A tragic fire in a West London tower block triggered a raft of research. Psychologists compared the grief of those who lost loved ones compared to those with family members missing.
They concluded uncertainty about the fate of a missing person could be the worst form of grief. Moreover, the London Guardian newspaper believes the emotional repercussions lingered long after the rescue effort was over.
How Ambiguous Loss Triggers the Worst Form of Grief
Psychologists refer to this situation as ‘ambiguous loss’ because lack of certainty triggers the ‘psychology of hope’. This becomes a ‘two-edged sword’. That’s because hope buoys the affected person’s emotions for a while. However, their worst form of grief is even deeper when they realise there is no hope.
A recent study titled “Missing or Killed: The Differential Effect on Mental Health in Women in Bosnia and Herzegovina of the Confirmed or Unconfirmed Loss of their Husbands” posed the question of which is worse: knowing your husband is dead or not knowing what happened?
Researchers Steve Powell, Willi Butollo, and Maria Hagl found the group with unconfirmed losses had higher levels of traumatic grief, as well as severe depression including thoughts of suicide. Other studies confirm this finding.
The Symptoms of Prolonged Grief Disorder
The authors of a related study of relatives in Columbia call this syndrome ‘prolonged grief disorder’. They describe this worst form of grief as being ‘characterized by intense longing and yearning for the lost person combined with feelings of hopelessness and emptiness over a period of at least six months’.
The most alarming aspect of these findings is the pain is greater when there is still hope the person might be alive. Psychologists advise against delivering false hope. They recommend a balance between over-optimistic counselling and ‘crushing all hope’.
It follows that the only way out of an ambiguous loss is to know the truth, accept it for whatever it is, and move on. The American government continues to look for the bodies of U.S. soldiers who died in the Vietnam War, despite having evacuated Saigon in April 1975.
A Private Investigator may be able to assist
AusCovert Investigations may be able to help if you are facing ambiguous loss following a loved one going missing in Australia. We don’t peddle false hope; we use scientific methods to discover the truth.
You are welcome to call us on 1800 553 788 in Queensland, Australia for advice. However, you may prefer to email a summary beforehand so we are up to speed with your situation.