Ambiguous Loss

Are you tormented by a lack of closure?

Ambiguous Loss can be defined as an incomplete or uncertain form of loss, such as what one experiences when a loved one goes missing physically or is missing psychologically (i.e. suffering from a disease such as Alzheimer’s).

An ambiguous, or unresolved loss, is always stressful and an often tormenting form of loss as there is often never any resolution or closure for those experiencing it. Individuals suffering from ambiguous loss experience:

  • Feelings of helplessness
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Relationship conflicts
  • Inability to problem solve
  • Guilt/ Shame

Ambiguous loss is a type of grieving very different from the grieving process of death.  When a body is missing, we have no closure. As we live in a society that does not cope well with uncertainty, the lack of closure becomes extremely troubling. Families may often feel confused as to whether they should mourn the missing person, or be optimistic for their return. Often individuals do not allow themselves to mourn as they feel it denies hope and the possibility of existence for their loved one.  Often the explicit labelling of what they are experiencing as “ambiguous loss” can assist individuals in coping, as it allows for the externalization of the blame and diminishes the tendency individuals may have to blame themselves for feeling confused and helpless. This also helps to build resilience to live with the pain.

 

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