Downtime Dialogue: Coping with Grief and Ambiguous Loss During this Exceptional Time
This 20-minute video features Linda Reddish, Extension Educator discussing the concept of ambiguous loss. During the video, she will provide a broad overview of grief, and define mourning and bereavement. Then, mid-way through the video, she discusses Dr. Pauline Boss's theory of ambiguous loss and there is a short conversation between her and her son discussing their individual and collective experience of this loss as a family in response to the pandemic. The video closes with some suggested strategies if you are experiencing ambiguous loss.
To learn more or healthy ways to cope with ambiguous loss please visit:
https://www.ambiguousloss.com or https://griefsjourney.org/
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[00:00:01.180]Thank you all for joining me today.
[00:00:02.500]My name is Linda Reddish, and I'm an Extension Educator
[00:00:04.700]with the Learning Child Team.
[00:00:06.550]Today I'm gonna talk to you all briefly about ambiguous
[00:00:10.150]loss and grief.
[00:00:12.580]So for the purposes of this video, I'm just going to define
[00:00:15.800]what is grief and some of the relative vocabulary
[00:00:18.960]terms associated with it.
[00:00:21.170]I'm gonna introduce the concept of ambiguous grief
[00:00:25.930]and then I'm gonna share a real life example
[00:00:29.340]that I personally and my family have gone through.
[00:00:32.430]And then we'll close up just with some kind of key takeaways
[00:00:37.920]from the interaction of this video.
[00:00:40.840]So let me first start with just kind of like defining
[00:00:44.240]what is grief?
[00:00:45.300]So there are different types of grief.
[00:00:48.880]They're actually four different types, but the type of grief
[00:00:52.870]that I'm gonna focus on today is just normal grief, right?
[00:00:55.710]So normal grief is a reaction and a response to the loss
[00:01:01.030]of a loved one.
[00:01:03.000]It is normal and natural to have reactions and responses.
[00:01:08.710]These reactions and responses might be psychological,
[00:01:12.270]they might be spiritual, they might be emotional,
[00:01:15.850]physiological, social and cultural.
[00:01:19.560]Bereavement which is different than grief
[00:01:22.110]is basically this objective reality
[00:01:27.550]and experience of losing a loved one
[00:01:30.760]and losing that loved one to death.
[00:01:34.130]And it's also our time spent in that reality
[00:01:39.180]of having lost someone.
[00:01:41.300]Now the time and bereavement varies
[00:01:44.850]but it's usually followed then by this actor
[00:01:47.750]or public showing of grief.
[00:01:50.380]Typically these acts are public and they're influenced
[00:01:54.980]by our own personal beliefs, our family beliefs
[00:02:00.240]cultural customs, spiritual practices, spiritual rituals
[00:02:06.110]and also other cultural customs and values.
[00:02:10.110]So you can see how grief, bereavement,
[00:02:13.520]and mourning are all different.
[00:02:17.140]As I mentioned, there are different types of grief too.
[00:02:19.770]So some of the other different types of grief
[00:02:23.270]include anticipatory grief.
[00:02:24.990]So that might occur when there's the expectation
[00:02:31.000]that a death is expected but before it happens.
[00:02:35.180]And then there's disenfranchised grief, which is a grief
[00:02:39.550]not usually acknowledged by society such as a miscarriage
[00:02:44.590]or the loss of a home.
[00:02:46.670]And then there's complicated grief and that is a loss
[00:02:50.710]that's usually related to a traumatic event.
[00:02:54.760]So again, I'm gonna be focusing a little bit more
[00:02:57.140]on the normal reactions like grief, right?
[00:03:02.130]That grief is a normal response
[00:03:06.060]that it's a normal reactions.
[00:03:07.820]There are physiological just talking about it broadly,
[00:03:11.400]not really drilling down into these different types.
[00:03:13.450]I'm just talking about it broadly that it's a reaction
[00:03:15.850]or response to our feelings of a loss.
