A perfect insight on ambiguous grief: when a person is right in front of you but they no longer know who you are. Or they do, but they are so deteriorated that the relationship is essentially altered from what it had been. That person is not physically dead, but the connection they used to have with you sure is. Whether talking about physically missing persons or emotionally missing ones, they are here in one way and not here in another.
There’s plenty of uncertainty as we make our way through our lives, but we figure death is about the most certain thing there is. This nice neat separation gets blown to smithereens for those stuck in griefland limbo. Sure enough, there is a professional term for this: ambiguous grief. No, not “ambivalent,” though there is that kind too. But at the moment I am referring to “ambiguous” grief. How can that be, you may ask. Isn’t “dead” or “alive” about as obvious as it gets? How could the sheriff’s sign for the capture of a famed criminal say, “wanted, dead or alive or in between”?
Alas, even this totally dead or totally alive distinction cannot hold up. Suppose an individual has been missing for some time, but no dead body is ever found to prove that all hope is lost, as in the case thus far of the Malaysia…
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