Ambiguous Loss Support Groups

Grief has been identified as the “constant yet hidden companion” of dementia.

Caregivers often experience a continuous and profound sense of loss and subsequent grief as they live through the changes associated with the progression of the disease.

Ambiguous loss is a type of loss you feel – and accompanying stress and grief – when a spouse or parent is still here, but not present in the same way as before.

Ambiguous loss is different from the loss and grief associated with death, as there is less certainty. Feelings of grief and loss when a person is still living with dementia, can come from multiple losses, one after another, and the thought of those still to come.

Feelings of ambiguous loss complicate grief, and can make the caregiving experience even harder.

All of our support groups are inclusive environments for people of different ethnicities, cultures or persons who identify as part of the 2SLGBTQ+ community. 

Listen to this short audio clip for more on ambiguous loss and dementia from Dr. Pauline Boss, who coined the term.

Other helpful introductions to the topic:

Ambiguous Loss and Grief in Dementia

Boss, P. (2011). Loving someone who has dementia: How to find hope while coping with stress and grief. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

What to Expect?

The Ambiguous Loss Support Group assists care partners to work through the feelings of ambiguous loss and grief that are experienced when someone close to you has dementia.

The goal is to help you build up enhanced coping strategies that will support you in your role as a caregiver, and to help you plan for the future.

Here’s what past participants said were the biggest takeaways from the group:

“Feelings, positive and negative, don’t define who you are and are all okay”

“The connectedness, the advice, and a place where everything could be shared and was believed. One could laugh and cry and was understood by everyone”

“Everyone’s honesty about their real struggles. Admitting to anger and sometimes improper responses to their spouses. Knowing my struggles are common to others”

“Community, support, knowing I am not in this alone”

The weekly support group is time limited and facilitated over 8 weeks/sessions, and is considered a closed group, meaning members will be the same throughout all 8 sessions. Each session will be structured around a specific focus and topic, including facilitated discussion lead by Alzheimer Society staff.

Similar to other support groups, members will also have time within the session to share their stories and experiences with the other members.

Past participants shared what they found helpful about this group, compared to other support groups:

“The caregiver support groups often have practical tips to help on the journey. The ambiguous loss group focused on how to help myself”

“It was more in-depth with feelings and emotions”

“Less into the practicalities, and more into the grieving”

Best-Fit Factors

  1. Experience attending a regular care partner support group (highly recommended, but not required) where conversations around managing day-to-day practical supports and group problem-solving how to navigate transitions in care
  2. A general understanding of the community resources that are available (e.x. Home Care, geriatric assessment teams, long-term care, the paneling process, etc. – as community resources will not be the focus of discussion)
  3. Willingness and comfort to engage in group discussion, including sharing personal experience around feelings of grief and loss.
  4. Willingness to share the allotted discussion time with other attendees, so all participants have the opportunity to share their emotions, thoughts and feelings related to agenda topic(s).
  5. Familiarity with the handout ‘Ambiguous Loss and Grief in Dementia: A Resource for Individuals and Families.’ Reference link above

**Please note, participants may be at any stage in the dementia journey.**

When are the Groups?

An ambiguous loss support group for spousal caregivers will take place Monday, October 3rd to Monday, November 28th from 6:30 – 8 pm.

*Please note that there is no session on October 10th, Thanksgiving Day.

Registration

Care partners are encouraged to contact their Client Support/Regional Coordinator to engage in further discussion about registration.

General questions and inquiries, including additional information, may also be directed to the Alzheimer Society at (204) 943-6622, or alzmb@alzheimer.mb.ca.

We welcome everyone to this inclusive environment for people of different ethnicities, cultures or persons who identify as part of the 2SLGBTQ+ community.

Ambiguous Loss Support Groups
Ambiguous Loss Support Groups

Ambiguous loss is a type of loss you feel when a spouse or parent is still here, but not present in the same way as before.

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