Frozen sadness: this is what we have when we cannot really know what we have lost. And this is what Pauline Boss illuminates, and helps to ease, in Ambiguous Loss, an original and humane account of the ravages of uncertainty.
A loved one is still alive, perhaps, yet lost to us: a soldier son missing in action, a mother in a distant country, a constantly traveling spouse. This is one kind of ambiguous loss that Boss describes, touching most movingly on the experience of immigrants, rooted in their new countries but forever homesick. In another kind of ambiguous loss, the loved one may be physically present but beyond our reach. Boss's most vivid example here is Alzheimer's disease, with its wrenching impact on patients' families.
With sensitivity and lucidity, Boss explores the tumultuous emotions stirred up by such losses, especially the wide fluctuations between hope and hopelessness. These ups and downs, suffered too long, can completely deaden feeling. Drawing on her research and clinical experience, Boss suggests strategies that can cushion the pain. Her work features the heartening narratives of those who cope with ambiguous losses and manage to move on, including those who have lost family members to divorce, adoption, addiction, chronic mental illness, and brain injury. The critical question arising from these lives in emotional limbo is: How do we live with ambiguous loss? Guiding us toward a solution, Boss's eloquent book shows us the strength required to yield to the unanswered questions.
About the 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.