Skip to main content

30% Off New Releases: Explore the List

Harvard University Press - home
Ambiguous Loss

Ambiguous Loss

Learning to Live with Unresolved Grief

Pauline Boss

ISBN 9780674003811

Publication date: 10/02/2000

Request exam copy

When a loved one dies we mourn our loss. We take comfort in the rituals that mark the passing, and we turn to those around us for support. But what happens when there is no closure, when a family member or a friend who may be still alive is lost to us nonetheless? How, for example, does the mother whose soldier son is missing in action, or the family of an Alzheimer’s patient who is suffering from severe dementia, deal with the uncertainty surrounding this kind of loss?

In this sensitive and lucid account, Pauline Boss explains that, all too often, those confronted with such ambiguous loss fluctuate between hope and hopelessness. Suffered too long, these emotions can deaden feeling and make it impossible for people to move on with their lives. Yet the central message of this book is that they can move on. Drawing on her research and clinical experience, Boss suggests strategies that can cushion the pain and help families come to terms with their grief. Her work features the heartening narratives of those who cope with ambiguous loss and manage to leave their sadness behind, including those who have lost family members to divorce, immigration, adoption, chronic mental illness, and brain injury. With its message of hope, this eloquent book offers guidance and understanding to those struggling to regain their lives.

Praise

  • You will find yourself thinking about the issues discussed in this book long after you put it down and perhaps wishing you had extra copies for friends and family members who might benefit from knowing that their sorrows are not unique… This book’s value lies in its giving a name to a force many of us will confront—sadly, more than once—and providing personal stories based on 20 years of interviews and research.

    —Pamela Gerhardt, Washington Post

Author

  • Pauline Boss is Professor of Family Social Science at the University of Minnesota, past President of the National Council on Family Relations, and a psychotherapist in private practice.

Book Details

  • 176 pages
  • 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

Recommendations