Ambiguous Loss Resources

Plus: Resources on Boundary Ambiguity

This is a collection of resources that NCFR has gathered on ambiguous loss, which can result from either a physical loss in which there is no guarantee the lost person will return and no verification of death, or a mental loss, such as related to dementia, in which there is no guarantee that a person's mental faculties will return to the way they used to be.

You'll find links to video discussions and lectures, scholarly articles from NCFR's journals, articles from NCFR Report magazine, and more below.

Therapist and NCFR Fellow Pauline Boss's website on ambiguous loss contains explanations, resources (books, articles, and more), and media mentions about the topic. Boss coined the term ambiguous loss, which refers to experiencing loss in which death cannot be verified, or not being able to guarantee that a person will return to their former condition.

The Myth of Closure: Ambiguous Loss in a Time of Pandemic and Change

The COVID-19 pandemic has left many of us haunted by feelings of anxiety, despair, and even anger. In this book, pioneering therapist Pauline Boss identifies these vague feelings of distress as caused by ambiguous loss, losses that remain unclear and hard to pin down, and thus have no closure. Collectively the world is grieving as the pandemic continues to change our everyday lives. Full book information.

Family Stress Management, 3rd Edition

Pauline Boss explores the larger context surrounding families and stress, and the inner context, which includes perceptions and meanings. She emphasizes the need for a more general contextual model of family stress that could be applicable to more people and families as well as a wider variety of stresses and crises than other models. The goal is to provide a framework for students and professionals engaged in helping families learn how to manage their stress.

Media on Ambiguous Loss

Scholarly Articles on Ambiguous Loss

Journal Articles

Theory Construction and Research Methodology (TCRM) Workshop Papers — login required

For NCFR journal access: If you're an NCFR member who subscribes to NCFR's journals, log in to the NCFR website and visit the subscriber-access webpages below to read the full text of journal articles on the website of our journal publisher, Wiley. 

Journal of Marriage and Family Subscriber Access

Family Relations Subscriber Access

Journal of Family Theory & Review Subscriber Access

Other Articles on Ambiguous Loss