Pauline Boss is pioneer and principle theorist in the study of ambiguous loss, a term she coined in the late 1970s to describe losses that occur without closure or meaning. Among her many articles and books are the acclaimed Ambiguous Loss: Learning to Live with Unresolved Grief (Harvard University Press, 1999); Loss, Trauma, and Resilience: Therapeutic Work With Ambiguous Loss (W. W. Norton, 2006); and Loving Someone Who Has Dementia: How to Find Hope While Coping With Stress and Grief (Jossey-Bass/John Wiley, 2011). Currently, she is writing The Myth of Closure about losses that make no sense and continue to cause suffering.
Now Professor Emeritus, University of Minnesota, Dr. Boss was also faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (1975-1981), Harvard Medical School (1995-96), and Moses Professor at Hunter School of Social Work in New York City, (2004-2005). As a scientist-practitioner, she studied both types of ambiguous loss—with families of the physically missing (during the Vietnam War, after 9/11 in New York City, in Japan after the 2011 tsunami, etc.) and with families of the psychologically missing (Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, traumatic brain injury, autism, mental illness, etc.) Based on this 40 years of work, Dr. Boss developed six guidelines for coping with losses complicated by ambiguity. They include: finding meaning, adjusting mastery, reconstructing identity, normalizing ambivalence, revising attachment, and discovering new hope. These guidelines for staying strong and living well, despite the ambiguity of unanswered questions, provide the core of Dr. Boss’ discussions at 1440 Multiversity on September 22-24, 2017.
Dr. Boss’ interview with Krista Tippet, was one of On Being’s most listened-to 2016 episodes, and she has also appeared on Good Morning America, ABC News, CNN News, NPR, BBC Radio, CBC, and a Starz TV panel. Dr. Boss was awarded Fellow in the American Psychological Association, the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, and the National Council on Family Relations. She is a family therapist, consultant, and supervisor in private practice in Minneapolis.
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