At some point in life, everyone has to deal with loss. Be it the passing of a loved one or the physical act of separation, loss can be difficult to deal with. Feelings of sadness or despair are commonplace in those that are dealing with loss. These feelings can be magnified if there is no confirmation of loss, as is the case in ambiguous loss. Ambiguous loss is when a loss is not defined or confirmed. The most recent example of this type of loss is in the missing Malaysian Airline flight MH370. This flight lost contact with air traffic control and disappeared from radar somewhere over the Indian Ocean. A massive international search effort is under way, but no signs of the plane have been confirmed. The family and loved ones of the passengers aboard the flight are experiencing ambiguous loss. Because there is no information regarding the final destination of the flight, the family and friends of passengers do not know if their loved ones are alive or not. Dealing with the feelings associated with ambiguous loss can be difficult. It is not uncommon for these people to have wild swings of emotions, ranging from extreme hopefulness to deep despair.
What is ambiguous loss?
The emotions of people dealing with ambiguous loss are easily influenced by the information surrounding the object of their loss. For example, the constantly changing news regarding flight MH370 could cause the families and friends of the passengers to feel hopeful with good news but may fall into sadness with bad news. These emotional fluctuations are driven by the ambiguity of the loss. It is difficult for those dealing with ambiguous loss to find closure. The missing Malaysian flight is not the only example of ambiguous loss. Any situation involving an unsolved disappearance can be considered an ambiguous loss. The main difference between ambiguous loss and other types of loss is that this type of loss is unresolved and usually involves mysterious circumstances.
Dealing with ambiguity
Each person deals with loss in their own way. Ambiguous loss is no different, but the feelings associated may be more intense than with other types of loss. Some different coping strategies involve writing about the situation in a private journal, keeping extremely busy to avoid thinking about the situation, while others find comfort in humor. Ambiguous loss is one of the most difficult types of loss to deal with. Many experience wild emotional swings and coping may be difficult, especially if the circumstances are never resolved. Coping strategies can help deal with loss, but professional treatment is always an option to consider.