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