When we experience the death of a loved one, we understand what the process for interpreting our grief traditionally looks like. Rituals help define our loss; we plan a funeral or celebration of life, we execute a will, we receive condolences from friends and family. The loss from a death is evident and generally understood, but what happens when a loved one experiences a life-changing severe brain or spinal cord injury?

Ambiguous loss, originally coined in the 1970s by therapist Pauline Boss can help describe the type of loss often experienced after the severe injury of a loved one. For these, there is no set or society-defined way of grieving such a complex loss. Our loved ones are alive, but life has often changed as weambiguous loss know it. Especially after severe brain injury, personality and cognitive changes can exacerbate the feelings of loss as the person we knew may no longer be there.

Understanding the concept of ambiguous loss and recognizing the grief response after a severe injury can be a first step in coping with such a loss, which is to validate it as your own—the loss is real and it matters. Engaging with others who may be sharing in the same loss or have had experience with a similar loss can be beneficial and help us not feel alone in our grief. Additionally, pursuing counseling or therapeutic services can be a valuable option to help with coping and the healing process.

Also important are the considerations of other resources, a few of which are listed below:

Web Resources:

Books by Pauline Boss:

Categories: Brain Health, Rehabilitation