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Pauline Boss

Apr 6, 2022

The Myth of Closure

Ambiguous Loss in a Time of Pandemic

W. W. Norton 2021

How do we begin to cope with loss that cannot be resolved? The COVID-19 pandemic has left many of us haunted by feelings of anxiety, despair, and even anger. In The Myth of Closure: Ambiguous Loss in a Time of Pandemic and Change (W.W. Norton, 2021), pioneering therapist Dr. Pauline Boss identifies these vague feelings of distress as caused by "ambiguous loss," losses that remain unclear and hard to pin down, and thus have no closure. Collectively the world is grieving as the pandemic continues to change our everyday lives. With a loss of trust in the world as a safe place, a loss of certainty about health care, education, employment, lingering anxieties plague many of us, even as parts of the world are opening back up again. Yet after so much loss, our search must be for a sense of meaning, and not something as elusive and impossible as "closure." Dr. Boss also provides strategies for coping: encouraging us to increase our tolerance of ambiguity and acknowledging our resilience as we express a normal grief, and still look to the future with hope and possibility. 

Pauline Boss, PhD, is emeritus professor at University of Minnesota. She is known worldwide for developing the theory of ambiguous loss and as a pioneer in the interdisciplinary study of family stress management. 

This interview was conducted by Jolie Ho, a PhD candidate in clinical psychology whose own research focuses on social support-seeking in response to life stressors within the context of anxiety disorders, including implications of the COVID-19 pandemic for individuals with social anxiety.

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Jolie Ho

Jolie Ho is a PhD candidate in clinical psychology at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada.

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