What I cant un-see.

There is an image of a lady floating around FaceBook at the moment. She is missing after a night out in Melbourne and people are desperately sharing her picture in the hope that it will bring her home.

A few months back a friend wrote this. She spoke about the ways in which the careers we chose shape the way in which we see the world. When I was 19 I worked in a rehabilitation hospital on a social work prac, I did a visit one day to the Department of Forensic Medicine as part of the learning about the ways that social workers can work together. Its the place thats also home to the morgue. As part of our tour we were taken into that space where people are brought when they die suddenly and without reason. The group of students I was with shuffled into a room only to be asked to move to the left as a trolley was wheeled past with a person on it. A deceased person. A person who had been someones parent, or sibling, or lover or friend but a person I had no way of knowing. I saw no part of that person only the outline of their body under a large sheet, it was the body that no longer housed their soul. I caught my breath, I backed back against the wall and I felt a surging heat rise up my chest, along my neck as if someone was tightening their hold on me.

When your old friend anxiety comes to visit for the first time you don’t realise who they are until well after they have left. I remember mumbling something to the lovely social worker that was taking us on this tour – I turned and ran up the long and winding stairs and pushed a door open and ran out into the street. I remember standing for a moment and feeling blinded by a sunshine that I hadn’t noticed before. I smoothed down my hair, took a deep breath and wandered back to my car. I didn’t tell anyone what had happened because I didnt really understand it myself.

Ive been back to that same building umpteen times over the years, for meetings, for court cases, to have coffee with old colleagues who have became friends and despite glancing around corners I never saw that door again. The one that allowed me to escape from what lay below.

I think part of the reason I embrace the world of the space in between, about losses that aren’t quite clear to us, about the world of missing is that it signifies hope  – it might be false hope, it might be positive hope but it still leaves that door open a crack to provide the possibility that we all live happily ever after.

I hope the lady is found, I hope she just took a wrong turn and that someone reveals the door to her.

Does seeing the image of a missing person fill you with hope for a good outcome?




  1. This is interesting Sarah. I have noticed the same picture of the same woman who is currently missing. Each time I see a mate has posted it, I hesitate, can I repost it?? There is the facebook page dedicated to posting different faces of missing people, I have joined to support it, but I cant bare to see it daily. Like you, my own experiences impact on me, with Ben (my brother) who went missing in 2001, who I now believe is dead. These photos make me feel highly anxious, highly helpless, I instantly wonder how they are, are they okay, how is their family….the pain of such an experience comes flooding back…I don’t press share, I move on quickly, and with guilt for not helping.


    1. Ive thought that to. I see the image of the missing person almost as the space between the possibility of them being here and maybe gone. Its hard to look at the images that are taken in happier times used as a way to seek, plead, for someone because you would never imagine that in taking that happy snapshot it would have to be used for such sad reasons. The paper I presented at the MP conference in journey talked about the data I got from the Police, being that the majority of people self locate, that the media, the posters, dont make a huge difference in locating the missing person (having said that no one has done any longitudinal research on why people come home). There is much to be said about how the news that crops up in your newsfeed has the potential to traumatise you because you cant control what you are exposed to.

      Thanks for your insights Sar…safe journey home x


  2. I am desperately hoping for a good outcome for this lady but I know the stats about missing people (ie if they’re not found in x hours, a good outcome is unlikely). So when it’s been a couple of days, my heart just fills with despair for her family and loved ones 🙁


    1. So true Kel. The desperation starts to get palpable – hoping her mum is being looked after x


  3. Hi Sarah,
    When I saw her Mum on TV, it brought back so many horrible memories of the way I felt when I was 1st told Matt was missing. I only wish that we got to get his face out there in the public much quicker than we were able. It was 6 weeks before it went to air. Yes it was on the net before that, but I hoped and prayed that everyone would see those posts and that more people would share his picture. We put posters up everywhere in the hope of finding him. By putting postings on the net and around the streets it gives one a sense that they are doing what they can and gives one a purpose to keep going.
    Yes when I see posts of the missing it brings terrible memories back and I always hope and pray it doesn’t end like ours did. Yes Matt’s body is still missing and I hope and pray that posts of him do keep circulating and may be one day the right person will see his face and come forward. When I see posts of the missing I will forward them on in the hope that some who knows something may come forward. It may be false hope, but you have to have hope, you have to have faith that one day your love one will be found. False hope or not, to some people to have that hope helps them cope and keep going. I am hoping and praying this beautiful young lady is found safe. My thoughts and prayers go out to her Mum, family and friends.


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