[00:03:18.420]And talking about that grief is more than just losing
[00:03:22.830]a loved one to death that you can experience
[00:03:26.310]loss of other things too.
[00:03:30.260]And so I wanna talk a little bit now about this concept
[00:03:35.010]of ambiguous loss.
[00:03:37.680]So ambiguous loss was something that I really started
[00:03:43.660]to learn a little bit more about, especially
[00:03:46.640]over the past couple of weeks.
[00:03:49.130]Collectively, we have all been experiencing
[00:03:53.900]right now in response to the pandemic several losses.
[00:04:01.240]And our challenge is though, that the losses
[00:04:05.330]that we are experiencing right now are ambiguous.
[00:04:09.350]They're not a loss specifically related to death,
[00:04:11.990]as I just talked about, right with grief
[00:04:13.480]that typically these reactions
[00:04:16.340]that we have in response to the loss of a loved one.
[00:04:19.030]But we have been losing things these last few weeks.
[00:04:23.170]So Dr. Pauline Boss, she first coined the term ambiguous
[00:04:27.580]loss and actually she works some of her early careers
[00:04:32.550]addressing family stress through her work within extension.
[00:04:36.990]And she pioneered a lot of this work.
[00:04:39.680]You can learn more about her work
[00:04:41.780]and get more resources at ambiguousloss.com.
[00:04:45.370]But what I'm gonna be kind of talking about in the next few
[00:04:50.690]minutes here, you can find out more information
[00:04:53.360]at her website.
[00:04:54.900]So anyways, Dr. Boss created a framework to define ambiguous
[00:05:00.440]loss and she defined into kind of two conceptual areas.
[00:05:06.380]First was physical absence with a psychological presence.
[00:05:10.330]So for example while the person may be physically there,
[00:05:15.580]psychologically they were absent.
[00:05:18.070]So a missing persons for example.
[00:05:22.370]Again, physical absence with a psychological presence.
[00:05:27.510]So a missing person, they're not there,
[00:05:29.320]but they were physiologically present in that person's mind.
[00:05:33.330]And then there's a psychological absence
[00:05:37.030]with a physical presence.
[00:05:39.310]So an example of this is usually like addiction.
[00:05:43.290]So these were just some of her initial sort of establishment
[00:05:48.640]of her theory when she first began her work.
[00:05:50.970]Since then, the literature has significantly expanded.
[00:05:54.610]There's been other researchers to contribute
[00:05:56.740]to the literature.
[00:05:58.100]And really ambiguous loss now has really moved
[00:06:01.510]to be a lot more holistic
[00:06:04.850]and inclusive of loss and as something that is really more
[00:06:14.370]about simply defining it as a loss that is unclear
[00:06:20.130]with no resolution and therefore really has no closure.
[00:06:24.540]Now, when I was defining grief earlier, I had talked
[00:06:28.400]about how that's your reaction and your response
[00:06:31.200]to the loss, right of a loved one or other things.
[00:06:35.060]And then you move into this bereavement, the objective
[00:06:38.020]reality of the situation that you have now lost a loved
[00:06:40.830]one or the loss of something else.
[00:06:43.290]And then you go into this morning period where you engage
[00:06:47.340]in a public act and engage in some form of ritual.
[00:06:51.270]Well, right now we're not doing that.
[00:06:55.289]There's a loss that is unclear at times it's vague.
[00:07:01.810]And it can be hard because sometimes what we want to do
[00:07:05.500]is compare our loss or what we're experiencing to others.
[00:07:11.130]I know I've been guilty of this.
[00:07:12.680]I might say, well, my loss isn't this.
[00:07:16.690]And yet we know that when we do that it's actually
[00:07:20.200]really the opposite effect on our bodies because when
[00:07:23.300]we disregard our pain or disregard our hurt,
[00:07:28.130]it actually just stuffs it, when really what we do need
[00:07:30.890]to do is acknowledge that feeling and that emotion.
