What is Ambiguous Loss and How do I deal with it?

What is Ambiguous Loss?

You may experience this if you have struggled with infertility, watched a loved one continue making unhealthy or dangerous choices like in addiction, or maybe had repeatedly been looked over for that promotion. Ambiguous loss is a feeling of loss for something or someone that has not reached a conclusion as with death. Sometimes the loss is about a person, sometimes it is a deferred dream, but it still hits like grief.  This type of loss can be confusing, feel uncertain, and has no closure.

There are two types of ambiguous loss: physical absence and psychological absence. Examples of a physical absence might could be a deployed military member, loss of friendship, divorce or separation, etc. Examples of a psychological loss would be a loved one who has dementia, or a child who goes through a gender change. Ambiguous Loss can sometimes be harder than a regular loss because there is often no certain answer and it doesn’t always reach a resolution.

How do you Cope:

  • Allow yourself to grieve you have a right to grieve an ambiguous loss just like you would any other loss. Though the grief process might be different in terms of resolution, grief is still real in the situation.
  • You will never “move on.” And don’t pressure yourself to. There is no closure to this type of grief. However, you will learn to carry it differently. Grief is normal and feeling that grief is normal.
  • Seek support from non-judgmental sources.
  • Set good boundaries with others. Not everyone will understand, and not everyone will be helpful, even if they have good intentions.
  • Utilize self-care
  • Ask, and accept help when needed
  • Seek help from a professional if it is taking a toll on your everyday functioning and you’re struggling. Don’t be afraid to reach out and get help.

February 2020, Mikayla Nelson, Counseling Intern, Osseo Office


We at Threads of Hope Counseling care deeply for you, your families, and our community. As the concern regarding the spread of COVID-19 increases worldwide, Threads of Hope is prepared to reduce the spread of illness by following the expert guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and the Minnesota Department of Health. MDH continues to stress common-sense illness prevention strategies such as sanitizing surfaces, covering your cough and sneezes, and frequent hand washing.

If you are experiencing signs and symptoms of a viral respiratory infection including fever, cough, and shortness of breath or if you or someone you have been in contact with traveled internationally in the last 14 days, please DO NOT come to our office. Instead we are happy to offer you telemedicine (online video) services.

Telemedicine appointments are HIPAA secure, do not require any downloads, and can be accessed on any device with microphone and internet access. Ask your provider or the administrative staff if this is a service you’d like to pursue.

Additionally, there is a lot of misinformation being spread regarding this virus which has inspired significant anxiety in many in the community. Look here for ideas on how to reduce your fear while remaining wise in facing the uncertainty of this disease.
We are here for you and there is always hope.