Ambiguous Loss Experiencing the loss of farmland or livestock is hard. The good news is there are helpful ways to cope.

What is it? Resources
Barn in a field at dusk.

Nebraska Extension's Rural Family Stress and Wellness Team promotes the health and wellness of all Nebraskans. Along with the University of Nebraska, this diverse team of community partners meets regularly to share resources and programs that also focus on the unique needs of rural residents.

Nebraska Extension’s Ambiguous Loss and Agriculture team formed in response to the changing farm and rural landscape, farm transition and succession, and other disenfranchised grief. The work and interviews are based on the program “A Changing Way of Life: Ambiguous Loss and Farming” created by the University of Minnesota Extension.

To meet the unique needs of ambiguous loss within agriculture communities this team developed a bank of 30 videos to offer Extension staff a supplemental resource exploring in depth factors that influence ambiguous loss. These videos offer insight into what is ambiguous loss, how does it it impacts rural communities, and what are some effective strategies for coping.

Gradual losses are often the hardest to acknowledge.

Pauline Boss

Ambiguous Loss and Agriculture Educational Video Resource

What is Ambiguous Loss?

Ambiguous loss is an unclear loss without closure. The lack of clarity is based on something or someone being both here and not here at the same time, such as a missing person or someone who has dementia. Others may not recognize the loss, and people may not be able to move forward in solving the original need or problem.

What is it?

  • It is complicated.
  • Loss is generally unresolved.
  • It remains unclear and without closure.
  • Typically, no official validation (rituals) that any loss occurred.

How does it feel?

  • It is grief, and moments of conflicting thoughts and feelings.
  • Hard to make decisions because the ambiguity can freeze the grieving process.
  • No rituals of support, families are left on their own to cope.
  • Not having definitive information creates feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and confusion.

Types of Ambiguous Loss

Physically absent but kept psychologically present


  • MIA
  • Disappearances
  • Military deployments
  • Not knowing who your parents are
  • Divorce
  • Desertion
  • Leaving family behind after immigrating

Psychologically absent but physically present


  • Dementia
  • Brain injury
  • Serious chronic mental illness
  • Addictions

Team Contacts

Michelle Krehbiel Portrait

Dr. Michelle Krehbiel
Extension Specialist

Linda Reddish Portrait

Linda Reddish
Extension Educator