Ambiguous Loss

Article By Alisa O’Neill

Have you ever felt like you lost someone, but you still physically see them? Do you feel like your loved one is no longer the same mentally after the crash has happened – even if it’s years later?

This is called Ambiguous Loss/Grief. Who the person was before the crash isn’t the same person that you see in front of you today, and that can be heartbreaking to witness. For example, you might have been used to playing Monopoly with all your cousins during special gatherings, and ever since the crash happened your cousin Sam no longer has the mental capacity to play board games anymore, they get fatigued easily, they forget the rules of the game Monopoly, so you have to remind them of the rules, etc. Cousin Sam is physically there, but it feels like a whole new person, and that can be hard for everyone to accept to watch your loved one become a different person.

MADD Victim Services reminds you that grief is complicated. Though there may not have been physical death, there are feelings of grief that are associated with a nondeath-related loss. A loss is still a loss; you are entitled to feel sad, angry, etc. MADD Victim Services is here to help you and your family navigate through this.

Here’s What to Do When You are Grieving Someone Who is Physically Here:

Allow yourself to feel all the pain of the loss. As previously mentioned, you are entitled to feel however you feel, but the important thing to do is to give yourself the time and space to express your feelings. Cry if you need to cry, talking it out to a friend you trust &/ or mental health professional. 

Hold on to the memories of your loved one, but create new ones. Allow yourself to know your loved one in a whole different way. For example, you might have been used to playing Monopoly with your cousin, but now you can use this opportunity to find and enjoy other hobbies with your loved one. Maybe, cousin Sam would rather paint with you or would rather play a different board game that isn’t exhausting to them. 

Create Peer Support Connections. Grief and loss can make anyone feel isolated, the best to lessen these uncomfortable feelings is to connect with someone who can relate to what you are experiencing. Finding someone who has been in your shoes can be comforting because you no longer feel alone.  

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