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Ambiguous loss

On January 2, 2017 by Caregiver support counsellors

Although loss is often associated with death, we can experience loss in a wide variety of situations: separation, job loss, moving, loss of a pet, loss of physical or mental abilities, etc.

What do we mean by ambiguous loss?

The term ambiguous loss is used in reference to a person affected by a neurocognitive disease such as Alzheimer’s disease. As the disease progresses, the person is no longer the same person we used to know.

For caregivers, the thought of having to give up on their plans for the future to the progressive loss of conversation with their loved one and now finding themselves having to take on the responsibilities of their shared life alone is in itself an ambiguous loss that can be very difficult to experience and deal with.

Ambiguous loss is different from that experienced after a death because the person is still there and part of our life and daily activities. Ambivalent feelings of guilt, anger, frustration, pain and helplessness are experienced intensely both by the caregiver and the person with the disease.


To cope with this stage better

First, know that this mix of feelings is completely normal and, to keep you emotionally stable, it is important not to deal with them alone. Support groups and Alzheimer Societies are examples of resources that can help you cope with this stage better. Do not hesitate to call the Caregiver Helpline: our counsellors are here to listen to you, provide you with information and guide you throughout your journey. They will be able to direct you to the right resources.