You know that gut-punching, heart-sinking “unh” sensation you have been feeling? It may be
Ambiguous Loss. Pauline Boss coined the term for this loss without the promise of anything that looks like resolution, loss without certainty. After listening to a podcast interview of Dr. Boss by Krista Tippett, I knew that was the “unh” I had been feeling.
We have lost so much, some relatively more than others, and so much is uncertain right now as to when (if ever) our lives will return to something resembling “normal” life, whatever that is. Somehow naming this has been an essential first step in dealing with the toll 2020 has taken: facing a pandemic we are ill-equipped as a nation to handle, the realization of the depths and severity of systemic oppression (many of us white people thought we were doing better, for BIPOC this isn’t new), the contentious election season, and the expressed pain of our planet through natural disasters, extreme climate shifts, and extinction of entire species. There is SO much loss in all of this. For some it is loss of employment or even housing. For others it is loss of loved ones through distance or death, made worse by sometimes not being able to say a decent good-bye to the dying. For many it is the loss of who we thought we were as a country. For all it is the loss of our common routines and things we do. It is so much loss.
In the best of times it is fair to say we aren’t great at dealing with loss. Ask anyone who has had a major loss in their life and they will tell you few people know how to be around them anymore and often stumble through their best effort at being supportive despite an enormous amount of discomfort. So the bad news is, in general we aren’t skilled at dealing with this much loss. The good news is, there is no clearer indicator of an opportunity to learn what to do with loss, especially ambiguous loss.
There are many aspects of dealing with the challenges that have surfaced in 2020. One is dealing with the ambiguous loss. Here are some ideas I have found helpful for dealing with ambiguous loss (many of which come from Dr. Pauline Boss herself):
As we wade our way through the layer of 2020 and the challenges it has brought, grieving is an important piece. My hope is this has given you some practices to try or at least ideas to reflect on. Perhaps for now, see if you can be gentle and generous with yourself right now and see if you can have fun and find enjoyment in spite of it all.
This blog is for information only. Reading this blog or interacting with it is not medical advice and does not constitute a therapeutic relationship. This blog is not a substitute for mental health care. Please be sure to seek out mental health care as needed.