If you have ever felt a loss without closure, you may have experienced ambiguous loss. Since the pandemic, more people have reported suffering from ambiguous loss as they weren’t given the opportunity to see loved ones before they passed. However, there can be multiple causes for this type of grief.
This post will explore the definition of ambiguous loss and how to cope with it yourself or help others through it.
What is Ambiguous Loss?
Over the last 40 years, the term ambiguous loss has been established in a medical and therapy setting. It refers to the type of grief a person experiences when they aren’t given a chance to say goodbye to a loved one before they pass, do not receive all the information surrounding the person’s death or lose contact with someone without closure.
There are a few main causes for ambiguous loss:
Ambiguous loss may occur after a kidnapping, war, deportation, natural disasters, pandemics, or a pet going missing or stolen.
You may even feel ambiguous loss when you do not receive closure after losing contact with another person. For example, going through a divorce, breakup, adoption, or another separation.
Ambiguous loss can also occur when a person is physically still in your life, but you may be grieving a psychological loss. For example, this can happen when a loved one goes through brain injury, dementia, substance addiction, mental health problems etc.
Tips for Coping with Ambiguous Loss
1. Understand the stages of grief
Although any form of grief can feel different from person to person or even between situations, acquainting yourself with the stages of grief is one way to prepare yourself for the emotions and experiences to come. You may find that you go through this cycle more than once or flip between stages as you cope with a nontypical form of grief.
You may also find it helpful to familiarise yourself with what grief can feel like, so you know when you are experiencing the symptoms of grief and when you should seek help.
2. Seek support from friends
Reach out to your friends and family to tell them about your feelings and ask for help. With some forms of ambiguous loss, it may be hard for them to realise you are grieving. For example, if there is no funeral in cases when your loved one is still alive but suffering from dementia, the people in your life may not realise you are already grieving their loss.
3. Get professional help
Along the same vein, you may need professional grief counselling to help you deal with ambiguous loss. Speak to your GP about the options available, or do your own research to find local support or helplines. Ambiguous loss can be even more challenging to cope with than more typical causes of grief as you struggle to find closure and acceptance of the loss.
Visit the Inscripture blog to find a list of who can help you when dealing with a death or other form of loss or find a pet bereavement support service.
4. Wear an item of memorial jewellery to remember your loved one
Some people like to remember their loved ones daily by wearing an item of memory jewellery. This can help you feel close to your loved one when dealing with ambiguous loss.
5. Be kind to yourself
Finally, remember to treat yourself with compassion and empathy as you would if your friend were to be going through this loss.