About Pauline Boss

Dr. Pauline Boss is an educator and researcher who is widely recognized for her groundbreaking research on what is now known as the theory of ambiguous loss.

 All losses are touched with ambiguity.  Yet, Dr. Boss’s research and practice have revealed that those who suffer ambiguous loss, losses without finality or resolution, bear a particular and challenging burden.  Whether it is the experience of caring for a parent who is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, or waiting to learn the fate of a spouse or family member who has disappeared in a disastrous event like 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina, the experience of loss is magnified and is more significantly challenging to overcome because the loss is linked to a lack of closure.  People who experience and live with an ambiguous loss find it hard to understand their situation, difficult to cope and almost impossible to move ahead with their lives without professional counseling, love and support.

Since 1973, Dr. Boss has studied ambiguous loss, and trained and worked with psychologists and counselors to help individuals and families who have experienced a life-altering ambiguous loss, often described as a frozen grief, recover their resiliency despite the on-going ambiguity.  Drawing on her research and clinical experience, Dr. Boss is committed to working with families to develop meaningful strategies that help them cushion the pain, cope with ambiguous loss and move forward to live productive lives.

Pauline Boss received her Ph.D. in Child Development and Family Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1975.  From 1975 to 1981, Dr. Boss was an assistant and then associate professor with tenure at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

In 1981, she joined the Department of Family Social Science at the University of Minnesota and continued to work in that position until 2005.  In 1995-96, Dr. Boss was appointed Visiting Professor at the Harvard Medical School, and in 2004-2005, she was the Moses Distinguished Professor at the Hunter School of Social Work in New York City.

Her most recent book is Loss, Trauma, and Resilience: Therapeutic Work with Ambiguous Loss (W.W. Norton, 2006). The book, her fifth, is based on what she learned from her work in Kosovo and in New York after 9/11 with relatives of the physically missing and from her on-going work with families of the psychologically missing from Alzheimer’s disease and other chronic mental illnesses.  

In Loss, Trauma, and Resilience, Dr. Boss, the principal theorist of the concept of ambiguous loss, offers new concepts and clinical practices for addressing this critical psychological experience that, in one form or another, touches all of our experiences of loss.  Boss draws on research and extensive clinical experience working with families in order to frame a powerful but flexible therapeutic approach.  The fundamental goal of the theory and practice described in this book are important strategies that will guide therapists and concerned family members and friends in the task of building resilience in clients and loved ones who face the trauma of loss without resolution.

Her most famous book Ambiguous Loss: Learning to Live with Unresolved Grief (Harvard University Press, 1999) has been translated into six foreign languages-- Spanish, German, Mainland Chinese, Taiwan Chinese, Japanese, and Maharashta.