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Death: Ambiguous Feelings Related to Loss

  • By: Jane M. Kurz
  • In: Encyclopedia of Family Health
  • Edited by: Martha Craft-Rosenberg & Shelley-Rae Pehler
  • Subject:Family Health, Family Policy, Family Law

After a death, survivors typically proceed through a series of cultural, faith-based mourning rituals that mark death and honor the deceased's life. Family, friends, and community usually participate in these rituals, whose purpose is to provide comfort and closure. Closure involves restructuring the family's roles and responsibilities. However, this process is interrupted if death is ignored or minimized or there is no body verifying death. Some examples where there is no body but probable death include deaths from war (missing in action), natural disasters (e.g., floods), plane crashes, kidnappings, and fires. Deaths that the family or community does not acknowledge or minimizes include spontaneous abortions, stillbirths, death of an estranged spouse, and death of a pet. Based on Pauline Boss's theory of ambiguous loss, these ...

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