Page 23 - 2016 Spring-Summer Issue
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ambiguous loss. Family members whose loved ones died on touch. My current caregiving duties make me feel more out

September 11th also live with it, and will do so for the rest of touch.

of their days.                                                 Loss of purpose. “Who am I now?” is a question I often

In her book, Ambiguous Loss: Learning to Live with             asked myself. I didn’t know what to say when people asked
                                                               me how many children I had. While I was raising my twin
Unresolved Grief, Boss describes ambiguous losses as           grandchildren my purpose was clear, to protect, nurture,

“frozen grief.” There are two types of ambiguous loss,         and love them. My purpose became less clear after the twins
                                                               graduated from college and found jobs. Finally, I identified
according to Boss, physical absence with psychological         two purposes, caring for my husband and writing resources
presence (lack of a goodbye), and psychological absence        to help others.
with physical presence, as with Alzheimer’s disease and
other forms of dementia.                                                 Loss of hope. I admit it;
                                                                         I lost hope for a while.
Ambiguous loss is           Ambiguous loss is exhausting. It goes        Thankfully, the empty
exhausting. It goes on                                                   feeling didn’t last long.
and on, you don’t know

how long it will last,      on and on, you don’t know how long it My grandchildren (one

family dynamics may         will last, family dynamics may change,       boy, one girl) helped
change, there’s a lack of                                                me find hope again, and

problem-solving, and        there’s a lack of problem-solving,           renewed my enthusiasm
no closure. You’re on                 and no closure.                    for the ordinary things
pins and needles and the                                                 of life. In his helpful and
pain seems unbearable.                                                   hopeful book, Living

I found comfort in a                                                                                    When a Loved One Has
Japanese proverb: To endure what is unendurable is true        Died, Earl A. Grollman notes that life isn’t fair. “You must
endurance. Bereaved parents like you and me suffer many        find a way to live with an unfair life—to live without the one
ambiguous losses. Since I’m a visual person, I sat down and    you loved,” he writes. I learned to do this.
made a list of them.                                           What can you do about ambiguous losses? Start by making
                                                               a list of your losses as I did. Learn more about this unique
Loss of a future. My daughter was a composite engineer,        form of grief. Talk with others who have experienced
earned six special certifications, and an MBA. She managed     ambiguous losses and find out what worked for them. Many
three production lines in a manufacturing plant, received      grief counselors recommend journaling as a healing step.
outstanding reviews, and was assured of advancement in the     Believe in yourself, because you’re probably stronger than

company. Then she died. I lost a future with her. You have you think. I love what Martha Beck writes about grief in her
lost a future and worse, family members and friends may        book, Following Your Own North Star.

not understand your feelings. They may even ask you not to When the compass reads grief, Beck says we need to
mention your child’s name.                                     remember that sadness is a form of healing. She thinks the

Loss of friends. Grief is off-putting and most Americans       people who follow the course of grief become stronger,
don’t like to talk about it. After my daughter died some       healthier, and have better coping skills. As she explains,
friends stuck around and others slowly drifted away. Today,    “Grief pushes us into ‘deep rest,’ weighing down our
in the ninth year of life without my daughter, I am my         muscles, wringing tears from our eyes and sobs from our
disabled husband’s caregiver, and more isolated than ever. I   guts. It isn’t pretty, but it’s nature’s way.” Our children would
try to stay in touch with friends via email and social media,  want us to be happy, and we can let happiness back into our
but these aren’t the same as face-to-face meetings.            lives today.

Loss of a social life. Multiple losses erased my interest in   Harriet Hodgson is the author of 37 books, including Smiling Through Your
                                                               Tears: Anticipating Grief, Lois Krahn, MD, co-author, Writing to Recover:

socializing. I remembered something my mother once said: The Journey from Loss and Grief to a New Life, Writing to Recover Journal,
                                                               101 Affirmations to Ease Your Grief Journey: Words of Comfort, Words
“I want to crawl in a hole and pull the hole in after me.”     of Hope, The Spiritual Woman: Quotes to Refresh and Sustain Your Soul,
Like my mother, I wanted to crawl in a hole, stay home, and    Help! I’m Raising My Grandkids: Grandparents Adapting to Life’s Surprises,
ponder life. As the years passed, we resumed many of our       and Happy Again! Your New and Meaningful Life after Loss. Visit www.

social contacts. Still, there were days when we felt out of for more information about this busy author.

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