The family therapist who created the field of “ambiguous loss” — loss without closure. Complicated grief: parents, divorce, addiction, dementia, aging. “You love somebody. And when they're lost, you still care about them. You can't just turn it off.”
There is no such thing as closure. In fact, Pauline Boss says, the idea of closure leads us astray. It’s a myth we need to put aside, like the idea we’ve accepted that grief has five linear stages and we come out the other side done with it. She coined the term “ambiguous loss,” creating a new field in family therapy and psychology. She has wisdom for the complicated griefs and losses in all of our lives and for how we best approach the losses of others.
Pauline Boss is Professor Emeritus at the University of Minnesota. She is the author of Loss, Trauma, and Resilience: Therapeutic Work with Ambiguous Loss, Loving Someone Who Has Dementia, and Ambiguous Loss. She has also pioneered a global online course with the University of Minnesota called “Ambiguous Loss: Its Meaning and Application.”
This interview is edited and produced with music and other features in the On Being episode "Pauline Boss — The Myth of Closure." Find more at onbeing.org.