The Trauma and Complicated Grief of Ambiguous Loss

Ambiguous loss is a newly identified type of loss that occurs when a loved one is physically present, but psychologically absent. Dementia is just one example. Because the lost person is here, but not here, grief is frozen, life is put on hold, and people are traumatized. With no official verification of death, no possibility of closure, and no rituals for support, there is no resolution of grief (Boss 1999). Clergy, especially pastoral counselors, can witness and provide comfort for such uncanny loss because people rely on them for support, not just from the clear loss of death, but from the ambiguous losses, catastrophic and ordinary, that inevitably will occur across the life course.

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