When the Number is Zero
Why the Retreat is For You
Today, when I came home from work and checked the mail, there was a letter from the Social Security Administration Office. I remembered this letter from years past, having seen the same one arrive at various times of year for my husband, my 19-year-old son, and for me. They arrive several months before our birthdays, and tell how much money was earned each year, going many years back for the addressee. I’m sure many of you have seen these letters.
I was thinking it might be for my younger son, whose birthday is in May, or perhaps mine, as my birthday is in June. But it was not addressed to either one of us. It was addressed to Jason, my older son, who will have been missing for 8 years this June 13th. His birthday is also in June, and in fact is two days after mine. I went into labor with him on the evening of my birthday, a night I will never forget.
Seeing his name on the envelope startled me. I hadn't considered the possibility they would still send this letter. It is also quite rare now for any mail to come that is addressed to Jason. The memories came crashing back in: memories of the fears, hurt, and anxiety surrounding his disappearance. The name on the envelope was a painful reminder of the passage of time without an answer. It was a slap in the face; a forced look at the cold, hard, reality of living in the not knowing.
I ripped open the envelope and unfolded the letter to reveal the annual earnings data. Rows for every year from 2002 on each revealed a zero. I scanned down the column for 2008. What if there was a number there? Anything would do, even a small number. It could mean that Jason was out there somewhere. I turned away and considered not looking at it because I was sure the number in the 2008 row would be zero, just as it had been the year before.
I had to look. I had to continue to face everything head on, and deal with whatever the answer was, or, in our case, lack of any answer whatsoever.
I turned back to the letter and scanned to the row for 2008. The number was zero.
I quickly folded up the letter and placed it back in the envelope. It felt different in my hands, perhaps heavier, and I imagined that there was now a large red stamp on the front that read:
YES, YOUR SON IS STILL MISSING.
I laid the envelope down on the table where my husband would find it when he came home.
The number inside was zero and nothing was going to change that.
The only thing that could change was my reaction to it. I could choose how it would affect me and how I would deal with it. I would take all that I’ve learned about coping and find the key to what works for me. I could and would go on, no matter how many “envelopes with zeroes” presented themselves.
We all have reminders of our missing loved ones. Some might be like the envelope with the zero inside. Some will be more disappointing and hurtful than others. Most will come much more frequently than once per year, and others may always be with us. There are frustrations and real fears on top of the reminders.
When the number is zero, what will you do? How can you handle fear of the zeroes? What if zeroes are all you ever see? How will you go on?
Some of your answers lie in having the keys you’ll receive at the Keys to Healing retreat hosted by Project Jason. The families-only retreat will help you find the answers to those questions, and many more.
The main goals of the retreat are for family members to gain an understanding of the body's reaction to the trauma of missing a loved one, to recognize and understand the emotions which surface, and learn methods of coping. Family members will also benefit from meeting and networking with others who can relate to this unique tragedy. Classes offered during the retreat will cover all aspects of living in the "not knowing," with a focus on mental, spiritual, and physical healing.
The retreat is open to adult family members of missing persons who reside anywhere in North America, and will take place at a spacious, comfortable, and scenic retreat center near Omaha, NE.
Note: A professional filmmaker, who is making a documentary about Project Jason, will be at the retreat. She will interview you only if you are comfortable doing so. She and her crew will remain in the background and will not be present during the core classes to maintain your privacy and comfort.
This is an outstanding awareness opportunity for your missing loved one, so we encourage you to be a part of “Project Jason, A Voice for the Missing.”
You can read more about the film here: http://projectjason.org/forums/index.php?topic=5855
Learn more about the retreat and how to register: