If there was ever a judge who had a tough decision to make, it's the one facing the parents of Natalee Holloway this month. It's been six years since the teen went missing on a senior class trip in Aruba (can you believe it?), and that means enough time has legally passed for her to be declared "dead" even though no body was ever found. And now for the tough part: her parents can't agree on what should be done.
Dad Dave Holloway petitioned the courts to see Natalee marked "deceased" because he wants closure. Mom Beth Holloway has countered, saying she holds out hope that her daughter is still alive. And who can blame her?
For six years, Beth Holloway has wondered what happened to her daughter. She's gone so far as pushing her way into a Peruvian prison for a face-to-face confrontation with Joran Van Der Sloot, the Dutch national who has remained the prime suspect in the girl's disappearance, even though he's never been charged. And yet, here she sits, with no answers.
As a mother, I can't think of anything worse. First to lose your child but second to not know how or why? The thought chills me to the bone.
So why declare her dead? Why make life even harder for a grieving mother when there's little to be gained? It's not like the family will get some life insurance policy out of it.
Society tends to take a harsh look on grief. We will allow people a finite amount of time to wallow before we expect them to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. But there's no real rubric for what amount of time is appropriate for grief. My cousin, who lost her husband to cancer a few years back, noted around the anniversary of 9/11 that she was having a rough time with the myriad stories of grieving families. It wasn't that she begrudged the survivors the attention, but it hurt that they were somehow given a dispensation on grief while she's expected to be ready to move on, to perhaps find her kids a new dad.
She isn't, and as I told her that day, there's no shame in that. We all grieve differently and at different moments. Nearly 10 years after the suicide of a dear friend, it's at the oddest moments that I remember him -- usually in my dreams, from which I wake up crying. There's no rhyme nor reason. In truth, I wonder why I still dream about him. Only my subconscious knows why.
As such, I understand why both of Natalee's parents have come to the court with different wishes. But I also understand what such a decision from a judge would mean: something so official would come across as a judgment on Beth Holloway's grief, as if she should give up now, as if mourning her daughter to this day were somehow wrong. And that just doesn't seem fair. Dave Holloway can move on if he wants to, but he has no right to require it of Beth too.
Do you think the judge should declare Natalee Holloway dead? Or do you feel for her mom?