DrPortiaFaceShotHappy, Wonderful Wednesday!

Today, I just want to share about the concept of Ambiguous Loss. This concept was developed by Pauline Boss. Ambiguous loss is grief over the loss of a loved one that has no closure. Everyone has experienced some type of Ambiguous Loss. Yet, many people do not realize it. They know something is wrong, they have changed in a significant way based on the event of Ambiguous Loss. Yet, they do not have the label to discuss it or understand it. Ambiguous Loss can lead to anxiety, depression, feelings of guilt, difficulty dealing with change/transition, traumatic stress, confusion, shock, difficulty making decisions, distress, helplessness, hopelessness or being emotionally stuck. There are two forms of Ambiguous Loss Type I and Type II.

Type I – In these cases, a loved one is physically absent but kept psychological presence by family members. These are situations when a loved one is physically missing or bodily gone without proof of death. Some examples of Type I Ambiguous Loss events are:


MIA (Missing In Action)


Hostage Taking

Elderly Mate placed in Nursing Homes

Children being placed in Foster Care

Work Relocation




Young Adults Leaving home

Military Deployment

Lack of physical contact w/ parents and siblings due to immigration

Mysterious Disappearance

Missing Body due to: Terrorist Attack, Genocide, Ethnic Cleansing, Natural disasters, Man-made disasters

TYPE II – In these cases, the love one is physically presence but psychologically unavailable/absence. The person you care about is emotionally or cognitively missing. Some examples of Type II Ambiguous Loss events are family members experiencing:



Obsession w/internet, computer games, TV

Chronic Mental Illness



Preoccupation w/work

Chronic Physical Illness

Traumatic Brain Injury


Alzheimer’s or Other Dementia

So how do you address Ambiguous Loss? It is recommended that Ambiguous Loss is best addressed with family therapy or using community approaches. Besides seeking out professional help; Name your uncertainty, identify your loss, change your expectations about grief

Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart….live in the question.”

Rainer Maria Rilke

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