Ambiguous loss occurs when there is psychological absence with physical presence. This occurs when a loved one is emotionally or cognitively gone or missing, but still physically present. This can be caused by Alzheimer’s/dementia, traumatic brain injury, mental illness, addiction, depression, etc. With this type of loss, there is a loss without certainty, closure, or understanding.
Ambiguous grief is the feelings of grief associated with ambiguous loss. Ambiguous grief is experienced from the loss of a loved one—who is still alive—accompanied by a change in the relationship or the death of the relationship.
Here are 7 tips for coping with ambiguous loss/grief:
1. Identify what you are going through. Become familiar with the terms ambiguous loss and ambiguous grief, and learn what they look like for you in your life.
2. Work toward accepting this new normal. It probably won’t happen right away, but you can work toward acceptance over time.
3. Open up and share with others about what you’re going through. We often expect the people in our lives to just know what we need, but they may not understand what you’re going through. Sharing with them may help them find ways to support you.
4. Reach out to others who are experiencing ambiguous loss/grief. Find in-person or online support groups. Read blogs, articles, or books from others who have been through it.
5. Hunt the good stuff. Focus on what you still have—not what you have lost. Focus on what your loved one can still do—not what they can no longer do. You will always find more of what you choose to focus on.
6. Find ways to honor your ambiguous loss/grief. Keep some of your loved one’s old belongings. Display a framed photo of your loved one from before they got sick. Carry on your loved one’s favorite traditions, cook their favorite meals, or watch their favorite shows.
7. Talk about your loved one from before they got sick. Talking about them and sharing memories of them will help you remember who they were before they got sick.
How do you cope with ambiguous loss/grief?
If you are coping with the ambiguous loss/grief of a parent, the Alzheimer’s Daughters Club—my membership community for women who have a parent with Alzheimer’s or dementia—will be open to join May 16-20! Join the waiting list to be the first to know when you can join!