Ambiguous Grief

The term “Ambiguous Grief” is for when we are grieving someone, who is still alive. This is when we are presented with the most complex and painful emotions.

Unfortunately, most people only identify with death as a time to mourn; you don’t have a death just an ongoing situation.  You feel conflict, guilt, pain, loss, sadness and many other mixed emotions.

The type of situations I mean are mental illness, Dementia / Alzheimer’s, drug related issues, brain injury, aging and terminal illness. These are the health-related losses.

Ambiguous Grief – beyond illness or death

There are many other losses. These include a rift within the family, a broken friendship, divorce, loss of a job or home, a big change in your daily environment such as the pandemic or moving to a new area. There are others like loss of a pet, your own health and of course, your lost youth as you age

What you deal with is a changed relationship – the person or being you know is fading or gone. You live in uncertainty; nothing is predictable or assured anymore. This is Ambiguous Grief in full flow.

The complicated feelings

There is the conflict of wanting the best for them versus your own feelings because the best for them might be that they leave this earth. Them leaving would break your heart and you are not ready for that yet. All you want is that they return to the person or being who you know.

This is often further complicated by your recognition – often denied even to yourself that they have changed and there is no going back. Now you can see why the term Ambiguous Grief has been used.

The every day losses

In essence, you are dealing with a lost present and future, the person or being is so changed they are not truly present in your life but they are not gone either. It is an emotional limbo that can feel like hell.

In cases of health-related issues, you lose your past too. The person or being you grieve is no longer connected to their memories. You live every day seeing less and less of the person or being that has been part of your life for a long time.

The challenge is that they are still in your life so you don’t have closure. Often, this leads to guilt when you find yourself thinking “how much longer will this go on?” or “I am so scared of losing them” The feelings you will go through are horribly multi-faceted and changeable.

It’s not just about humans

You may wonder why I refer to “the person or being” it is because I include pets in this. For those who don’t have pets it is often hard to relate to the feeling that pet owners have for their animals and the love that they have for their pets.

These feelings are just as valid as the feelings towards a human being for a pet owner. I am living with ambiguous grief myself. My beloved dog is declining before my eyes, I miss her already but she is still here. It presents so much sadness and confusion of feelings.

My experience

I am training myself to walk alone but it is hard, she has been part of my life for the last five years. I do not want it to end but I know it must, I just don’t know when. I am having to create routines that should involve her but don’t anymore. The guilt of leaving her at home is awful but equally she seems content jut to sleep.

This is fine for her… but what about me? My companion is gone but not gone. I miss her already.


How to cope with Ambiguous Grief

There are number of coping strategies you can employ; the first is to acknowledge your feelings. Your feelings are real and valid and they will be changeable and unpredictable. You will have guilt, anger, frustration, isolation, and exhaustion plus many more emotions. It is acceptable for you to feel whatever you feel. What you should not do is ignore or suppress your feelings; this will only cause further problems for you later on.

Create a memory box so that you can store some precious keepsakes to remind you and comfort you during the bad days

Connect with other people in the same situation, the Facebook group Homeopathy for Emotional Health and Wellbeing is a great place to start.

Self Care

Plan your self-care, it is essential that you take time for yourself. Booking an appointment to see me as your Homeopath is a great way of supporting yourself. I give you a safe and confidential space where you can release all of your feelings. I can then prescribe remedies that help you rebalance your feelings and give you the support you need. You cannot care for others if you are not on top form yourself. Be kind to yourself, do not be critical of yourself. Give yourself a break. As you have read I am living your experience, I know how to help you.