World Suffering and Quality of Life

Volume 56 of the series Social Indicators Research Series pp 125-134


Coping with the Suffering of Ambiguous Loss

  • Pauline BossAffiliated withFamily Social Science Department, University of Minnesota Email author 

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This chapter addresses a particular kind of suffering—that of having a family member go physically missing. There is no official proof of being either dead or alive. Remaining family members are immobilized by the confusion, but many live a quality life despite the pain of no closure. The goal here is to provide a better understanding of ambiguous loss, its unique kind of suffering, and the surprising resilience that often emerges despite unanswered questions. Intervention guidelines, now tested for cross-cultural application, are provided.


Suffering Ambiguous loss Unresolved loss Frozen grief Meaning Mastery Identity Ambivalence Attachment Hope Psychological family Cultural differences