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Loss, Trauma, and Resilience: Therapeutic Work with Ambiguous Loss
Pauline Boss
Norton Professional Books / Hardcover / 2006-01-01 / 0393704491
Grief Counseling & Therapy / Trauma
price: $47.00 (may be subject to change)
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All losses are touched with ambiguity. Yet those who suffer losses without finality bear a particular burden. Whether it is the experience of caring for a parent in the grip of Alzheimer’s or waiting to learn the fate of a spouse gone missing in a disastrous event, the loss is disastrously coupled with a lack of closure. Bereft of rituals and social support, persons who experience such ambiguous losses find it hard to understand their situation, difficult to cope, and almost impossible to move ahead with their lives.

In Loss, Trauma, and Resilience, Boss, the principal theorist of the concept of ambiguous loss, offers new concepts and clinical practices for addressing this critical psychological experience that, in one form or another, touches all of our experiences of loss.

Boss draws on research and extensive clinical experience working with families in order to frame a powerful but flexible therapeutic approach. The fundamental goal is to guide readers in the task of building resilience in clients who face of the trauma of loss without resolution.

In Part I readers are introduced to the concept of ambiguous loss and shown how such losses relate to concepts of the family, definitions of trauma, and capacities for resilience. Over the course of these first three chapters Boss updates and expands her earlier understanding of ambiguous loss in a way that not only refines the character of the phenomenon but relates the phenomenon to other critical psychological and therapeutic categories.

In Part II Boss leads readers through the various aspects of and target points for working with those suffering ambiguous loss. From meaning to mastery, identity to ambivalence, attachment to hope–these chapters cover key states of mind for those undergoing ambiguous loss. Boss then offers techniques for fostering in clients a healthy and sustainable posture toward loss. Readers are encouraged to lead clients toward modifications of their more typical inclinations to control their situation and resolve all uncertainty. The therapeutic lesson is to learn to live with ambiguity and thereby nurture resilience in clients and their families.

The Epilogue addresses the therapist directly and his or her own ambiguous losses. Closing the circle of the therapeutic process, Boss shows therapists how fundamental their own experiences of loss are to their own clinical work.

In Loss, Trauma, and Resilience, Boss provides the therapeutic insight and wisdom that aids mental health professionals in not "going for closure," but rather building strength and acceptance of ambiguity. What readers will find is a concrete therapeutic approach that is at once directive and open to the complex contexts in which people find meaning and discover hope in the face of ambiguous losses.


"With her new book, Pauline Boss has made a significant contribution to the field of trauma studies by addressing the need to bridge individual models of trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder with those based on relational and resilience approaches. At a time when the violence and losses of war, terrorism, and natural disasters increasingly threaten to unravel the social fabric of entire communities, clinicians and humanitarian workers alike will welcome Boss’s clear guidelines for strengthening connections in families in order to better cope with the stress of such ambiguous and difficult situations and find new sources of meaning and hope."

–Jack Saul, Ph.D., Director of the International Trauma Studies Program, New York City

"We all confront loss in our lives, and with loss comes a rupture in meaning. In Loss, Trauma, and Resilience, Pauline Boss insightfully sees traumatic loss as ’a relational disorder and not individual pathology.’ Most importantly, she draws on her substantial therapeutic experience, along with sophisticated theoretical resources, to provide practicable routes to restoring relations, meaning, and hope. This work will be especially useful to therapists confronting cases of trauma, great and small, and to scholars concerned with therapy as the site for restoring meaning."

Kenneth Gergen , is the Mustin Professor of Psychology at Swarthmore College and the author of The Saturated Self and An Invitation to Social Construction

About the Author:

Pauline Boss, PH.D., is Emeritus Professor and Clinical Supervisor of Marriage and Family Therapy, University of Minnesota. She is also the author of Ambiguous Loss: Learning to Live with Unresolved Grief, Coordinator of the post-9/11 Minnesota-New York Project, and a former trainer for the International Committee of the Red Cross mission in Bosnia-Herzogovina.

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