The power of social media combined with the relentless devotion of a mother’s love has brought tremendous success to Heather Shtuka’s Missing From Me
Heather Shtuka penned her #1 bestseller, Missing From Me, after her son Ryan went missing. In this insightful interview, she opens up about her grief, her son’s legacy, the power of social media for community-building, and how her story has gone on to support other families who have missing loved ones through her organization, the Free Bird Project.
I will never understand the concept that there is a reason this has happened. There can be no reason that makes sense that my son is not here living the life of his choosing. But I believe strongly there can be a purpose.
To get started, tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Heather Shtuka. I was born in Comox, BC, where I lived with my father, mother, and older brother for the first six years of my life. My father was in the air force, and when I finished kindergarten, we made the first of many moves to Trenton, Ontario. A far cry from the ocean waters and rainy weather I was used to, but still, I loved living in small-town Ontario. Despite a brief move to Ottawa, it was in Trenton that I graduated high school. Soon after, my dad made his final move with the air force and chose Edmonton, AB, for his retirement. Feeling the need for a change and wanting to remain close to my parents, I followed soon after. Even the chilly winters here could not mask the warmth and genuineness that I felt from the people living in this province. One of them became my husband, Scott. We met, fell in love, and married in seven short months. Looking back now, I can only imagine the fear our parents felt at the rush in which we began our relationship. But I knew that in Scott I had found a kindred soul. Twenty-eight years later, I still marvel at my good fortune.
I have held many titles that describe me as daughter, sister, friend, and wife. But my favourite and perhaps most fulfilling has always been a mom. I have been blessed to have had three imperfectly perfect children, Ryan John Marcus, Jordyn Delaney, and Julianna Michelle. I was a stay-at-home mom for most of Ryan and Jordyn’s childhood. During that time, I did carpools, hot-lunch programs and countless volunteer hours at their schools. Then, three years after the birth of our third baby, I ventured back into the workforce, accepting a position with WestJet Airlines. I loved the hustle and bustle of the airport and the people I worked with. I honestly never thought I would leave. I did not anticipate the loss of my son would lead me to other less tangible yet still significant holes that would never be filled. But perhaps the adage that when one door closes, another opens is correct. I completed my degree in public relations in the years since Ryan’s disappearance and embarked on a career in communications and advocacy. I also wrote my book, Missing From Me.