Ambiguous Loss

Ambiguous Loss

With the tragic loss of life on flight 370 this year, as we go to press, families and loved ones still await news and evidence, that ,as foretold in press interviews, flight 370 is lost and all life on board
deceased – currently without trace.
How do we human beings cope with such tragedy ? and how do we accept the death when there is
no hard evidence – no body ?
Over many years of working with and supporting families in differing circumstances I think
ambiguous loss might be the most complex. There isn’t a body – so where is the proof of death
…..Only the absence …. And in absence there is hope, fantasy even . Whilst the shock and
devastation sink in the frustration and sense of impotence at not being able to find the loved one
will frequently manifest in anger and observations of families gathering angrily and focussing the
frustrations on those deemed to be responsible are not unexpected. The 911 terror attack on NY
observed by all the world saw individuals and families walking streets holding photographs and
leaving messages of hope … maybe … just maybe he/ she is alive – Somewhere. After time as with
911 , the Tsunami and indeed endless other events that may steal life without leaving trace the
world says … it’s a fact and moves on but for those left to grieve is this ever a possibility ? Of course
time brings a little more manageability but does hope ever fade? For some the candle in the window
will burn forever until something of their loved one is identified or returned to them . I still have
hope … a line written to me hundreds of times by those trying to work with the inconceivable facts
that their loved one has gone from the face of the earth without trace.
“It’s too painful to accept “ a mother whose son drowned whilst trying to save his pet dog and
whose body was never recovered told me …

” I know he must be dead – after all if he weren’t he’d be here he’d come home but without trace I cannot let it go . Some days I go to the ocean … I stand Iplead I bargain … give him up … if he really is out there somewhere ,give something back to us so that we know … but nothing … and on other days in quiet acceptance I visit our small churchyard and lay flowers at his memorial …. It may sound silly but as there was nothing to bury I put his teddy bear under there …. Just so there’s something but his room lies untouched … I am stuck I don’t want to accept it … if I do it really will be forever.”
There may be some unity in shared bereavements where many loved ones are lost and public
acknowledgements. Memorials and services may give a sense support. When the world moves on as
it always does those left to grieve will also face the fact that they may never have answers , that
there may never be evidence, and yet their loved one is lost , forever .

©Alex James

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