The Myth of Closure: Mourning Our COVID Dead

Shortly before Memorial Day, Americans marked a grim milestone – one million deaths from COVID-19. How can we comprehend such a loss? How can we commemorate it? And how can we make sure this never happens again? In this episode, we talk with Sabila Khan, a publishing executive whose father’s lonely death from COVID in the earliest days of the pandemic turned her into an advocate for those who lost loved ones to the virus and into an activist calling for a commission to investigate the government’s handling of the crisis. Then we speak with Dr. Pauline Boss, author of The Myth of Closure: Ambiguous Loss in a Time of Pandemic and Change, who believes we must stop thinking of our losses as “failures to fix,” and reframe how we approach suffering.

“No One is Holding Back Their Pain”: The Muslim Burial Abu Didn’t Get
In April 2020, Sabila Khan found herself in the surreal position of watching her father’s burial on her cell phone. The experience of losing him without the usual comforts of a Muslim funeral sent her online looking for support. When she did not find what she needed, she co-founded a group called “COVID-19 Loss Support for Family and Friends.”

“There are No Hallmark Cards for This”: What is Ambiguous Loss?
Dr. Pauline Boss has spent decades studying what Sabila Khan has been living through for two years: ambiguous loss. In ambiguous loss, there may be no body to bury, no clear explanation of a death, no real answer to the question, “Why did this happen?” In her new book, The Myth of Closure, Dr. Boss examines the losses brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and, for the first time in her career, puts herself and her own losses in the book.

“It Requires Some Action”: Six Steps to Confronting Ambiguous Loss
Dr. Pauline Boss outlines six practices that help the bereaved confront ambiguous loss – meaning, mastery, identity, ambivalence, attachment, and new hope.

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