Keynote Speaker

Pauline Boss

Pauline Boss, Ph.D.

Plenary  Speaker



Ambiguous Loss in a Time of Anxiety and Change: Therapy and Interventions for the Global Family 


Dr. Pauline Boss will discuss her theory of ambiguous loss and its application which has now gone around the world--from family members disappeared and missing  physically to the psychologically missing from dementia, addictions, and serious mental illnesses. With focus on context and culture, she describes ambiguous loss, how it differs from death, and its systemic symptoms, and why closure is a myth. Because traditional grief therapies do not work with ambiguous loss, Dr. Boss encourages embracing the paradox of absence/presence with both/and thinking--and presents six tested guidelines for therapy and interventions based on meaning, mastery, identity, ambivalence, attachment, and new hope. Finally, she emphasizes self-care for therapists since, with ambiguous losses that have no resolution, we, too, must increase our tolerance for ambiguity. We, too, must be able to hold unanswered questions.


Pauline Boss, PhD, Professor Emeritus at the University of Minnesota is a Fellow in the American Psychological Association and the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, and a former president of the National Council on Family Relations. She practiced family therapy for over 40 years. With her groundbreaking work in research and practice, Dr. Boss coined the term ambiguous loss in the 1970s and since then, developed and tested the theory of ambiguous loss, a guide for working with families of the missing, physically or psychologically. 

Dr. Boss summarized her research and clinical work in her now classic book,  Ambiguous Loss: Learning to Live with Unresolved Grief (Harvard University Press, 2000). In addition to over 100 peer reviewed academic articles and chapters, her other books include Loss, Trauma, and Resilience: Therapeutic Work with Ambiguous Loss (W. W. Norton, 2006) and Loving Someone Who Has Dementia (Jossey-Bass, 2011). Her most recent writing, with updates on ambiguous loss, is the widely acclaimed book, The Myth of Closure: Ambiguous Loss in a Time of Pandemic and Change (W. W. Norton, 2022). Her work is known around the world wherever ambiguous losses occur, and thus her books are now available in 18 different languages spanning the globe. For more information about Dr. Boss, her writings, and the ambiguous loss online training program, see