Writing lost and found story graphic

What’s your lost and found story?

“How could we have lost something so precious?” my friend lamented to her husband. Dusk approached. She, her husband, and various friends had searched throughout much of the previous night and all that day for their elderly little dog that had wandered off.  Her grief is universal. We all have at least one major lost and found story.

Perhaps it’s a lost object that still sticks in your craw. Perhaps you’ve had an experience analogous to the finding the prodigal son. Perhaps, like my friend, the not knowing, not understanding what happened, that keeps you up at night.

Writing about things lost and found

Whether there’s a happy ending or not, stories of things lost or lost and found make compelling narratives. In fact, such stories are easy to find all over the Internet.

I have my own. For instance, the 10 interminable minutes during which my then 5-year old was missing at the Salt Lake City airport. I can still remember the panic I felt and the way that I wanted to strangle the slow-to-take-it seriously airport security guard.

Elements of your lost and found story:

  1. What went missing? (duh)
    Object, person, pet, or other.  It may have simply disappeared or was stolen.  Wallet, military metal, vacation or wedding pictures all come to mind, but you can take a creative twist on this topic.  One example is Kannaki’s “My Mother’s Shoes.”
  2. Why did it matter to you?
    This could be obvious, such as in the case of a five-year-old, but it isn’t always. Perhaps the crucifix that went missing had been passed down from your grandmother, a life-long devoted Catholic. Perhaps it had brought you comfort on numerous occasions.
  3. How did you discover it (he or she) was missing? The setting, the foreshadowing, the explanation of why a person or object mattered so much all contribute to a compelling story.
  4. How did you feel about it at the time? What was your state of mind?
    In the case of my friend, her word choices are telling.  The rest of us consider her little dog as “gone missing.” We use a blameless phrase. Repeatedly, I’ve heard her say, “I lost my little dog.” She’s shouldering the responsibility, way more than she should.  What happened in your story? Did you feel responsible? Victimized?
  5. What measures did you take? Posters? Letters? Flyers? A reward? Turning the house upside down?
  6. Who helped you search? Were they actually helpful?
    I can’t help remembering that security guard blithely pointing out every young boy in sight.  “Is that him?”  “What about that child?”  Me yelling, “Get on your radio!  None of these children are wearing a dark blue shirt with a rhino on it!”
  7. How did the story turn out?
    Of course you have to share the outcome. But that doesn’t have to be the way the story ends.  Instead, you can talk about silver linings, what you learned, any insight that might be applicable to the rest of your life.
  8. How do you feel looking back?
    We can often reconcile ourselves to events only after time has passed.  For instance, after my parents died, my sister and I were never able to locate my father’s wedding ring, which he kept on his key-chain.  It used to keep me up at night, wondering what clever hiding place he thought he’d found shortly before he took his trip. But over time, hope has diminished. After all, it was a material thing. I’ve made an uneasy peace with the loss.

Your Turn:

What about you? What your lost and found story? How have you told it? How have you shared it?

Graphic: Background image courtesy of Pixabay.com user anneileino, CC0.