[00:07:35.420]So recently Dr. Boss was interviewed actually specifically
[00:07:40.580]about this because she is an expert,
[00:07:42.060]right, in ambiguous loss.
[00:07:43.630]And she was asked to discuss loss in the context
[00:07:47.130]of the pandemic.
[00:07:48.770]And so when she was asked, "Have we experienced losses?"
[00:07:54.630]Like is this considered a loss?
[00:07:56.720]You know what people are going through,
[00:07:57.920]what would you say?
[00:07:59.230]And she said, yes, we have had losses.
[00:08:01.690]There's been this loss of routine.
[00:08:03.260]There's been this loss of a freedom to go out.
[00:08:05.580]There's been the loss of being able to hug our loved ones.
[00:08:08.120]And those are all major losses and there's no sympathy
[00:08:13.030]card for these kinds of losses she went on to say,
[00:08:16.890]and there's no rituals to go along with that.
[00:08:19.730]And so for the grieving process,
[00:08:24.800]which isn't really this linear process by the way,
[00:08:29.660]the Coogler and Ross five stages was initially actually
[00:08:33.230]developed specifically for cancer patients
[00:08:35.520]as they were moving through their acceptance of dying.
[00:08:41.640]So part of why I bring that up is she talks that this
[00:08:46.670]type of grief was just suddenly ripped away and we had
[00:08:49.960]no time to mourn and no time to process.
[00:08:54.300]Think about our own experiences
[00:08:55.960]suddenly we were in the office and over a course of a week,
[00:08:59.080]many of us were selling, transitioning and working,
[00:09:01.180]and now we're here working remotely at home and trying
[00:09:03.710]to coordinate multiple different new responsibilities
[00:09:09.140]and roles that just several weeks ago
[00:09:11.460]we weren't even thinking about.
[00:09:14.150]So now we suddenly have grief that is ambiguous because
[00:09:18.670]we've had no closure.
[00:09:20.950]And we've had no closure, right
[00:09:22.330]because just think even about the context of our last couple
[00:09:25.480]of weeks, even some of our dates have continued to shift.
[00:09:31.040]When we even thought potentially when we might be able to go
[00:09:33.820]back or potentially when we might be able to resume
[00:09:36.600]some of our normal day to day activities
[00:09:38.730]that we used to be able to do.
[00:09:41.490]So, I know that when I read that article,
[00:09:45.110]when I heard Dr. Boss describe some of these losses,
[00:09:49.470]it really affirmed a recent experience
[00:09:52.670]that my own family was going through.
[00:09:55.970]It really normalized the experience we were having,
[00:10:00.540]the feelings I was having, my spouse was having,
[00:10:03.580]our son was experiencing at the close
[00:10:06.360]of our son's kindergarten year.
[00:10:10.260]Many of you might be having some of those same feelings.
[00:10:13.400]There's been milestones at the end of the year,
[00:10:15.510]like graduation, celebration parties, right.
[00:10:20.490]For graduation or transitioning for prom
[00:10:26.426]and getting ready for all of that.
[00:10:28.300]And so all of these milestones that used
[00:10:33.330]to be able to experience sending events were again
[00:10:35.900]suddenly ripped away with no real time or closure to mourn
[00:10:40.800]or rituals to experience that.
[00:10:44.240]And so for us, as I was mentioning, right, we had the close
[00:10:47.680]of his kindergarten year and so I missed out on a lot of end
[00:10:52.160]of year school events.
[00:10:54.960]No end of year conferences, we missed out on that.
[00:10:59.110]I was really looking forward to hearing,
[00:11:01.720]how does he do this past year?
[00:11:02.960]Were there any concerns or things
[00:11:04.140]that we need to think about?
[00:11:06.360]We missed the end of year school events
[00:11:09.630]and then we still haven't been able to go back
[00:11:12.440]and to pick up materials
[00:11:13.720]or things like that from the school.
