Understanding Ambiguous Grief

The unknown future stretches long ahead.  People of all ages are finding themselves with shorter “fuses”, some varying degrees of sadness, loss of energy and focus, diminished interest in general, lack of enjoyment and lessening of senses of humor, lack of initiative for exercise/movement, changes in eating/sleeping habits, and increased levels of frustration.

If you can relate to some/a few/ many of these feelings, you may be experiencing a type of grief called AMBIGUOUS grief. The name itself describes its meaning – ambiguity. Unbeknownst to us we are actually experiencing a grief reaction to the many losses, cancellations, and changes in daily life experienced now and in the foreseeable future – with no real end in sight as yet.

What many thought was going to last a few weeks, with life returning fairly quickly to normal, now realize that is obviously not the case.  Even making future plans is compromised as we don’t know what and when the future is.  We really don’t know what “normal” will be going forward.  What we do know is simply that it won’t look the same as it once did.

We are actually grieving all those “losses” and the associated feelings pop up inconsistently.  One day we are “fine”…the next we are not. Even one minute we feel like our “normal” ourselves, the next we just feel sad….or angry.

If we understand that this is a normal reaction to the situation we currently are living in, we might be more understanding of ourselves and others, and know when it is time to just be with ourselves.  We need to acknowledge our feelings, feel them, process them, and then accept that both they and this too shall pass. We might more readily accept that “retreating to our corners” is a healthy thing to do. A balance of alone time and people time is good self-care.

These feelings should be somewhat transient, and probably inconsistent – up and down, back and forth.  We should have times of enjoyment, of feeling a sense of normalcy as well as those sad times. The operative word here really is BALANCE.  Quite frankly we are feeling out of balance just by the situation.  For us A’s who like things in nice neat rows or packages we feel a lack of control as well….as we struggle to make it all right and neat, when we really can’t.

These are all normal reactions to change and to instability, which certainly is the situation now. Be kind, understanding, and gentle with YOURSELF, and others.

Just a few suggestions when living in close quarters, especially when this is a new situation:

  • Respect closed doors.
  • Get outside.
  • Walks alone are ok. Getting away from one another is ok.
  • Sometimes group activities are good – sometimes not so much.
  • Often our personal needs won’t correspond time-wise with others. Know that’s ok.
  • Talking out feelings can be a really good thing – as long as it is done in an atmosphere of non-judgement, non-fixing, just open and honest sharing.
  • If you have a funny friend – be in touch with their humor – laughter is really healing!
  • Watch some slapstick funny tv shows or movies – get a break from the constant barrage of news

I do need to add if you are feeling depressed and can’t seem to pull yourself up, you may need to contact a professional counselor.

If you have a medical history of clinical depression, a visit to your doctor may be needed for an adjustment in medication.






By: Barb Kennedy, RN