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Ambiguous Loss
& Trauma Course.

This workshop will examine the differences between traumatic loss and traumatic ambiguous loss. It will discuss the way ambiguous loss effects the body and brain of an individual and symptoms associated with the loss. The workshop will discuss therapeutic goals and while examining attachment theory and ambiguous grief. This workshop also examines the emotions felt by the families and helps professionals understand how to normalize these emotions for families. 

Module 1: Introduction

Course Description

Ambiguous Loss [missing person’s loss] is one of the most stressful types of loss. It involves trauma and grief but is also a unique type of loss that involves high levels of uncertainty and unanswered questions. The goal is not to “fix” or “cure” because the response of most families to this time of uncertainty is not abnormal. Instead, the goal is to strengthen family unity, grow resiliency and teach the family to carry on and live in the present despite the uncertainty of not knowing if their loved one will ever return.

This workshop will examine the differences between traumatic loss and traumatic ambiguous loss. It will discuss the way ambiguous loss affects the body and brain of an individual and symptoms associated with the loss. The course will discuss therapeutic goals and while examining attachment theory and ambiguous grief. This course also examines the emotions felt by the families and helps professionals understand how to normalize these emotions for families. 

This Course is comprised of four modules: an Introduction to the material, Special Needs of Children, Supporting Families of the Located, and Supporting Families of the Murdered. This online course will break down the Supporting Families of Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls & Other Missing Persons manual while providing some helpful articles and videos to put the material learned in the manual into context. This online course is designed for you to go through on your own time, and each week, we will have a synchronous meeting to go through the material in the manual while also providing a chance for questions and discussion. 

To navigate through the course, start at the home page where you can see displayed Module 1, Module 2, Module 3, and Module 4. Each module will contain a Module Overview, Learning Objectives, and Instructions for what is expected from each module. 

Module Overview

Trauma, traumatic reactions and grief and loss are all part of the ambiguous loss journey an individual or family travels when they have a missing loved one. As a frontline professional, volunteer, or caregiver, it is important to be able to recognize the effects of trauma and grief on an ambiguous loss survivor. 

Learning Objectives

 When you have finished Module 1, you should be able to do the following:

  1. Define and describe “grief” 

  2. Define and explain “ambiguous loss”

  3. Define and discuss trauma and the traumatic reaction

  4. Explain how to re-establish structure

  5. Discuss how to appropriately ‘fill the role’ of the missing person

  6. Discuss the emotions present when ‘feeling through the pain’ of the absence of a missing person

Module Instructions

  1. Read Supporting Families of Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls & Other Missing Persons Manual (pages 1-21)

  2. Work through Module 1

Required Readings

  1. Supporting Families of Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls & Other Missing Persons Manual (pages 21-32)

Key Terms & Concepts

  • Ambiguous Loss: The loss that occurs when a person is psychologically present but physically missing.

  • Anticipatory Loss: The process of adjusting to a loss before it occurs.

  • Emotional shock: Constant interjection of intense feelings, followed by periods of numbing. 

  • Physical shock: May mean that family members are unable to provide their own basic needs and maintain physical health. For example, eating properly, irregular sleep patterns, and exercise.

LEARNING MATERIAL

INTRODUCTION

Module 1 will be an introduction to the information that will be discussed in more detail in Modules 2, 3, and 4. This module will focus on the side effects that individuals or families can experience when dealing with ambiguous loss. Such side effects include an inability to trust, negative perception of law enforcement, the creation of poor communication between family members and a lack of understanding of each other’s behaviour, the effects of media on individuals and family members, and dysfunctional and often self- destructive coping mechanisms become prevalent and are often passed on to subsequent generations. 

READING

Supporting Families of Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls & Other Missing Persons Manual

Pages 22-32