[00:11:16.580]And what was most interesting though about all of this,
[00:11:20.120]that we were feeling this disappointment and sadness,
[00:11:22.410]but we couldn't really yet label it
[00:11:24.780]and what we were experiencing was ambiguous loss.
[00:11:28.040]We were grieving and we needed to acknowledge that
[00:11:31.160]so that we could mourn the fact that, yeah, we felt really
[00:11:33.610]sad about this.
[00:11:35.490]And the one event that all three of us felt the most
[00:11:39.580]sad about was the Spring Choir Concert.
[00:11:45.390]For weeks our son had been practicing
[00:11:48.700]leading up to this event.
[00:11:50.680]And in a little bit, you're gonna watch a video actually
[00:11:54.020]about the two of us talking about the grief
[00:11:56.300]that we experienced.
[00:11:58.550]He's gonna share with you actually his experience
[00:12:01.140]of going through this.
[00:12:02.810]And our family really took the time to grieve this event
[00:12:06.100]and then we walked through it
[00:12:09.790]and actually try to find some meaning in all of this.
[00:12:13.790]And we use the Spring Concert as our catalyst
[00:12:17.760]to go through that.
[00:12:19.440]And so when we come back at the end of the video,
[00:12:23.850]I'll talk a little bit about what are some steps
[00:12:25.810]that you can do to support yourself, to foster resiliency
[00:12:29.690]not only in yourself but others around you.
[00:12:34.140]But that event was really helpful in our family,
[00:12:38.820]recognizing how important that grieving process was
[00:12:42.570]because we acknowledged we were all sad about missing
[00:12:44.950]out on the Spring Concert.
[00:12:46.410]We talked about it, we found a ritual that we were all able
[00:12:50.630]to engage in to acknowledge that we missed it,
[00:12:54.010]and then we found a way to acknowledge it
[00:12:56.770]and celebrate it with others as best
[00:12:59.160]as we could in the context of this pandemic.
[00:13:04.610]So we lost a lot of things because of the pandemic, right?
[00:13:09.940]So that's a little bit different than the grief
[00:13:14.000]of like losing someone right that you love.
[00:13:17.580]Because it's called ambiguous grief.
[00:13:20.470]That's a bigger word that we're talking about today.
[00:13:23.710]But what I wanted to kind of talk about was an example
[00:13:27.290]of that, that you just recently had that both you and mom
[00:13:31.147]you felt a lot of grief over.
[00:13:33.760]Can you maybe share with them about what happened
[00:13:36.950]and your school concert?
[00:13:39.494]So I always gonna do a Spring Concert at my school
[00:13:45.480]through sixth grade all the way to kindergarten.
[00:13:47.850]I'm in kindergarten and I'm six years old.
[00:13:50.640]And I couldn't get to do it.
[00:13:53.760]So, and I felt grief at that moment.
[00:13:58.270]When you found out it was canceled?
[00:13:59.490]And I found out when I was scared so when this whole
[00:14:01.810]thing, when this whole virus came and stuff.
[00:14:05.750]And so I felt grief when this came happened and
[00:14:11.790]And why did you feel grief?
[00:14:12.987]And I felt grief because it was gonna be my first time
[00:14:16.030]ever singing in front of my mom and I stayed where people
[00:14:20.730]like, wait, act and stuff.
[00:14:23.700]And now I was gonna sing in front of lots of people.
[00:14:27.190]Yeah and you had been practicing, like really hard?
[00:14:29.387]And I had been practicing really hard
[00:14:32.300]like whenever I'm done brushing my teeth
[00:14:34.410]or if I stay in the bathroom a little bit
[00:14:36.270]and I was singing it, but my mum and and dad can't hear me.
[00:14:39.960]And I practiced every night.
[00:14:42.890]So it was something that you were really looking forward
[00:14:45.440]to and we had to tell you that it was canceled,
[00:14:48.460]you felt really sad about it.
