Effects of ambiguous loss

What is ambiguous loss?

1.General effects

  • Immobilizes individuals and relationships
  • Confuses decision making for the system
  • Freezes grief
  • Blocks coping
  • Tempts wanting everything to be in black and white
  • Dreams of struggle to find answer



2.Effects on individuals

  • Complicated grief; frozen grief, anger
  • Depression (Note difference b/w sadness and medical depression)
  • Increased anxiety, stress, and stress-related illnesses
  • Traumatization  (Note difference b/w experiencing trauma and medical PTSD)
  • Feelings of ambivalence*, guilt, and/or shame become stronger (Note difference b/w social ambivalence and psychiatric ambivalence)
  • Feeling helplessness and hopelessness
  • Harder to make decisions
  • Increased risk of turning to drugs or alcohol or abuse oneself or others



3.Effects on relationships (with family and the community)

  • Immobilizes every member of the family
  • Fewer conversations and less shared feelings within the family
  • Withholding judgment when making a decision
  • The role in the family remains unclear
  • The relationship boundaries become blurred
  • A cessation of celebrations, rituals, and family vacations
  • Community members disatant
  • Conflicts arise between family and community members, often keeping them at a distance



*What is “Ambivalent”?

To have totally conflicting feelings. It means experiencing both feelings, such as “that person doesn’t exist,” or “I’m sure he exists.

This often results in a conflicted state, both consciously and unconsciously.  This is an important concept in understanding the problems of the mind.

(See next section.)