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Ambiguous Loss: Learning to Live with Unresolved Grief

Ambiguous Loss: Learning to Live with Unresolved Grief

Paperback

By (author) Pauline Boss

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  • Publisher: HARVARD UNIVERSITY PRESS
  • Format: Paperback | 176 pages
  • Dimensions: 140mm x 210mm x 13mm | 245g
  • Publication date: 2 October 2000
  • Publication City/Country: Cambridge, Mass
  • ISBN 10: 0674003810
  • ISBN 13: 9780674003811
  • Edition statement: Harvard Univ PR.
  • Sales rank: 105,900

Product description

Frozen sadness - what we have when we cannot really know what we have lost. This is what Pauline Boss illuminates, and helps to ease. It could be a loved one still alive yet lost to a person: a soldier son missing in action, or a constantly travelling spouse. In another kind of ambiguous loss, the loved one may be physically present but beyond a person's reach - such as someone with Alzheimer's disease.

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Author information

Pauline Boss is Professor of Family Social Science at the University of Minnesota, past President of the National Council on Family Relations, and a psychotherapist in private practice.

Review quote

You will find yourself thinking about the issues discussed in this book long after you put it down and perhaps wishing you had extra copies for friends and family members who might benefit from knowing that their sorrows are not unique...This book's value lies in its giving a name to a force many of us will confront--sadly, more than once--and providing personal stories based on 20 years of interviews and research. -- Pamela Gerhardt Washington Post A compassionate exploration of the effects of ambiguous loss and how those experiencing it handle this most devastating of losses ... Boss's approach is to encourage families to talk together, to reach a consensus about how to mourn that which has been lost and how to celebrate that which remains. Her simple stories of families doing just that contain lessons for all. Insightful, practical, and refreshingly free of psychobabble. Kirkus Review Engagingly written and richly rewarding, this title presents what Boss has learned from many years of treating individuals and families suffering from uncertain or incomplete loss...The obvious depth of the author's understanding of sufferers of ambiguous loss and the facility with which she communicates that understanding make this a book to be recommended. -- R. R. Cornellius Choice Written for a wide readership, the concepts of ambiguous loss take immediate form through the many provocative examples and stories Boss includes, All readers will find stories with which they will relate...Sensitive, grounded and practical, this book should, in my estimation, be required reading for family practitioners. -- Ted Bowman Family Forum Dr. Boss describes [the] all-too-common phenomenon [of unresolved grief] as resulting from either of two circumstances: when the lost person is still physically present but emotionally absent or when the lost person is physically absent but still emotionally present. In addition to senility, physical presence but psychological absence may result, for example, when a person is suffering from a serious mental disorder like schizophrenia or depression or debilitating neurological damage from an accident or severe stroke, when a person abuses drugs or alcohol, when a child is autistic or when a spouse is a workaholic who is not really 'there' even when he or she is at home...Cases of physical absence with continuing psychological presence typically occur when a soldier is missing in action, when a child disappears and is not found, when a former lover or spouse is still very much missed, when a child 'loses' a parent to divorce or when people are separated from their loved ones by immigration...Professionals familiar with Dr. Boss's work emphasised that people suffering from ambiguous loss were not mentally ill, but were just stuck and needed help getting past the barrier or unresolved grief so that they could get on with their lives. Asian Age

Editorial reviews

A compassionate exploration of the effects of ambiguous loss and how those experiencing it handle this most devastating of losses. Family therapist and researcher Boss (Univ. of Minnesota) has studied ambiguous loss in the families of pilots declared missing in action in Vietnam and Cambodia, in midlife couples whose adolescent children have recently left home, and in families where one member has Alzheimer's. This latter group includes Native American women of the Ashinabe tribe in northern Minnesota. The author divides ambiguous loss into two basic types: first, where someone is perceived as physically absent but psychologically present, e.g., men declared missing in action who are not known to be alive or dead; second, where someone is perceived to be psychologically absent but physically present, e.g., a spouse with dementia or other mental illness. Situations that can create a feeling of ambiguous loss also include such common phenomena as immigration or a move, adoption, divorce, and the workaholism of a partner. Boss finds that the uncertainty of such situations can easily lead to depression, anxiety, and family conflict. Using personal narratives of those she has worked with, she reports how those experiencing ambiguous loss often struggle to control an unclear situation by searching for absolutes, either denying that anything has changed or, alternatively, acting as though the loved one is completely gone. Among the Ashinabe women, however, she found a spiritual acceptance of ambiguity, indicating that a tolerance for ambiguity and uncertainty seems to be related to cultural values and spiritual beliefs. As a family therapist, Boss's own approach is to encourage families to talk together, to reach a consensus about how to mourn that which has been lost and how to celebrate that which remains. Her simple stories of families doing just that contain lessons for all. Insightful, practical, and refreshingly free of psychobabble. (Kirkus Reviews)

Table of contents

1. Frozen Grief 2. Leaving without Goodbye 3. Goodbye without Leaving 4. Mixed Emotions 5. Ups and Downs 6. The Family Gamble 7. The Turning Point 8. Making Sense out of Ambiguity 9. The Benefit of a Doubt Notes Acknowledgments