Missing Child: Nightmare That Never Ends

Fearing the Worst in Brittanee Drexels Disapperance

Two months since her 17-year-old daughter went missing in a South Carolina beach town, Dawn Drexel cautiously holds on to hope. But each day it gets harder.

"This is a nightmare, and you don't wake up out of it," said the Rochester, N.Y., mother who has lived in a donated condo in Myrtle Beach, S.C., since her daughter Brittanee disappeared April 25.

Brittanee Drexel was last seen on a surveillance video leaving the Bluewater Resort where she had gone on spring break with friends, against her mother's will, friends she later left.

"I will never stop looking for my daughter," said Drexel. "So many children go missing each day. This is part of my life now. I am not going to quit."

Parents of missing children say that the pain is excruciating, and psychologists confirm that the loss can be even greater than when a child dies. Deciding when to give up the search is different for each.

"For those of us who will never experience such a horrible crime, it's hard to imagine how they get up every day, go to jobs, get their other children ready for school," said Marsha Gilmer-Tullis, director of its family advocacy division for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

"We never encourage them to give up," she told ABCNews.com. "Our goal is to always work the case and try to have some resolution. We always talk about hope."

But Drexel has set a deadline for herself -- the end of June -- when she will return home to her husband, from who she recently divorced, and her two other children.

"It's been very difficult," she told ABCNews.com. "I wake up in the morning, and I think about Brittanee. At this point, I just want some closure. I need to know where she is -- and if she's not alive, I need to know."

"But I am missing my other children," she said of her 12-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son, whom she talks to daily. "My daughter Marissa says she wants her Mommy home."

The U.S. Department of Justice reports that 797,500 children under the age of 18 were reported missing in 2008. An average of 2,185 children are reported missing each day. Most are family, not stranger, abductions.

Coping with a missing child -- be it months or years -- is an excruciating ordeal for families. Many couples split apart, commit suicide or suffer physical or mental health consequences. Some turn to drug and alcohol.

Missing Children: Siblings Suffer

Siblings, in particular, are affected by the unresolved loss. Drexel's daughter doesn't want to sleep in her own bed because her sister's room empty room is next door.

"She needs to feel safe," said Drexel. "She says, 'Mommy, you need to come home.'"

At the same time, her daughter says, "You can't leave without Brittanee," said Drexel.

If you have any information regarding the disappearance of Brittanee Drexel, please contact the Myrtle Beach Police Department at (843) 918-1000.

And for parents, emotions also range from guilt to rage to hyper-arousal.

Much of it is anchored in a feeling of "powerlessness to the max," according to Therese A. Rando, a Rhode Island psychologist and author of, "How to Go on Living When Someone You Love Dies." "Especially in Western civilization, the role of parent to child is the closest genetically, psychologically and socially," said told ABCNews.com. "You should be able to protect a child so he can grow up and bury you."

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