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.
- Ambiguous loss
- Unresolved loss
- Frozen grief
- Psychological family
- Cultural differences
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Portions of this paragraph appeared in The Guardian Op Ed, “The Pain of Flight MH370 Lies in Its Ambiguity,” by Pauline Boss, on March 18, 2014.
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To ease the pain of ambiguous loss, traditional grief therapies are insufficient: the family will resist the fact of death and the idea of closure. They will exhibit symptoms of unresolved grief, but that may reflect a normal sadness, not depression. While the treatment for depression is often medication, the treatment for sadness is human connection. Such connection lies beyond that of therapist and patient; it requires a steady community connection to the people in one’s everyday life—relatives, friends, and neighbors (Boss 2006; Landau 2007; Robins 2010; Saul 2013).
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Boss, P. (2015). Coping with the Suffering of Ambiguous Loss. In: Anderson, R. (eds) World Suffering and Quality of Life. Social Indicators Research Series, vol 56. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-017-9670-5_10
Publisher Name: Springer, Dordrecht
Print ISBN: 978-94-017-9669-9
Online ISBN: 978-94-017-9670-5