Ambiguous Loss

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Loss is an inescapable part of human existence, but we know that vulnerable or marginalised groups of children experience higher rates of loss and bereavement than the general population. Children who are cared for in placements outside of the family home are also more likely to experience ambiguous loss, which is when a loss remains unclear and without closure. Ambiguous losses can be ‘physical’ e.g. an absent parent, or ‘psychological’ e.g. a parent who is emotionally unavailable due to substance misuse. Ambiguous loss is less often recognised than bereavement and often goes unsupported, thereby leading to an increased risk of prolonged distress, poor outcomes and disenfranchised grief. It is therefore important that childcare workers are aware of the presence and impact of ambiguous loss in the lives of children that they work with. This paper will describe these concepts and consider the implications for residential childcare practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalScottish Journal of Residential Child Care
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 18 Sep 2018


  • loss
  • ambiguous loss
  • grief
  • disenfranchised grief
  • residential care

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