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Ambiguous Loss


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Slides from the MRF's online CURE OM Support Group on May 5, 2017, in partnership with Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson.

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Ambiguous Loss

  1. 1. Ambiguous Loss: Navigating incomplete or uncertain losses through a cancer diagnosis CURE OM Support Group May 5, 2017
  2. 2. Definition • “...a situation where a loved one is perceived as physically present while psychologically absent, or physically absent but kept psychologically present because their status as dead or alive, dying, or in remission, remains unclear” (Boss & Couden, 2002, p1352). • Can also refer to intangible or uncertain losses in a person’s life • i.e. Alzheimer’s disease (psychologically absent), loss of independence, uncertainty about the trajectory of a diagnosis
  3. 3. Ambiguity and Illness • Uncertainty can be immobilizing for patient and family (roles and rules are frozen in place) • Person is denied symbolic rituals that support clear loss (i.e. funeral, divorce, etc…) • Experience remains unverified by the person’s community, little or no validation of what they are going through or feeling • An inability to resolve the loss is not a personal flaw
  4. 4. Ambiguous Loss and Ocular Melanoma • Question of whether to do genetic testing • OM doesn’t “play by the rules” • Forced to give up normalcy with the amount of time that is taken up managing care • Any other experiences you would like to share?
  5. 5. Tips on Coping • Recognize it • Call on others for support • Be aware of anger and guilt • Revisit your family roles • Balance your thinking • Renew hope • Look after yourself • Counseling • What things have worked for you?
  6. 6. Questions?
  7. 7. References Boss, P. (2010). The trauma and complicated grief of ambiguous loss. Pastoral Psychology, 59(2), 137-145. Boss, P., & Couden, B. A. (2002). Ambiguous loss from chronic physical illness: Clinical interventions with individuals, couples, and families. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 58(11), 1351-1360. Pauline, P., & Boss, P. (2009). Ambiguous loss: Learning to live with unresolved grief. Harvard University Press.