[00:14:50.860]You felt disappointed, you felt frustrated
[00:14:53.560]'cause you were gonna have a little party
[00:14:54.990]with all of your other kindergarten classmates
[00:14:57.620]when the concert was over.
[00:14:59.760]And mommy felt sad too.
[00:15:02.250]Did you know that?
[00:15:03.980]I felt really sad too about it because it was gonna
[00:15:06.780]be my first time seeing you sing.
[00:15:09.500]I had never been to a kid's kindergarten
[00:15:11.990]concert before either.
[00:15:13.900]And I know that mom and dad were really looking forward
[00:15:16.790]to seeing you sing up there and we were looking forward
[00:15:20.470]to celebrating with your classmates
[00:15:22.130]and the other kindergarten parents and your teacher.
[00:15:25.950]And my teacher said the parents could like sing along
[00:15:31.950]if they wanted to.
[00:15:33.780]So we would have all been together and that would have
[00:15:36.170]been a lot of fun too.
[00:15:38.190]So instead, what did we do?
[00:15:39.540]Because we weren't able to go to the concert
[00:15:42.010]and that was disappointing and sad.
[00:15:44.300]So what did you do instead?
[00:15:45.580]Do you remember?
[00:15:46.450]Yes, we did,
[00:15:48.140]I sang in front of my family on Zoom.
[00:15:51.210]Like, I can do like, I can be 10, I'm doing the concert
[00:15:54.780]but I'm not, I'm just singing my songs
[00:15:57.110]that I was supposed to do.
[00:15:59.490]So it wasn't the concert and we got to enjoy the little
[00:16:03.800]piece of seeing with some family members, right?
[00:16:06.650]But we still kind of felt sad about it.
So if anyone's feeling
[00:16:11.340]this way, what would you want them to know?
[00:16:14.270]I would want these people
[00:16:16.190]to know it's okay to feel grief.
'Cause it's just a feeling
[00:16:21.180]like when you cry and stuff, is that right sadness.
[00:16:26.290]So grief is kind of what a feeling was a little
[00:16:30.860]sad and I a little disappointed.
[00:16:34.340]That's a good explanation.
[00:16:36.200]Is there something anyone can do?
[00:16:37.860]If they're feeling maybe this grief?
[00:16:40.410]And if you guys are feeling this grief,
[00:16:43.330]all you gotta do is talk like if you feel this one
[00:16:48.610]and you're feeling really sad, you could maybe like watch
[00:16:53.520]something, go draw a sound can go away.
[00:16:55.427]That's a good idea.
[00:16:56.900]Or like take a deep breath.
[00:16:58.710]Get it out for you won't feel sad.
[00:17:01.050]You can feel good to go again.
[00:17:02.900]You won't have to feel grief.
[00:17:07.120]All right, so now we're gonna close.
[00:17:09.040]Thank you so much for watching that short clip.
[00:17:11.680]Again that was just to share a real life experience
[00:17:15.780]tying in this ambiguous loss that we were all feeling
[00:17:19.210]again, right this loss of a Spring Choir Concert.
[00:17:21.870]Not something that you would normally associate
[00:17:24.240]as a loss, but as you can see and you were able to hear
[00:17:29.370]that it really was a loss for our son and for all of us,
[00:17:34.420]and how we were able to connect with our other loved ones
[00:17:37.610]in that moment to grieve that process.
[00:17:39.390]And just even by sharing and acknowledging that yes,
[00:17:43.380]we were all feeling upset about it, it helped us as a family
[00:17:47.170]to find meaning and to get a little stronger.
[00:17:50.940]That means to build right a little bit of resiliency.
[00:17:53.760]And at the end we were able to be a little bit stronger
[00:17:57.640]because of it.
[00:17:59.180]So now you might be asking yourself,
[00:18:01.250]okay, what can I do to support maybe myself?
