SELF CARE FOR THE
AMANDA S. COTHERN, LPC
NOVEMBER 10-12, 2017
A newly identified type of grief, considered by many to be the most
difficult, because there is no closure, ambiguous loss complicates
relationships, and leaves families and loved ones confused (Boss, 2009).
• “An immobilizing grief characterized by the uncertainty of what will be lost
next” (cognition, mobility, etc.)
• Ambiguous Loss (lack of clarity) leads to ambivalence (conflicting feelings)
about the loved one (i.e. a wish for something different AND guilt for having
that wish) (Boss, 2016)
• Physically Present, Psychologically Absent
• Child with LGS
• Psychologically Present, Physically Absent
• The child’s other parent who is no longer in the picture
WHAT IS AMBIGUOUS LOSS?
• Ambiguous loss is unclear loss.
• Ambiguous loss is traumatic loss.
• Ambiguous loss is a relational disorder.
• Ambiguous loss is externally caused (e.g., illness, war), not by individual
• Ambiguous loss is an uncanny loss—confusing and incomprehensible.
“how is it possible to lose half a person?” – the wife of a man with
SELF CARE FOR THE SINGLE CAREGIVER
Six Guidelines for Increasing Resilience:
1. Finding Meaning in the Experience
2. Adjusting Mastery of the Experience
3. Reconstructing Identity
4. Normalizing Ambivalence
5. Revising Attachment
6. Discovering New Hope
I asked three single mothers of a child with
“what are the top three things you
wish people knew about being a
single mom of a child with
“I would love to have free time for myself without asking family because
I won’t burden them with my problems.”
Who are you afraid of burdening with your requests?
“No matter how many times I share my story, no matter how many
times I break through that vulnerability, it is still extremely hard to ASK
Who can you vent to without fear of judgment?
Safety plan: three people to call when it is NOT an emergency but you
are feeling the signs of being on the edge
Who knows your story? Birth, diagnosis, present day – write it, share
“For most women, especially ones who are married and have children that don't
have special needs, an invitation with a girlfriend or friends for lunch, shopping
or maybe a movie is a doable thing and something that doesn't necessarily
mean a major event planning skill! Sometimes no matter how much I would
enjoy having the time to spend with a friend out like that, it simply is not
always an easy undertaking. By the time I arrange to take him someplace,
coordinate the time away so that I have him where he needs to be in time for
me to be where I need to be, I'm tired before I even leave the house. . .
Sometimes it feels easier to just not go”
How many people do you text regularly who are not a medical or school
professional working with your child?
“I have brothers and they will help if it’s an emergency but never volunteer to
spent any time with him”
In addition to the LGS foundation, who are you connected with on a personal
“I truly wish people weren't scared of [child] and could take a walk in my shoes
to better understand what special needs parenting really looks like.”
Do the people in your life add or subtract to your energy level?
“I would love for my son to have a male mentor”
Who knows your personal story – dating life, divorce, widowed?
“[this is] One done with unconditional love but the position is
24/7.....no breaks, no time alone more than a couple hours here
and there (if you are lucky enough to have family or good
“A single parent leaves work early or misses completely when
they[child] are ill and forget about sleeping if they[child]
can’t.....it's not going to happen.”
“They need to hear that things will be okay...that they can do
whatever they set their mind too. You have to have faith in that
so they will.”
Non-negotiables – write out three (ex.: prayer, reading, journaling)
Practical tips in an impractical reality
Bottle of water next to your bed
Your own personal playlist that is not made up of your child’s music
Meditation app on your phone (e.g. 10% Happier, Headspace, Calm)
Movement – imitate your child’s self stem (jumping, pacing, shaking arms),
20 minutes of walking, stretching, etc.
Self care must become a priority. . .
“There are not enough resources for hands on direct care, respite services or
support services for medically fragile kids.”
• Boss, P. (2010). The trauma and complicated grief of
ambiguous loss. Pastoral Psychology, 59(2), 137-145.
• Boss, P. (2016). The context and process of theory
development: The story of ambiguous loss. Journal of Family
Theory & Review, 8(3), 269-286.