Dr. Keith: Brittanee Drexel's Disappearance Should Remind Parents Not to Take Children for Granted

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Dawn Drexel, the mother of missing teen Brittanee Drexel, told WHEC News 10 in Rochester, N.Y., she believes her daughter may have been kidnapped or may not be alive.

Brittanee, 17, has been missing since April 25 when she went to Myrtle Beach, S.C., for spring break.

Brittanee’s mother is no longer a stranger to the darkest possible chapter in a parent’s life story: the feared or actual loss of a child.

I have worked with several parents who have survived their own children. I have struggled with them against tides of grief that seem never to recede, but simply to become more expected, so they lose the power to sweep these bereaved mothers and fathers off their feet.

Losing a child lays bare the miraculous connections that can hold families together through thick and thin. No matter how contentious the relationships mothers and fathers may have with their children, the bond between them can’t be reproduced or entirely obliterated. At the ages of 50 and 60 (and older), my patients still want to make sense of the way they related to their parents in childhood, young adulthood and beyond. They are still sons and daughters, even if they have lost their parents.

So Dawn Drexel, brave enough to speak to the media at an unspeakable moment, may wander tonight into Brittanee’s room. Maybe she’ll lie down on her daughter’s bed, maybe she’ll let herself smell her daughter’s pillow. She may think she hears Brittanee's footsteps or voice or her car pulling into the driveway. That’s no surprise when we consider the sounds of togetherness that come to play like music in the backgrounds of our daily lives, sounds that we stop hearing after a while, maybe because we take them for granted, maybe because no parent’s heart could maintain its rhythm while bearing full witness to the unspeakable, unfathomable beauty of one’s own child. We don't hear a tenth of what we could, if we thought the music might end.

For those of you reading these words — the lucky parents out there with children still close enough to hug, I hope you’ll give it a try tonight. Sit for a few minutes and listen to the sounds of your children in the house: their footsteps, their fingers clicking keys on a computer, the opening and closing of their closet doors, their voices on the phone and their breathing as they sleep. Let yourself marvel at the fact that your life has spawned another life and that you have the continuing, rare and wonderful opportunity to shape not only your existence, but that of another human being. Let yourself smile at the thought of their favorite toys (if they’re still young enough), their favorite clothes, the posters on their walls, their best friends, the sports they’ve come to enjoy, the hopes and dreams they’ve embraced.

Stay silent a minute longer. Then close your eyes, think about Dawn Drexel and her missing daughter Brittanee and pray for them both.

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I’m going to do that right now. My children are asleep, a few dozen feet away from me. I am a lucky man and I know it.

Dr. Keith Ablow is a psychiatry correspondent for FOX News Channel and a New York Times bestselling author. His newest book, "Living the Truth: Transform Your Life through the Power of Insight and Honesty" has launched a new self-help movement. Check out Dr. Ablow's website at livingthetruth.com.