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  • Writer's pictureValentine Smith

The Hope Narratives

Updated: Apr 1, 2023

I remember back in 1994, when my father died. He was 68 years and was always a strong robust man. Born in the 1920’s in Herefordshire England, a young farm boy who went on to be an agricultural mechanic, then at the outset of WW2, enlisted in the RAF as a flight engineer, fixing Lancaster bombers instead of tractors.

In 1959 we emigrated to Australia and Dad turned his big mechanic hands to building engineering machinery in factories and finally construction and steel works.

When he died so suddenly everyone was looking at me to see me grieve, to break, and I was struggling to make sense of it all. I was looking for an explanation, and then I found it, thoughts translated into words, “It was inevitable, his death was inevitable.” – it had come a little earlier than naturally expected, but it was inevitable. I realized that it was his time, just as it would one day be my time and every other member of my family’s time.

That one sentence of inevitably made sense, it provided me with a narrative of explanation that I can still call on today, whenever I think of the mortality of those around me. So there it is, a few words gave me comfort, a few words of truth to help me cope.

In 2022 I met with Loren O’Keefe, CEO and Founder of Missing Persons Advocacy Network, (MPAN), for our probably twice-yearly informal meeting, where we exchange thoughts and discussion on what we are doing. Loren handed me a box of ‘The Hope Narratives’ and once I slipped a grab of cards from the box I immediately recognized the packaged creativity, which was a universal ever-lasting and extensive version of the power of narrative and thought in coping with the tragedy of the loss of a loved one. I thought of my father and my simple narrative and quickly saw the beauty and benefit for others in ‘The Hope Narratives.’

My intentions were to write something to promote this worthy initiative of MPAN, which has found its way into a number of countries, where it is specifically being used as an aid, a tool to cope, by a number of police agencies who recognize the difficulties in offering comfort to the families of the missing, and others suffering familial loss trauma, and who see ‘The Hope Narratives’ as bridging the difficulty of finding quiet, very personal communication at a time of need.

‘The Hope Narratives’ sat on my desk for a fortnight, where I would look at them every day thinking where do I start. Then one recent cold night, my wife’s twenty-one-year-old niece, who regularly stays with us whilst attending university, came and sat with my wife Belinda and I, she needed emotional support.

Less than two years earlier, Belinda’s sister had taken her own life, and her daughter, our lovely niece, was a lone child without a mother. It has been a tough two years for a very brave girl, but as expected the stress of endless coping without respite would take its toll. This one night, for three hours we listened, talked and provided all of the love and support we could give. During our communication the topic of coping and understanding constantly came up. Towards the end I thought of ‘The Hope Narratives’ and presented them quietly. Un-pushed our dear young niece took them into her room, without emphasis from us to quietly consider.

Our niece is studying psychology, she immediately recognized and appreciated, ‘The Hope Narratives’, which are the collaborative work of MPAN, Dr. Sarah Wayland, missing person expert, WhiteGREY (Brand Specialists) and 44 family members of lost loved ones. So there you have it, the concept, the reality of ‘narratives’ in coping with grief, supported in an unformulated model by me and a formalized model, ‘The Hope Narratives’ by my niece.

It makes sense; we think in language – in a narrative, we express our verbal grief in language, so the explanation of what we think and how to cope should equally come in a narrative.

My recommendation is this. Contact MPAN at and get a couple of boxes of ‘The Hope Narratives’ for your police or support agency and give them to the compassionate ones, the people thinkers, and provide them with some quiet time to examine them and later use them to assist those in need.

This article was written by Valentine Smith APM (CEO and founder of MiPerNet) Missing Person (investigative) Network and distributed by MiPerNet, and Footprints in the Wilderness.

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