The Myth of Closure: Ambiguous Loss in a Time of Pandemic and Change (Hardcover)

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The Myth of Closure: Ambiguous Loss in a Time of Pandemic and Change (Hardcover)

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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 this book, pioneering therapist 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."



This book provides many 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. Dr. Boss is the author of Loss, Trauma, and Resilience: Therapeutic Work with Ambiguous Loss and The Myth of Closure: Ambiguous Loss in a Time of Pandemic and Change. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Product Details ISBN: 9781324016816
ISBN-10: 1324016817
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Publication Date: December 14th, 2021
Pages: 192
Language: English
As we deal with the ambiguous losses we are experiencing in the pandemic, Boss reminds us that while grief is a lifelong journey, we still have opportunities both to build resilience and grow from loss—even those losses that are unclear. The key to coping with ambiguous loss is “both/and” thinking—accepting the loss as well as recognizing that things are still here. What we have lost is gone, but we continue to retain an emotional and spiritual bond with it. As Boss notes, this is a most important insight as we live through this pandemic. Her work is a is a tour de force that unites her earlier writings on loss, trauma, and resilience and it is a hopeful message to all of us who struggle to make sense of today’s world.




— Kenneth J Doka, PhD, Senior Consultant, The Hospice Foundation of America, Professor Emeritus, The College of New Rochelle

From her own professional and personal experience, Boss offers us lessons in dealing with ambiguous loss. She writes beautifully and with great emotion as she tackles one of our most difficult challenges—how to grow through pain and suffering. Boss is a cultural therapist whose work helps us understand ourselves and each other.




— Mary Pipher, psychologist and author of Women Rowing North and Reviving Ophelia

[A]n inspired and much-needed framework for living through the pandemic.... [A] beautiful melding of Boss' 80+ years of personal experience with life and loss with her 40+ years of professional work as a family therapist, professor, clinician, and grief expert.
— Coalition News, a publication of the Minnesota Coalition for Death Education and Support

Of all the books and articles that Pauline Boss has written devoted to her pioneering

work on ambiguous loss, this publication may be her finest. The book is

timely and exactly what so many of us desperately need as we try to comprehend,

adjust to, and gradually bounce back from the devastating losses that so many of

us have experienced as we live amid a global pandemic.

I am convinced that this book will provide a much-needed compass to those who

feel directionless following the loss of loved ones during the pandemic, and for

whom ‘proper closure’ was not humanly possible due to COVID-related constraints.

One of the most refreshing and welcomed features of this masterfully written

book centers around Boss’s expansion of her previous groundbreaking work on

ambiguous loss to include a critical examination of global issues such as climate

change and racism. If there were ever a time where a book, with such a sharp

focus was needed, one that speaks honestly, authoritatively, and eloquently to

where we are as a nation and a world, it is now.


— Kenneth V. Hardy, Ph.D., Clinical and Operations Consultant, The Eikenberg Institute for Relationships