Andrea Holling copes by praying and going to church. Caldwell-Demmon does her best to talk about it with her network. Both aren't willing to give up.

"To do nothing is worse than to try and do something," said Caldwell-Demmon.

They also agree that, at times, the uncertainty is unbearable, with hundreds of scenarios going through their minds as they think about where their sons are.

"You don't know how to cope because there's no handbook," said Holling. "Nobody tells you how to deal with something like this. You never think it's going to happen to you."

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