Loss is familiar to many people.
Dr. Dorothy Berglund, professor of psychology and family studies at Mississippi University for Women, took a class over the summer detailing the loss that is experienced when an individual is least expecting it. This is known as ambiguous loss.
The course titled, "Understanding and Applying Ambiguous Loss: Its Meaning and Application," was offered through the University of Minnesota’s Department of Family and Social Science as a professional education course for continuing education credits.
The other team got the trophy. Your lucky socks went missing. Someone else got the job you worked so hard for. A loved one passed away. When there are things to gain, there are also things to lose. That is part of life, and humans have learned to cope with that loss and find closure to move on. But what if you cannot find that closure?
This type of loss often occurs without any closure or clear understanding. Many people are left with questions that cannot be answered. Therefore, the grieving process is usually delayed resulting in unresolved grief.
“Ambiguous loss is a stressor where there really is not an end in sight,” said Berglund. “You don’t really know what’s going to happen next.”
Berglund wanted to take the class because the topic has been relevant to the current global situation. The COVID-19 pandemic has taken many cultural and social milestones away from people without giving any one the ability to realize what has happened and why.
Students left for spring break in March not knowing it would be the last time they saw their friends and teachers until August. Athletes canceled their seasons without being able to cherish their previous season because that may have been the last time they played. In the wake of social distancing, everyone has isolated themselves from loved ones not knowing when they will see each other again.
According to Berglund, humans are social creatures, and to us, this feels like a tangible loss.
“I found it very timely because we are kind of going through this,” said Berglund. She found the class to be informative and helpful in order to deal with the stress that we are currently going through. The COVID-19 pandemic has ushered millions of people into an ambiguous state of grieving simultaneously without notice. Many people have never seen this type of phenomenon so widespread before.
However, Berglund said there are ways to cope with this type of grief. There are things the individual can do congruently with a professional.
“You can’t help anybody else with anything until you help yourself first,” said Berglund.
She said finding comfort in religion is helpful to some people. Others benefit from medication and therapy while some thrive off of exercise. Everyone has a different way of processing their losses. Berglund said that whatever helps to relieve the anxiety and stress is already a step in the right direction.
“Nobody has the right to make you feel guilty for how you feel,” she said.
The class taught Berglund that no one has to feel alone during this time. There are ways to reach out even though it may be difficult. It is most important now than ever to make those human connections our spirits thrive off.
If you are not given closure, you have to find it for yourself in any way you can. Nevertheless, we are not alone; it is not random to find someone who can relate. 7 billion people on the planet, and we are all in the same boat.