Published: Oct 31, 2012 5:03 PM EDT

MEXICO CITY (AP) - As people across Mexico prepare Day of the Dead offerings with flowers, food and candy skulls, thousands of families across the country can't mourn their loved ones in the old Mexican tradition, because their relatives have disappeared in the wave of drug-fueled violence.
The Day of the Dead is a difficult time for these families, some of whom cling to the slenderest of hopes that their sons may be alive, perhaps kidnapped and used as forced labor for drug cartels at some remote hideout.
With a mix of denial, hope and desperation, they refuse to dedicate Day of the Dead altars to people often missing for years. They won't accept any but the most certain proof of death, and sometimes reject even that.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)