Ambiguous Loss Experienced by Transnational Mexican Immigrant Families

Catherine Solheim, Samantha Zaid, Jaime Ballard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations

Abstract

In this study, an ambiguous loss framework as described by Boss (1999, Ambiguous loss: Learning to live with unresolved grief, First Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA) was used to examine and understand the family experiences of Mexican immigrant agricultural workers in Minnesota. Transcripts from interviews with 17 workers in Minnesota and 17 family members in Mexico were analyzed using qualitative methodology to identify experiences of ambiguous loss in the participants' narratives. Key dimensions of ambiguous loss identified in the transcripts include: psychological family, feelings of chronic/recurring loss, finding support, and meaning making. In the category of psychological family, participants in both Mexico and the United States mourned the physical absence of their family members and experienced ambiguity regarding family responsibilities, but worked to maintain their psychological roles within the family. In the category of chronic/recurring loss, participants in both countries experienced chronic worry from not knowing if family members were safe, ambiguity regarding when the immigrant would return, and chronic stressors that compounded these feelings of loss. Participants in both countries coped with both real and ambiguous losses by accessing family support and by using ambiguous communication to minimize worry. Participants in Mexico also accessed work and community-based support. Participants in both countries made meaning of the ambiguous loss by identifying ways their lives were improved and goals were met as a result of the immigration for agricultural work in Minnesota.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)338-353
Number of pages16
JournalFamily process
Volume55
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016

Keywords

  • Ambiguous Loss
  • Immigrants
  • Loss
  • Mexican Immigrant Families
  • Migrant Work/ers
  • Qualitative Methodology
  • Stress and Coping
  • Transnational Families

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