[00:18:05.540]What could I do to maybe foster resiliency?
[00:18:08.650]Not only in myself, but in others around me?
[00:18:11.530]Are there some things that I can engage in to learn more
[00:18:13.580]about ambiguous loss or share maybe with my colleagues
[00:18:16.710]or you know, other friends and family members.
[00:18:19.890]So again, first I just wanna stress to acknowledge
[00:18:23.340]your feelings, your reactions and your responses and pain.
[00:18:27.200]Treat this as you normally would with any type of grief.
[00:18:31.340]And engage in a little bit of kindness
[00:18:34.240]and compassion for yourself.
[00:18:36.950]Accept that grief can trigger many different
[00:18:40.040]reactions and responses and sometimes
[00:18:42.140]they can be unexpected emotions.
[00:18:44.470]So maybe the first couple of weeks you found yourself
[00:18:47.290]working remotely, just fine at home,
[00:18:49.540]and then all of a sudden you were really frustrated
[00:18:52.570]and you thought, why is this making me upset today?
[00:18:57.040]It might've been grief,
[00:18:58.810]it could have been the same ambiguous loss.
[00:19:00.990]Again, it can cause unexpected emotions and sometimes
[00:19:03.900]it can come out of nowhere.
[00:19:06.190]And that is just like the normal grieving cycle.
[00:19:08.590]Again, it's not linear.
[00:19:10.680]Grief is cyclical, meaning that it can pop up again
[00:19:15.160]and again and again and sometimes it can pop up
[00:19:17.300]in the most unexpected ways
[00:19:19.770]sometimes two weeks after the event or 20 years after.
[00:19:24.110]Understand that your grieving process will be unique
[00:19:27.630]to you and to your children and others around you.
[00:19:32.950]So if you find specifically though that perhaps children
[00:19:37.247]and youth or your children youth or children who you work
[00:19:42.830]with our grieving, please, please,
[00:19:46.570]please check out some excellent resources that are available
[00:19:49.290]through the Learning Child Team.
[00:19:51.220]They're available on our main website, child.unl.edu.
[00:19:55.660]There's a website called read for resilience.
[00:19:58.420]It's right there on our main homepage.
[00:20:00.620]And it was developed specifically to foster resilience
[00:20:03.980]in young children and it was to support adults in supporting
[00:20:08.940]young children's who are grieving and how to help them
[00:20:14.620]with their reactions and feelings and emotions.
[00:20:21.050]So support yourself by engaging in self care
[00:20:23.490]that is meaningful to you.
[00:20:25.570]You could start by checking out Grief's Journey.
[00:20:29.100]So Grief's Journey is an excellent nonprofit
[00:20:33.170]that specifically targets providing resources
[00:20:38.780]around grief and professional development.
[00:20:42.170]You can engage every Thursday and Friday in a webinar
[00:20:47.860]that they have available, it's usually around 12:00 p.m.
[00:20:51.680]I think it's pretty consistent.
[00:20:53.040]I'll drop the link in the chat box below, but you're able
[00:20:56.820]to take their ambiguous loss one-on-one webinar.
[00:21:01.720]And it's on self care for you around ambiguous loss
[00:21:06.300]and then self care for youth.
[00:21:08.910]And finally, if you notice that a loved one is having
[00:21:12.180]difficulty, again that is persistent and they seem stuck
[00:21:16.000]in the grief cycle, then please reach out for professional
[00:21:19.700]help such as counseling.
[00:21:21.800]UNL offers specific self care website.
[00:21:25.530]We have our EAP benefits I'll include that link below too.
[00:21:30.050]But again, do not hesitate to reach out for professional
[00:21:33.800]help such as counseling.
[00:21:36.210]Again, I really appreciate your time today.
[00:21:38.740]If you have any other questions, please don't hesitate
[00:21:41.180]to seek out.
[00:21:42.340]I'd be happy to have a conversation or just to listen.
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