Ambiguous Grief

Ambiguous grief may be a term that you have never heard of. It refers to a continuous grief… a painful journey that goes on and on, with no ending in sight.
Friends and families coping with events where a body is not recovered may experience this. As an example, thousands of bodies in Japan remain missing since the recent 9.0 magnitude earthquake on March 11, 2011. Can you imagine the sorrow and torture their loved ones are going through? They know there was a major event and that likely their loved one is dead, but without the body… they may always question. This is not unlike families who have a soldier missing in action, or a son or daughter who may have been kidnapped or went mysteriously missing, never to be seen or heard from again.
Other reasons someone may experience ambiguous grief would be acquired brain injury where the person’s personality is significantly altered, and they no longer are the person they were prior to being injured. In essence, they are a complete stranger to their loved ones. Alzheimer’s, dementia and addictions are also responsible for holding family and loved ones hostage in this grief. The person sitting before your very eyes is not in any way the person you knew and there is significant loss with that reality; however, it’s not something you are invited to publicly mourn.
Ambiguous grief requires special attention. Those experiencing this type of sorrow may or may not receive consistent support. Has there been a death/ending to a relationship or not? Seeking professional advice from a counsellor with experience in this area is critical to moving forward. Participating in a support group where you can share your feelings and experiences with other who may be having a similar experience is also beneficial.

Photo Credit: Michal Marcol / Michal Marcol /

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *